French watchdog investigates allegations of police violence during riots


The IGPN, the internal disciplinary body of the French police, has opened nearly 30 investigations into the use of force during the five days of rioting that followed the deadly police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk during a traffic stop at the end of June.

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The IGPN quickly opened an investigation into the officer who shot Merzouk, and he was taken into custody.

Since then it has opened several investigations into police officers accused of using excessive force during the five nights of protests and rioting that followed the shooting, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Our police officers and gendarmes faced an unprecedented surge of violence,” he said.

‘No one above the law’

While hundreds of protesters and looters were quickly arrested and convicted, the IGPN and the IGGN, the bodies that investigate the police and the gendarmerie, opened investigations into 28 officers, according to Macron.

“No one in the Republic is above the law,” he said.

Cases continue to be opened, as victims and their families take time to assess their injuries before deciding to file complaints.

The investigations are into incidents whose “gravity and nature are very different”, the head of the IGPN police watchdog, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, told a parliamentary commission on 12 July.

Many have to do with head injuries, and the use of flashballs or guns shooting rubber bullets against crowds or individuals.

Marseille case

Police in Marseille are under particular scrutiny, after the death of a 27-year-old scooter delivery driver believed to have suffered a heart attack after being struck in the throat by a projectile that appeared to be consistent with a flashball.

His cousin this week filed charges for having been hit in the eye the day before by a projectile that could leave him blind.

Investigations are painstaking, as they must first precisely locate the event and its exact time, and search for photos or videos captured by surveillance cameras and taken by witnesses.

Then they must identify the police units involved and locate the individual officers in order to interview them.

The results of IGPN investigations are given to judges if legal charges are filed, as it is not a disciplinary body, and does not have the power to sanction.

(with newswires)

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