Three students of Seine-Saint-Denis have summoned the state to the court, Monday, in Paris, saying they were discriminated against during an identity check carried out at the Gare du Nord, after returning from a school trip.

March 2017, Gare du Nord, in Paris. A class of high school students from Epinay-sur-Seine (Seine-Saint-Denis) returned from a trip to Brussels, where they visited the European institutions. At the descent of the train, three of them, Mamadou, Ilyas and Zakaria, are controlled by police officers.

An identity check made in front of the class, passers-by and only because of their origin, according to them. "It was an affront to our dignity," says Mamadou, a 20-year-old black shirt and tie. A "humiliation," adds Zakaria.

In this case, "the state can not justify that the checks were carried out for reasons other than discriminatory reasons , " defended their lawyer Slim Ben Achour during the hearing before a civil chamber of the TGI of Paris, Monday, October 22, 2018.

Indices proving discrimination

Conversely, a "cluster of clues" proves discrimination, according to him. However, a decision of the Court of Cassation in 2016 changed the regime of the evidence, he recalled. People who feel discriminated against in an identity check now have only to add elements that "suggest the existence of discrimination" .

Among these "clues" : "the concordant narrative" of fourteen students and supervisory witnesses who describe the same scene or "the attitude of the police" who "tutaient" , "do not justify the control" .

The high school student's lawyer in tears

The lawyer also called for taking into account the statistics, citing in particular a study by the Defender of Rights in 2017 that young people perceived as black or Arab have "a probability 20 times higher than the others to be controlled" .

"My clients are the embodiment of a reality," Ben Achour denounced. "Whether you are at Gare du Nord, Bastille, Lille or Vaux-en-Velin, it's always the same you control . "

The lawyer, who had obtained in 2016 the conviction of the State for "gross negligence" following controls deemed discriminatory, finished his pleading in tears.

"Identity checks are ineffective, expensive, dangerous, they violate our fundamental rights ," he said, calling for "change this police culture," "including through court decisions . "

State defends itself

The state's lawyer, Me Grard, has on his side applied to "reframe" the debate: "you are not asked to ask you about a global societal issue ," he told the court.

He asked to dismiss the high school students on the grounds that the elements presented by the latter do not establish the discriminatory nature of the control. "We are trying to extrapolate general statistics ," he said.

He criticized the testimonials coming only from students and their supervisors who form a "community of interest" .

The Defender of the Solidarity Rights of High School Students

An argument that did not follow the lawyer of the Defender of Rights. The plaintiffs have presented "whatever they can present to you ," he told the court. We can not ask them for "impossible proof" .

The Defender of Rights regretted the "unconvincing" demonstration produced by the administration. Controlled high school students were "isolated" and "carrying big bags" , had defended the state. But "on the platform of a station, there are a multitude of people who have big bags," replied the Defender of Rights, adding that it was not "abnormal" to meet people there. traveling alone or in pairs.

"We have to put an end to facies checks"

Several politicians were present at the hearing, including former socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon or Eric Coquerel. The latter, LFI deputy in Seine-Saint-Denis, had tabled in 2018 a bill requiring the establishment of a receipt for identity checks, a claim brought by associations for years.

"If the right of the three high school students is recognized in this case, it will be an example for them, for other young people," said the deputy to the press leaving the hearing. "We have to put an end to facies checks," he added. "It's a plague in the neighborhoods, in this country . "

The court will render its decision on December 17.