The "Controller of Prisons" and the Ombudsman of the French Republic

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The Council of Ministers, on proposal of Rachida Dati, Minister of Justice, reviewed on July 9, 2007 the bill aiming the creation of an "independent general controller" in all places of detention.

[edit] Mission of the "Controller"

This is a mission imposed by the United Nations Convention against torture that France expected to make the Parliament ratify after having signed it on 2005. It has been envisaged that the Ombudsman of the French Republic exercises his independent authority in this context, but the new law no longer refers to what he has already established with delegates in several prisons. Moreover, several possibilities of prison checks already exist, especially by parliamentarians, magistrates, labor inspection, health and welfare inspections or even the National Commission of Security Ethics.

The Controller of Prisons should monitor the "prisons, but also places such as closed educational facilities for minor offenders, the police custody offices, tribunal’s custody, the administrative detention centers, waiting areas".

This authority would also apply to psychiatric hospitals.

The Controller:

  • Will have to ensure that human rights of detainees are respected and to monitor their life conditions.
  • "Can be seized by the Prime Minister, members of the government and parliamentarians". "Individuals or associations whose purpose is the respect of fundamental rights can inform him of the situations that for them appear require his intervention" according to the report.
  • Will be allowed to "provide advice and make recommendations and proposals for legislative changes".
  • Will provide an annual report to the President of the Republic and Parliament, which will be on free access in the public area.

In other words, it is a position that interferes with the function and authority of the Ombudsman of the French Republic. This encroachment appears even more obvious that the previous Minister of Justice, Pascal Clement, had expressly specified and intended that part of this mission came under the function of the Ombudsman Jean-Paul Delevoye.

[edit] A Regression in the Development of the Missions Entrusted to the Ombudsman of the French Republic

In the scheme that was planned by the previous government, the Mediator of the French Republic (Ombudsman) had an important role to play. The Mediator of the Republic has already delegates in several prisons.

The new bill no longer mentions the Ombudsman of the Republic, who said he was still "available" to the government. He said to the media: - "It is obvious that if I am requested to assume this responsibility, what I have proposed, that is to say to set up a French Ombudsman, I would be very honored".

From the optimistic viewpoint of Jean-Paul Delevoye: "Nothing is ever closed". However, he showed his skepticism when he added: "Indeed it seems that the government wanted to give some leeway to itself by choosing someone else than the Mediator of the Republic."

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