Pre-trial detention

“Why,” asks a concerned activist, “is Human Rights Watch silent about the unjust detention and inhuman treatment of Swiss Scholar, Tariq Ramadan?”

Probably for the same reason they are silent on the other 20,000 people currently held in pre-trial detention in France, who make up just under a third of the country’s prison population.

Sadly, Tariq Ramadan’s situation is far from unique and, it seems, does not single him out for discriminatory treatment in particular. A significant proportion of those detained in pre-trial detention are charged with rape, so there is little evidence that his treatment is anything out of the ordinary by French standards.

Of course, organisations such as Fair Trials International have raised concerns about the prevalence of pre-trial detention in France, and the average period of detention, which is an incredible 25 months.

Is it common for suspects to be denied access to their family and medical treatment, asks another? That is a good question, but it would seem that pre-trial detention conditions in France are particularly restrictive and harsh.

Fair Trials say that if a judge decides to order that a suspect is placed in pre-trial detention, their family must be informed immediately, but does not say whether they have “access” to their family during detention. However, ordinary prisoners do have the right to contact family and legal representatives.

Concern for the treatment of Tariq Ramadan is only natural. But the reality, if we allow ourselves to look beyond claims of discrimination, is that it sheds a bright light on the France’s judicial system and its excessive use of pre-trial detention across the board. If it is wrong for one esteemed suspect, is it not likewise wrong for all?

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