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What the Tariq Ramadan case tells us about our French society

Dernière mise à jour : 29 avr. 2019

The judicial treatment endured by Tariq Ramadan for almost eight months underlines the French justice system’s excesses: lack of transparency, double standards against minorities, institutional omnipotence, indifference and at times, contempt towards citizen’s rights. All of which trigger many questions about how the law is applied in our country.

Laws and humans

Laws are made, among other things, to protect. But the use of these laws can sometimes be used as a weapon depending on who is facing you. In September 2018, suicides inside the Fleury-Mérogis prison had reached a total of 11 since the beginning of this year. And a total of 64 suicides in French prisons between January 1st and August 7th. This number includes many who placed in pre-trial detention, for some with a potential exit date.

What is happening in a man’s mind when he knows his release date but still wants to end his life? Perhaps the dehumanization that reigns in prison and deprives humans from their integrity, fundamental rights and independence of action.

Because everything in prison is so procedural, every little detail and gesture goes through a request, a request that must be checked by a prison service overwhelmed by these same procedures.

The prison does not welcome humans, it hosts registration numbers. The prison does not prepare for an exit; on the contrary, it desocializes humans, cuts them of all their landmarks and ends up by producing destruction.

True society must punish to protect. But the issue of pre-trial detention is a much more complex one, since it puts into question the presumption of innocence. In fact, many times, France has been accusef by the ECHR [European Court for Human Rights] on its use, but also regarding the French prisons’ insalubrities. However, each month, in deafening silence, stories of lives destroyed due to these measures do not take into account the singularity of the human being facing it.

In July, a pregnant woman who committed a theft of 200 Euros was placed in custody, without taking into account her health and potential impact on her psyche, while Cahuzac [former French minister accused of fiscal fraud and money laundering] is still free. Aleskander B. accused of complicity in a terrorism case, claimed his innocence and was remanded in 2016. He was placed in solitary confinement, away from his family, denied the right of receiving mail. He then begins expressing his anguish, talks about death and distress. He then commits suicide in June 2018. His guilt was never been proven. And how about Nicolas Sarkozy, indicted for very serious allegationd, is still free.

Or a father, placed in pre-trial detention for "driving without insurance". He commits suicide a few weeks after his incarceration. Also, a young man, placed in pre-trial detention for unpaid fines, commits suicide shortly before regaining his freedom. Stories of life, of families, of people who, all, have faced a delusional justice that fails to take into consideration the individual, the act and the context. Custody is the norm for a segment of society that doesn’t have influential networks, power or money to avoid it. The presumption of innocence should be the norm for all.

The Tariq Ramadan case, a symbol of the French justice system’s excesses

In the Tariq Ramadan case, all these realities have gathered to hit you in the face. A violent and poignant reality that should constitute a matter of concern for us all. A reality where lawyer Dupond-Moretti himself says: "In France, it is better not to have to deal with justice."

A justice that many investigating judges would not want to undergo. For if the judiciary is run by many ethical people, there are also those who judge through their beliefs, their neuroses, and their own perception of the world.

Neutrality is not human, because every human being has internalized beliefs and categories as norms, helping to make decisions and judgments. But the framework of the law contributes to neutrality, except when some use the law as a weapon against a litigant who is a target. This is precisely what is happening in the Tariq Ramadan case.

Where the law has protected many personalities such as Depardieu, Darmanin, Collard, Besson, or - in an investigation of another nature - Nicolas Sarkozy, it destroys others based on what they represent and their ideology, confronted with the judges’ ideology or beliefs. Tariq Ramadan has been so demonized in France that he became an ideal culprit. Yet in seven months of investigation, no evidence has come to substantiate the case against him. It is rather the opposite. And Tariq Ramadan continues to claim his innocence. He is still in custody, in the hands of a justice system that lacks transparency and investigates without regard to facts, equity or equality of men before the law.

Litigants aren’t all equal before the law

In light of miscarriages of justice, criminal scandals, abuse of power and all the institutional power, how can citizens trust justice? Power should never be in a very few hands, with no safeguards to ensure ethics and true justice.

No, it is not good for an innocent citizen who does not have enough influential networks to defend themselves and fall  into the hands of the justice system. If the investigation proves your innocence, nothing will be able to deliver you from these legal "tools", such as pre-trial detention turned into a weapon, to deprive you from your freedom, your integrity, your life, and your identity. You become just a registration number.

The Tariq Ramadan case is the very symbol of such a reality. This reality constitutes a matter of concern for us all. Our society is not egalitarian and minorities are exposed to these injustices. Have we in recent memory seen such degrading treatment as the one endured by Tariq Ramadan today? Since the beginning of the procedure, there has been a real desire to destroy the man.

Either because the judges instruct based on their ideology, neurosis or integrated beliefs as norm. Or it is by the interconnection of "interests and power", as some suspect. The consequences remains the same: Tariq Ramadan is not being treated with full respect of his rights and his integrity. He is enduring an exceptional justice that has isolated and silenced him. Before our very eyes, in a despotic form of institutional omnipotence, he is the symbol of French justice’s excesses. And he is not the only one. He is the reflection of all those litigants who have been destroyed by a Justice that seems to forget that it is dealing with humans.

If our laws cannot guarantee freedom, equality and fraternity, then we must change them. If society cannot guarantee an investigation with utmost neutrality and fairness, then it is time to reform it. The elite exist by blind acceptance of the mass. The mass exists because it behaves as such.

Change can only emanate from us, if we do not want to reproduce history’s mistakes.

Fanny Bauer-Motti

Phd in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology

Psychologist, Author

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