UN Finds Familiar Scapegoat After Muslim Migrants Riot In Major French Cities
Fatih Erel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The United Nations jumped into the discussion about riots in France catalyzed by the death of a Muslim teenager shot by police, as a UN spokeswoman accused French law enforcement of racism.

The incident that sparked the rioting occurred Tuesday, when a police officer shot and killed 17-year-old Nahel M. during a traffic stop in Nanterre, west of Paris. According to Reuters, the teenager was driving in the bus lane during a traffic jam when he was pulled over to stop, but refused to provide a license and then tried to drive away. The officer shot him in the left arm and chest, according to the Nanterre public prosecutor, who added that the officer feared the teenager would start a car chase and injure others. Police said Nahel M. had been known to ignore traffic stops before.

“We are concerned by the killing of a 17-year-old of North African descent by police in France on Tuesday,” UN human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. “We note that an investigation has been launched into alleged voluntary homicide. This is a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement.”

“We also emphasize the importance of peaceful assembly,” Shamdasani continued. “We call on the authorities to ensure use of force by police to address violent elements in demonstrations always respects the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, non-discrimination, precaution and accountability. Any allegations of disproportionate use of force must be swiftly investigated.”

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has accused French law enforcement of disproportionate numbers of identity checks, discriminatory stops, and criminal fixed fines against minority groups. CERD stated, “The Committee was concerned that police and other law enforcement officers often use identity checks, discriminatory arrests and fixed penalties to disproportionately target certain minorities, especially Africans, people of African descent, people of Arab origin, Roma, travelers and non-citizens.”

Interactions involving members of the Muslim community and police in France have provoked riots many times before, according to Sky News. In 1979, after a young North African person was arrested, riots ensued in the Lyon suburb of Vaulx-en-Velin. Riots occurred again in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2016, and 2017.

Related: France Burns As Big-City Riots Escalate In Wake Of Police Shooting

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