Racist Violence Dwindles in France, but Verbal, Written Insults Abound

Racist inspired violence is decreasing in France, but oral threats, written insults and acts of vandalism have dramatically increased over the last three years, according to a government-sponsored study issued here Tuesday.

The report, ordered by Prime Minister Michel Rocard in order to improve hate crimes legislation, reveals that 53 racially inspired acts of violence were committed last year, resulting in one dead and 30 wounded.

This figure compares to 64 in 1988 and 46 in 1987. The targets were mostly Arabs, chiefly those of North African origin. Jews, however, were the targets of many of the 237 cases of oral threats and written insults noted last year.

The 1987 trial in Lyon of convicted Nazi Klaus Barbie has, according to the report, lifted some of the language barriers and has contributed to a marked increase in anti-Semitic slogans daubed on synagogues and Jewish community buildings.

The report reveals that nine people out of 10 believe that racism is “widespread” or “rather widespread,” and 70 percent of those polled say that “the behavior of certain (members of minority groups) justifies a racist reaction.”

Current hate crimes legislation is based on a law enacted in 1972. The administration wants to modernize the law and stiffen penalties provided for anti-Semitic and other racist acts.

The prime minister plans to release the full report to the various political parties, in order to work out a joint interparty approach for a new legislative project on this issue.

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