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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
France 'violated Papon's rights'
Maurice Papon
Papon organised the deportation of 1,500 Jews
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that French courts failed to give fair treatment to Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon after his 1998 conviction for crimes against humanity.


The applicant had suffered an excessive restriction of his right to access to a court, and therefore of his right to a fair trial

Court judgement
Papon, now aged 91, was a senior civil servant in the wartime Vichy administration, who organised the deportation of some 1,500 Jews to Nazi camps.

The Strasbourg-based court said France wrongly denied him the right to appeal against his conviction and 10-year prison sentence.

Other complaints brought by Papon were rejected. He was awarded 29,192 euros in legal costs, but no damages.

Papon, who is currently in prison in Paris, is the highest-ranking French official to be convicted for crimes against humanity.

His lawyers welcomed the judgement and said they would seek a conditional release and his retrial.

Repeated appeals for his release on account of his age and ill-health have been rejected.

Legal change

A French court ruled in 1999 that Papon had forfeited his right to appeal by briefly fleeing to Switzerland shortly after his conviction, and not appearing in court.

He was swiftly captured and taken straight to a French prison.

The seven-judge chamber of the rights court based in Strasbourg said the ruling was a "particularly severe sanction" which hindered Papon's right of access to law courts, guaranteed in Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The French court ruling was based on French laws as they stood at the time. The legislation has since been changed, to bring it into line with European law, and now allows an appeal to be heard without the defendant being in court.

The BBC's Paris correspondent, James Coomarasamy, says France may still appeal against what he describes as the European Court's highly embarrassing decision.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
James Coomarasamy reports from Paris:
"It does mean that a wound which France had hoped was healed has now been reopened"
Roderick Liddle, European Court of Human Rights
"He was denied an opportunity to have his appeal considered on its merits"
French anti-Nazi activist Serge Larsfeld
"Papon will remain in jail in spite of his age"
See also:

07 Mar 00 | Europe
20 Oct 99 | Europe
20 Oct 99 | Europe
13 Oct 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
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