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“The presumption of innocence does not preclude the words of victims”

2024-03-29 12:30:09

For some time now, unpleasant music has been heard in our ears as lawyers. If populist speeches have always called into question certain of our fundamental principles in the name of security and the effectiveness of justice (let us remember that France is the country of human rights, it is also the country of insult “human rights”), the novelty is that this discourse is spreading in political, legal and intellectual circles without the reactions seeming to match the issues at stake.

It is currently the area of ​​sexual violence which crystallizes the trivialization of this type of remarks. Everyone will obviously agree that freeing victims’ voices to speak is beneficial and that it has allowed justice to take stock of its delay and the institutional resistance that was plaguing it.

However, this release is accompanied, by an impossible-to-contain media and digital surge, by worrying rhetoric regarding the judicial treatment of these cases. The result is a pure and simple ban on defense, as the most basic mechanisms of criminal procedure are designated as the adversary’s tool in the service of impunity.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers Violence against women: “The presumption of innocence cannot be trampled on in the name of an intimate morality when justice has ruled or is not seized”

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What follows is the questioning of essential principles, in particular the presumption of innocence and its corollary, the burden of proof, the challenge of which is no longer taboo.

For 69% of French people, our elites should systematically resign as soon as they are accused of sexual violence, before a conviction is pronounced, which amounts to denying them any right of access to the presumption of innocence. This is the desperate teaching of a OpinionWay December 2023 survey.

Read also | Article reserved for our subscribers “A worrying presumption of guilt arises too often in matters of sexual offences”

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In the same sense, it is no longer exceptional to hear politicians maintain that the application of our rules of law should be set aside in the name of notions as grotesque as « common sense “. For example, Juliette Méadel, former Secretary of State, estimated in a column at the Monde what “victims must be able to benefit from an appropriate system of proof, derogating from common law. The spirit of justice and common sense dictate it.”

Dangerous slope since the 2000s

It is also the Independent Commission on Incest and Sexual Violence Against Children (Ciivise) which affirms, in its report made public in November 2023that these principles are “a good hideout”, in other words, pretexts for not protecting children because it is always to justify the refusal to protect that they are stated.

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