Seven years after the death of Adama Traoré, the judges investigating the circumstances of his death dismissed the case on Thursday, August 30, ruling that the gendarmes responsible for the young man’s arrest in Beaumont-sur-Oise, north of Paris, on July 19, 2016, had not committed illegitimate intentional violence and could not be charged for falling short of their duty to rescue. The decision, which Le Monde was able to read, constitutes a crucial step in the history of a case that has become emblematic of the workings of law enforcement and justice and of the mobilization over the issue of police violence in France, notably around the figure of Assa Traoré, Adama Traoré’s sister, who has emerged since the tragedy as a leading voice of the life in French poor suburbs.
On July 19, 2016, patrolling gendarmes had sought to control Traoré and his brother, Bagui Traoré, who was wanted in connection with an investigation into robbery with violence. Adama Traoré fled, escaping an initial arrest attempt in a public garden while gendarmes were trying to handcuff him, thanks to the help of a nearby friend who had jostled the officers.
He was later found hidden in an apartment after being reported by a resident, who was panicked by the arrival of the young man in handcuffs. In their official report, the gendarmes said he had resisted inside the building. “The man’s hands were under his body, not visible, and he resisted, to prevent us from putting his hands behind his back. We finally managed to restrain him. When we brought his hands behind his back, we noticed that he had a pair of handcuffs that only restrained his right wrist. So we put new safety items [handcuffs] on him,” they wrote.
The gendarmes recounted a difficult arrest and the use of force to immobilize him, holding Traoré in the prone position. “There is no doubt that the three gendarmes committed violence by using a contested and asphyxiating arrest technique,” the family’s lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, said during the proceedings, drawing on the gendarmes’ initial hearings. “We threw ourselves on him with my two colleagues,” said one of the gendarmes. “Three of us were on top of him to subdue him,” another officer added.
Necessary and proportionate use of force
Before the investigating judges, however, the gendarmes explained that “Traoré had not had to bear their three respective weights simultaneously” – it was these statements that the judges used to conclude that the use of force was necessary and proportionate, echoing the analysis of the national gendarmerie inspectorate, which had found that the gestures made were in line with regulatory procedures.
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