Recent Petition Brings Back Memories of Teenagers Killed in 2005

EDF building in Île-de-France
Photo: Nicolas Lannuzel

In 2005, the death of two teenagers in Clichy-sous-bois lead to an insurrection that lasted three weeks and forced Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister at the time, to declare a state of emergency. The story began on October 27th, when Zyed Benna, Bouna Traoré, and their friends were going home after playing soccer. The social situation was particularly difficult in their neighborhood at the time. This was especially because of expulsions of residents on September 23rdfrom unsanitary housing who were not housed elsewhere, which displeased the people and created tensions with police forces. For this reason, there were many policemen making patrols. This night, when Zyed, Bouna and their friends saw a BAC (anti-crime brigade) car, they ran away for no real reason other than fear.

Three of them, including Zyed and Bouna, found a place to hide on an EDF electric-site (a French electric company) without paying attention to the notice board that read, “danger of death.” Even if the policemen saw them, they didn’t try to warn or stop them and the radio reports made by the policeman Stephane G. show that he was conscious of the danger. He said: “They are entering EDF’s site…I don’t think they’ll make it.” In fact, thirty minutes later, two of the three were dead and the third was life-threateningly injured.

During this time time, the officers did not try to contact the three teenagers and they did not inform EDF of the situation. In fact, EDF’s agents would have intervened within fifteen minutes and the two teenagers were dead thirty minutes after they entered the site.

The two policemen were found guilty after an investigation, and transferred in front of a judge for duty to rescue a person in danger, but the case was eventually dismissed. The victims’ families appealed the decision, which brought the case to France’s highest appeal’s court (the Cour de cassation), which then became responsible for hearing the case of the two policemen, whose names have been kept confidential. The court started examining the case on October 2nd and will rule on October 31, a time during which families and supportive associations will try to be heard.

Since mid-September of 2012, a petition called for “Justice for Zyed and Bouna” is online, asking Christine Taubira, the Minister of Justice, to intercede with the attorney general who will speak in front of the Cour de cassation to “make him understand the symbolic weight of his recommendation.” In fact, the attorney general wants to confirm the dismissal, which can send the message that “police are not here to protect people.”

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