Protection of Non-nationals without Discrimination in France

Country: France
Body: Human Rights Committee
Case: Gueye et al. vs. France
Case number: Communication No. 196/1983
Year of judgement: 1989
PDF of decision

Ibrahim Gueye and 742 other retired Senegalese members of the French Army submitted this case before the Human Rights Committee alleging racial discrimination in French legislation. The petitioners contended that the French law accorded different treatment to those retired army men of Senegalese nationality who served in the French Army before the independence of Senegal in 1960. They also contended that the pension they received was far lower than the retired French army-men of French nationality. The different treatment was initiated with the Finance Act No. 74.1129 of 1974 that cut down the pensions of retired army-men of Senegalese nationality. The French authorities cited the reason of the independence of Senegal from France, the difficulties in ascertaining the background of soldiers of Senegalese nationality and the differences in the economic, financial and social conditions between France and former colonies as the justifications for their action. France also argued that the Human Rights Committee had no competence to hear the case as the alleged discrimination occurred before France entered the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that subjected it to the Committee‘s views. However, the Committee observed that it could indeed hear the case as the alleged discrimination continues to occur even after France entered the Optional Protocol.

Pronouncing its view, the Committee pointed out that the cut in pension amounted to a violation of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Deliberating the aspect of loss of French nationality on the gain of independence by Senegal, the Committee observed that this situation placed the petitioners in “other status” mentioned in the Covenant.

Social Protection and Human Rights