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French mayor ‘acted illegally’ in dodging Roma baby burial, ombudsman

media French rights ombudsman Jacques Toubon AFP/Berrand Langlois

The mayor of a French town was guilty of illegal discrimination in trying to avoid burying a Roma baby in the local cemetery, France’s human rights ombudsman has ruled. A legal case has been launched against right-wing politician Christian Leclerc, who denies having refused to bury the child.

Champlan mayor Leclerc was guilty of an “illegal refusal” to bury Maria Francesca, who died at the age of two months, when he told council employees to wait to see if the nearby town of Corbeil would bury the child, rights ombudsman Jacques Toubon decided after running an inquiry into the affair.

Maria Francesca’s family, who lived in a shanty town in Champlan, sought Leclerc’s permission to bury their child there.

Backed by a local NGO they then went public with a claim that he had refused their request, a charge Leclerc denied.

French law states that a mayor cannot refuse to bury someone within the local council area where they lived, where they died or where there is a family vault.

Leclerc told Toubon that he instructed council workers to wait to see if nearby Corbeil, where the baby died, would bury her and only accept her if “Corbeil doesn’t want to”.

He does not deny telling Le Parisien newspaper that there was a lack of places in the local cemetery and so “priority is given to those who pay their local taxes” but says his words were taken out of context.

Making acceptance conditional on a refusal by Corbeil was illegal because discriminatory, Toubon decided and prosecutors are to open a legal inquiry.

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