Extension of French State of Emergency Raises Serious Human Rights Concerns

New York City—Human Rights First today urged French lawmakers to use proportionate, rights-respecting law enforcement responses to threats and acts of terrorism instead of relying on extraordinary powers granted in the state of emergency, which was extended today by a parliamentary vote. The state of emergency first came into effect following the tragic attacks in Paris in November 2015. The organization also calls on U.S. government officials to urge their French counterparts to exercise restraint and non-discrimination in the use of extraordinary powers to investigate, arrest, and detain individuals.

“As France confronts the threat of terrorism, we urge lawmakers to resist the urge to allow fear and divisiveness to direct disproportionate and discriminatory responses; these, paradoxically, do not make people less safe, but only exacerbate many of the grievances that allow extremist ideology to fester,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “At the same time, the United States has an important role to play in ensuring that the French government is adequately equipped to respond to attacks and other incidents using rights-respecting techniques that build stronger and more inclusive communities and civil society groups.”

Experts have already raised concerns that current emergency measures are being applied in France in an overly-broad and in some cases discriminatory manner. Over the past decade and a half since the 9/11 attacks the United States has learned, sometimes painfully, that we are more successful, not less, particularly in the long term, confronting violent extremism with strategies founded in respect for human rights. This learned experience has been highlighted in President Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative, and is at the core of the U.N. Secretary General’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism.

Today’s vote also comes as the National Assembly in France voted in favor of the final version of a bill to enhance police and prosecutorial powers to combat terrorism, organized crime, and terrorist financing. The Senate will now vote on the bill on May 25; if approved, it will pass into law. French officials have previously stated that once the bill is enacted, they will seek to end the state of emergency as it would no longer be necessary. The French government should respond to threats and attacks through existing laws and legislative processes, not extraordinary powers, with attention to the protection of fundamental freedoms, checks and balances, and judicial oversight.


Published on May 19, 2016


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