French National Assembly Approves Discriminatory Counterterrorism Bill

New York City—Human Rights First expressed concern over today’s passage of a controversial counterterrorism bill by the French National Assembly. The legislation enshrines into law measures that violate civil liberties, including those originally put in place under France’s continuing state of emergency. The bill now heads to French President Emmanuel Macron, proponent of the legislation, to sign into law. Human Rights First calls on the Trump Administration and members of Congress to urge President Macron to reopen debate on the bill and revise it in accordance with human rights principles and international legal obligations.

“In the wake of deadly terrorist attacks, it is only natural that French lawmakers want to protect their follow citizens, but this law would be counterproductive to such efforts in the long term,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “When laws undermine human rights protections and reinforce bigotry and social divisions, they paradoxically breed terrorism.”

The law would allow prefects to: set up—with little justification—security zones with unfettered discretion to search people and vehicles; temporarily close places of worship; conduct searches; and restrict individuals’ movements. The legislation maintains vaguely worded standards and little requirement that the measures be necessary. Most measures do not require prior judicial approval—except for searches—and the law lacks the procedural guarantees necessary to ensure authority is exercised consistent with human rights standards and proportionate to specific threats.

U.N. experts recently expressed concern over the vague language of the bill and urged France to bring the bill in compliance with its international human rights obligations.

France’s emergency measures have been applied in a discriminatory fashion. In the first months of the state of emergency, the government conducted over 3,300 raids, with less than one percent resulting in any intelligence about terrorist activity. The majority of those whose homes were searched or who were placed under house arrest were Muslims or persons of North African descent.

Human Rights First has analyzed the root causes of societal unrest and the struggle between xenophobia and tolerance in French society. In the past two years France’s response to terrorism has further divided the country and normalized discrimination.

“France is at a crossroads,” added Corke. “In the wake of the 9/11 attacks the United States made strategic mistakes that caused deep-seated resentment along ethnic and religious lines. President Macron should learn from those experiences and return this bill to the National Assembly.”

For more information or to speak with Corke, contact Christopher Plummer at [email protected] or 202-370-3310


Published on October 3, 2017


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