French National Assembly Votes in Favor of Measures Limiting Human Rights
New York City—Human Rights First today renewed calls on U.S. government officials to urge their French counterparts to reject a proposed amendment to the French constitution that would codify a state of emergency and the stripping of citizenship for those convicted of terrorism-related offenses. The French National Assembly voted today in favor of the constitutional amendment, which will come up for a vote in the Senate in March.
“If this legislation that limits human rights and civil liberties in the name of national security is passed into law, the French government will paradoxically compound conditions in which extremism and violence can fester,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “The French government already has many of these tools at their disposal, but by adding them to the constitution they are sending a signal that only serves to divide French society by signaling that there are different levels of citizenship.”
The French government is currently considering two bills: one that would extend the state of emergency by an additional three months, prolonging extraordinary powers to arrest, detain, and investigate individuals; the second measure would amend the constitution, expanding emergency powers and allowing the government to strip an individual of French citizenship if they hold dual citizenship and have been convicted of a broadly defined terrorism-related offense, including some misdemeanors.
Human Rights First notes that the proposed citizenship bill would unnecessarily divide French society on grounds of national origin, giving credence to the troubling “clash of civilizations” narrative perpetuated by extremists. This would make it more difficult to build greater inclusiveness and tolerance in French society, and would sow the seeds of polarization and further conflict. Critics have already raised concerns that current emergency measures are being applied 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, 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.