French Parliament Should Reject Measures Limiting Human Rights

New York City—Human Rights First today calls on the U.S. government to urge its French counterparts to reject an extension of the state of emergency in France, as well as any constitutional reforms that would compromise human rights, civil liberties, and equal treatment for all citizens. The French government is considering such provisions this week in the wake of November’s tragic terrorist attacks in Paris.

“As France’s leaders grapple with how best to counter the threat of violent extremism they should resist the urge to curtail basic human rights and civil liberties. Limiting freedoms in the name of security is counterproductive and risks fueling the grievances that drive extremism and violence, ” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke.

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, 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.

Over the past decade and a half since the 9/11 attacks the United States has learned, sometimes painfully, the need to confront 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.

“Strengthening democratic institutions and civil society and cracking down on hate crime are crucial not only to addressing terrorism but also to building stronger and more tolerant communities,” noted Corke. “As France faces the challenges of extremists who are intent on committing acts of violence, the United States should urge its key ally to stay firm in its adherence to universal values. It is our collective responsibility to come together to promote pluralistic, inclusive societies where the rights of all are protected equally.”



Published on February 2, 2016


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