French Senate Moves to Codify Discriminatory Counterterrorism Measures
New York City—Human Rights First today expressed concern over the approval of a new counterterrorism bill by the French Senate. The legislation enshrines into law measures that violate civil liberties, including those originally put in place under France’s continuing state of emergency. The counterterrorism bill allows officials to set up, with little justification, security zones with unfettered discretion to search people and places; temporarily close places of worship; and authorize individual surveillance measures and searches with limited judicial review. Human Rights First calls on the Trump Administration and members of Congress to urge the National Assembly to revise the bill in accordance with human rights principles and international legal obligations.
“While most of these measures are not as harsh as those enacted under France’s extended state of emergency, they nonetheless undermine France’s commitment to human rights,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “Without prior judicial review and the precision necessary to avoid abuse and discrimination, this law will not be a tool to counter terrorism—rather it will provide a fertile ground in which extremism can take root.”
The bill will now head to the National Assembly for debate in October, and if approved, to President Emmanuel Macron for signature.
The proposed law maintains vaguely worded thresholds with little requirement of imminence to invoke its powers, does not require prior judicial approval—except for searches—and lacks the procedural guarantees necessary to ensure authority is exercised consistent with human rights standards and proportionate to specific threats. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights recently called on the French legislature to ensure that the proposed law complies with case law from the European Court of Human Rights.
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.
Following France’s deadly terrorist attacks of 2015, Human Rights First released a report entitled, Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France, that analyzed the root causes of societal unrest and the struggle between a xenophobia and tolerance in French society. In the past two years France’s response to terrorism has further divided the country and normalized discrimination.
“The proposed law does not end the state of emergency, it engraves it into everyday law,” added Corke. “If passed, it will reinforce divisions that have created an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, further driving the cycle of alienation and violence in France.”