New York City—Human Rights First today calls on French lawmakers to reject proposals that would amend the French constitution to include terms for declaring a state of emergency and permit the government to strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality. The Senate is set to vote on these provisions tomorrow, which were passed in the National Assembly on February 10.
“These changes have the potential to undermine human rights, civil liberties, and equal treatment for all citizens,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “Passage of this legislation would exacerbate divisions in French society; by pursuing these reforms, the French government is bolstering the troubling ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative perpetuated by extremists and others which has fueled antisemitic and other hate crimes.”
Human Rights First notes if these provisions are ultimately approved, the government would have expanded authority to impose prolonged state-of-emergency restrictions on basic rights, with serious privacy and due process implications. This legislation would increase the potential for government overreach and discrimination in the use of surveillance, raids, detention, and prosecution of individuals during a state of emergency.
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, in 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.
Human Rights First has also called on the U.S. government to urge its French counterparts to reject any constitutional reforms that would compromise human rights, civil liberties, and equal treatment for all citizens. The French government, with support from the United States, should instead combat xenophobia, antisemitism, and anti-Muslim attitudes by sending messages of tolerance and strengthening civil society.
“Rather than foster divisions in society, the French government should complement reasonable and evenhanded security measures with renewed efforts to strengthen civil society and crack down on hate crime,” noted Corke. “It is only through building stronger and more inclusive communities that French society can hope to address the kinds of grievances that allow extremist ideology to fester.”