French Voters Reject Far-Right Party in Regional Elections
New York City—In response to today’s second round of French regional elections, which early results indicate as a poor showing for the far-right political party the National Front, Human Rights First’s Susan Corke has released the following statement:
“These results should provide hope for the people of France—they are a signal that the xenophobic, nationalistic platform of the National Front is not what the country wanted. Voters made it clear in overturning the first round outcomes that they reject the divisiveness and prejudice that the National Front exploits. The U.S. government should capitalize on this victory for moderate voices in France by deepening its engagement with the French government to combat xenophobia, antisemitism, and intolerance.”
In the aftermath of last month’s tragic attacks in Paris, far-right groups in France have been escalating their xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric, and mobilizing supporters to turn their anger against vulnerable minorities.
Human Rights First is concerned that the French government’s response to the Paris attacks, under the broad authority granted by the three-month state of emergency, risks engendering a counterproductive outcome. The lack of consultation with civil society and the public on how to preserve civil liberties as part of the larger security response is also worrisome. Heavy-handed measures that sweep broadly—from warrantless raids to house arrests, detentions, and the closure of places of worship—may lead to the intimidation and further alienation of the broader Muslim and North African community. This provides additional risks of a backlash in the form of anti-Semitic attacks. In order to disrupt the cycle of violence, the United States should urge the French government to step back from a “perpetual emergency” approach and drop plans to seek a constitutional reform that would allow for an indefinite state of emergency to be declared.
On January 7, to mark the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket attacks, Human Rights First will release a major report that examines how the rise of the far-right, Islamic extremism, and antisemitism are converging to fuel intolerance and violence in France. Human Rights First has released preliminary recommendations that stem from ongoing research, including recommendations for how the United States can best support France in the fight against extremism.
Human Rights First’s recommendations include:
- Combating hatred and violent extremism should not only occur through military, intelligence, and police measures. Governments should see this tragedy as a call to strengthen the transatlantic security institutions based on democratic principles.
- A commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law must be at the heart of counterterrorism measures. The United States and France, with participation from civil society, should share experiences around advancing human rights to build more cooperative relationships with communities affected by terrorism and violent extremism.
- Many of the refugees who have fled Syria to Europe are fleeing terrible violence, in many cases at the hands of the same group of people that share responsibility for the Paris massacre and other extremist groups. They deserve a Europe-wide inclusive solution to the current crisis; they should not be a focus of exclusion, hatred or violence.
- Public statements from U.S. officials should be sensitive to the current marginalization of many Muslims in France. In France, the Muslim community is diverse and also suffering from hate crimes, discrimination and social and economic marginalization. How U.S. officials speak about this tragedy should avoid fueling a “clash of civilization” narrative and instead urge tolerance and inclusion.
- Better information is needed to understand the root causes of extremism, antisemitism, and intolerance in France. The United States should work in partnership with France to boost capacity for data collection on hate crimes, victimization surveys, and the factors driving radicalization.
- The United States should support the strengthening of civil society cooperation to build partnerships and exchange of experiences to develop strategies to combat intolerance – particularly the interrelated forces of extremism and antisemitism. This should include funding exchanges, educational opportunities, and grants to collaborative civil society initiatives.
- A joint task force including government officials, civil society, youth and religious leaders should be created to look at concrete and tangible areas where collaborative effort could yield outcomes such as combating hatred on the Internet.