Secretary Blinken Urged to Make Countering Violent Extremism and Antisemitism Priority during French Visit

New York City—Human Rights First calls for Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge his French counterparts to exercise restraint in the use of extraordinary powers to arrest, detain, and investigate individuals in France. Last month, the state of emergency was extended by an additional three months, a controversial measure criticized by many in civil society. Secretary Blinken will travel to France tomorrow.

“The exceptional powers granted under France’s state of emergency are actually undermining countering violent extremism work in France, by further stigmatizing Muslims and immigrants who already feel excluded from French society,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “Marginalizing certain communities in the name of national security actually exacerbates conditions which lead to violence against other minorities, including Jews.”

Last month the French parliament extended the state of emergency, which will remain in effect until May 26.The French government is also considering another measure that 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.

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, 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.

“We know that French Jews are at risk of being proxy targets for anger against the political establishment. In recent armed attacks in France against Jews and Jewish institutions, some perpetrators targeted Jews as representatives of Western society,” noted Corke.

Human Rights First also calls on Secretary Blinken to offer intergovernmental exchanges with the State Department and Department of Justice on current strategies to prevent and respond to violent hate crime, including victimization surveys, studies of the factors driving radicalization, and data collection methodologies that are objective and avoid stigmatizing racial or religious populations. Secretary Blinken should urge his French counterparts to continue condemning antisemitic violence in the strongest terms, and to accelerate efforts to track hate crime cases from reporting to sentencing, including through joint training seminars for police and prosecutors to improve cooperation and increase the rate of successfully prosecuted cases. The organization also calls on the secretary to hold a more expansive conversation with civil society to understand that suspending civil liberties in an effort to counter violent extremism can, in fact, lead to security issues in the future.

Today’s call is in line with recommendations from Human Rights First’s recent report, “Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France,” which is based on months of research and analysis on antisemitism and extremism in France. It examines how the rise of the far right and Islamic extremism are converging in a vicious cycle to fuel intolerance and violence. The report focuses on ways that U.S. government leaders can work with their French counterparts to prevent future attacks, promote greater tolerance and inclusiveness, and chart a path forward that upholds our shared commitment to human rights as an integral part of national security.


Published on March 3, 2016


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