Rights groups want France to drop emergency laws

State of emergency is endangering human rights in France, campaigners claim

Rights groups want France to drop emergency laws

World Bulletin / News Desk

International human rights groups are calling on France to suspend its state of emergency and end what one has described as “abusive and discriminatory” measures.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International issued reports Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, pointing to effects of the state of emergency which have been especially felt by the French Muslim community.

France introduced a 12-day state of emergency within hours of ISIL-claimed attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13. Parliament later extended it for a further three months.

The French government is now seeking to extend the state of emergency, which gives sweeping powers to police and intelligence agencies, as the measure is due to expire on Feb. 26.

Parliament will debate the extension after which the Senate will vote on the proposal on Feb. 9, followed by a vote in the National Assembly on Feb. 16.

However, campaigners are calling for an immediate end to the use of emergency powers.

"France has a responsibility to ensure public safety and try to prevent further attacks, but the police have used their new emergency powers in abusive, discriminatory, and unjustified ways," said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at HRW.

"This abuse has traumatized families and tarnished reputations, leaving targets feeling like second-class citizens," he added.

‘Excessive and disproportionate’

The Elysee said in a statement after a weekly Cabinet meeting Wednesday that the police had conducted 3,289 raids since the attacks, and that 303 people were under house arrest.

The number of new raids and house arrests has dropped significantly since the first few weeks after Nov. 13, but the statement said France still faced a "very high" terrorist threat, citing recent attacks abroad and at home.

"The effects of the house arrests are catastrophic," Xavier Nogueras, a lawyer, told HRW. "People are losing their livelihoods, their reputations, everything."

"In a context of growing Islamophobia, the French government should urgently reach out to Muslims and give them assurances that they are not under suspicion because of their religion or ethnicity," HRW's Leghtas said.

"Freedom, equality, and fraternity have been badly damaged in the weeks since the November attacks. France should live by those words and restore their meaning."

Amnesty called on the French government to suspend the state of emergency. It said: "Measures under a state of emergency must respect strict conditions: they must always be limited to what is strictly required by the exigencies of the emergency situation."

"They [the measures] must never be applied in a discriminatory manner."

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Jan. 22 that France will attempt to keep the state of emergency until the terrorist group ISIL is defeated.

"We cannot always live all the time in a state of emergency. As long as the threat is there, we must use all means," Valls said. "In Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia we must eradicate, eliminate ISIL."

French government’s spokesperson Stephane Le Foll said Wednesday the state of emergency was "necessary" and had been "useful". He added that it "must continue to be useful".

This decision has been criticized by a group of four United Nations rights specialists who called on France "not to extend the state of emergency" as it imposes "excessive and disproportionate" restrictions on key rights.

Thousands of people took to the streets last week to protest the state of emergency, which critics say has lasted too long and provided few results.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, wrote in the French daily Le Monde on Wednesday that the extension would usher in a "difficult period for human rights in France".

"This state of emergency seems to have had relatively limited concrete effects in terms of fighting against terrorism," Muiznieks wrote, "but it has on the other hand greatly restricted the exercise of fundamental liberties and weakened certain guarantees of the rule of law".

The French government is also pushing a bill that would embed provisions for declaring a state of emergency in the constitution. It includes a controversial measure aiming at stripping French citizenship from people with dual nationalities convicted of terrorist offenses.

Former French justice minister Christiane Taubira resigned recently over this proposal.

Noting that the much higher rates of dual nationality among French citizens are from migrant background, HRW fears "that some native-born French citizens are being treated as second-class citizens".

"Stripping French-born citizens of their citizenship could force people into exile from the only country they have ever known," HRW said.

Last Mod: 05 Şubat 2016, 09:25
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