France: Emergency Measures Must Protect Public Without Trampling Human Rights

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France: Emergency Measures Must Protect Public Without Trampling Human Rights

The emergency measures being rushed through the French Parliament in the wake of the horrific Paris attacks must not become a permanent fixture in France’s anti-terror arsenal, Amnesty International warned today.

“Right now the protection of the population from further imminent attack is rightly the number one priority. But the emergency powers currently being rushed through parliament provide for a sweeping extension of executive powers at the expense of essential human rights safeguards. They must be used only when strictly necessary and should not become a permanent addition to France’s anti-terror arsenal,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director of Europe and Central Asia.

The 12-day state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks provided for a range of additional police powers. The bill proposed yesterday extends the state of emergency for a further three months and includes a number of additional measures.

These include powers to carry out house searches and impose house arrest without the need for judicial authorization. Powers to ban associations with permanent effect have been extended and public demonstrations have been prohibited.

Only in a formally declared state of emergency can such extraordinary measures be permissible as they depart from the ordinary criminal law and curtail civil liberties and human rights. Emergency measures must be necessary and proportionate in scope and duration. Critically, they must be temporary, monitored, and employed judiciously, that is, only when absolutely required.

“As the days pass and law enforcement agencies in France and across the region work diligently to bring the perpetrators to justice and avert imminent threats, the need for emergency powers that depart from regular law and infringe on human rights will need to be carefully reassessed. It is a paradox to suspend human rights in order to defend them,” said John Dalhuisen.

Problematic longer-term legislative changes proposed by President Hollande include a review of the rules on the use of lethal force and extending France’s already sweeping surveillance powers. He has also proposed stripping citizens with dual nationality of their French citizenship, barring people from the country, and fast-tracking deportation of foreigners if they are suspected of being a security threat. Opposition politicians have also called for powers to pre-emptively detain national security suspects.

“Time and again we have seen emergency measures extended and codified until they become part and parcel of the ordinary law, chipping steadily away at human rights. In the long run, the pernicious ideology underpinning the Paris attacks can only be defeated by upholding the foundational values of the French Republic,” said John Dalhuisen.

“In his address to Parliament on Monday, President Hollande boldly affirmed France’s commitment to welcoming refugees fleeing conflict, persecution and the self-same horrors as hit the streets of Paris. This principled vision should be extended to the long-term fight against terrorism.”

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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