FRENCH REPUBLIC: Disproportionate emergency measures leave hundreds traumatized

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8 Feb 2016
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Fight Against Terrorism and Human Rights

Heavy-handed emergency measures, including late night house raids and assigned residence orders, have trampled on the rights of hundreds of men, women and children, leaving them traumatized and stigmatized, according to a new briefing released by Amnesty International today ahead of Friday’s French Parliamentary debate on entrenching emergency measures in the constitution.

Since the state of emergency was declared shortly after the 13 November 2015 Paris attacks, more than 3,242 house searches have been conducted and more than 400 assigned residence orders imposed. Most of the 60 people Amnesty International interviewed said that harsh measures were applied with little or no explanation and sometimes excessive force.

The intelligence files presented in court have contained little information to substantiate claims that individuals represent a threat to public order.

Emergency measures have had a significant impact on the human rights of the people targeted. Some have lost their jobs. Almost all were left with stress and anxiety.

Issa and his wife Samira’s house was searched on 4 December on the unspecified grounds that he was a “radical Islamist”. Although the police never pursued any criminal investigation against Issa and Samira, they copied all data on Issa’s computer, imposed a nightly curfew on Issa, obliged him to report three times a day to a police station and not leave the town he lives in. He had to turn down a job as a delivery man as a result and has spent most of his savings on legal fees.

People told Amnesty International that house searches had caused fear, stress and other health-related issues.

Most of those interviewed said that the current emergency measures are implemented in a discriminatory manner, specifically targeting Muslims, often on the basis of their beliefs and religious practices rather than any concrete evidence of criminal behaviour.

Several mosques and prayer rooms have also been shut down by French authorities since the Paris attacks.

The emergency measures in France have come at great cost to people’s human rights, but yielded few tangible results, calling into question the proportionality of the measures. According to media reports, the 3,242 raids carried out in the past month have resulted in only four criminal investigations for terrorism-related offences and 21 investigations.

“It is all too easy to make general claims about a terrorism-related threat requiring the adoption of emergency powers. However, the French government needs to demonstrate unambiguously that a state of emergency still exists and parliamentarians should scrutinise this claim carefully. Even if satisfied on this count, meaningful safeguards need to be restored to prevent the abusive, disproportionate and discriminatory use of emergency measures,”said John Dalhuisen.

4 February 2016

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