The French Exchange: Liberties for Security

As terrorist attacks shake France, the government decides to extend its state of emergency and continues the suspension of civil liberties. 

This past year was undoubtedly difficult for France. First, the Charlie Hebdo shootings took place on Jan. 7, 2015, followed by the horrific Paris attacks that occurred in November. However, the greatest threat to the French people might now come from their own government. Invoking a law created during the 1955 Algerian Revolution, the French government imposed a state of emergency on November 14, following the terrorist attacks in Paris, which is still in effect. According to Al Jazeera America, it is in fact the longest state of emergency imposed since World War II. Against popular opinion, France’s parliament recently voted to extend the emergency state until May 26.

The pretense of the French state of emergency is that the nation is so insecure that liberties must be suspended until order is restored. However, it is up to the government to decide when order is restored. The flexibility of such conditions has human rights groups, like the Human Rights League and Amnesty International, concerned. According to the International Business Times, dozens of environmentalists belonging to the group Europe Ecologie Les Verts were placed under house arrest prior to the climate talks held in Paris from November 30 through Dec. 12, 2015. This clearly demonstrates that the French government will not be so cautious to the extent in which it exercises its use of emergency powers. It gives credence to concerns that the state of emergency will be used to silence any dissenting voice, innocent or otherwise.

In addition to being a completely arbitrary abuse of power, the emergency powers have been enforced unequally because of bias. Several of the Islamic jihadists in the Paris attacks were French nationals, and this automatically makes the already marginalized Muslim community in France suspect to law enforcement. One of the most controversial moves by the government was to propose an amendment to strip dual nationals of their French citizenship if they were found guilty of any crimes linked to terrorism. The implications of this proposed amendment would specifically target the Algerian-French Muslim population and other similar immigrants who have become French citizens, while maintaining their roots to their Islamic origins.  According to an article written in the Telegraph, France’s justice minister, Christine Taubira, resigned in protest of this proposed amendment and its assumed prejudices.

Despite the nationwide dissent on the government’s recent actions after the November attacks, the French government does not seem to be listening to the public. According to The New York Times, countrywide protests occurred over the decision of the three-month extension of the imposed state of emergency. France is a major European country, and its stability is crucial. However, the state of emergency can only end when France’s leaders decide it is no longer necessary. Until then, the rights of French citizens will be at risk of indefinite suspension.

By: Matthew Boyle ’19 

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