French newspaper round-up 4 February 2016


Rights group Amnesty International publishes a report on the emergency regulations, introduced in the wake of last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris. The rights body is critical of the way the state of emergency has been handled and calls for the regulations to be suspended.

Le Monde examines criticism by the international rights group of the way the state of emergency, declared in the wake of the Paris attacks last November, is being used to mask a number of human rights violations.

The non-governmental organisation is to publish its report on the situation later today.

Amnesty’s report, entitled Lives Turned Upside-Down, is based on evidence collected from 60 people who have been affected by the emergency regulations.

Hundreds of men, women and children have had their basic human rights infringed, says the centrist daily, because they have been the innocent victims of arbitrary searches, often extremely violent, generally at night, and arrest.

Practically none of the 60 people interviewed by Amnesty have been told why they were suspected, or of what. Many remain traumatised and stigmatised.

Amnesty International reports that the 3,242 police actions under the emergency regulations have led to just four judicial inquiries for crimes related to terrorism, suggesting that the effort is, to say the least, inefficient.

Recognising the exceptional circumstances under which the state of emergency was declared, Amnesty remains convinced that the powers conferred are too great and cannot be justified as a reasonable response, even in the face of a terrorist threat. The organisation calls on the French authorities to refuse any further extension of the state of emergency, and to ensure that none of the provisions are enshrined in the constitution.

Amnesty also wants individual parliamentarians and the government to stop hiding behind lazy declarations about the terrorist menace and the need for draconian powers.

Lest we forget, in addition to the 130 people who lost their lives in the 13 November Paris attacks, 41 victims are still being treated in hospital, one of them in intensive care.

Two other papers look at the related topic of the withdrawal of French nationality from those convicted of terrorist crimes.

Left-leaning Libération says simply “Stop”, describing the proposed constitutional reform as an inefficient fiasco.

Libé’s editorial is scathing. Yes, we were all broadly in favour of strong acts, even symbolic ones, in the immediate aftermath of the November massacres. Eighty per cent of the French initially approved President François Hollande’s vow to deprive the soldiers of darkness of their nationality. But then the ineffectiveness of the proposal became evident. Who was the symbolic exclusion directed at? And what of the 1948 guarantee that every individual has the right to a nationality?

Libération says the government is persisting with a law which will not do what it claims. Many people on the left are embarrassed, while the right see a great chance to humiliate the president if it comes to a vote before the combined National Assembly and Senate, a requirement for any legislation involving a constitutional change. The interests of the state have fallen before petty political calculations. We’re all going to come out losers, says Libération, Hollande most heavily of all.

Right-wing Le Figaro wonders if we’ll ever get as far as that combined vote, given that the government’s chances of revising the constitution seem to be narrowing daily.

According to the conservative daily’s calculations, more than one quarter of the 287 Socialist MPs are against the proposed changes, with a growing body of disapproval among the right-wing Republicans.

A majority of three-fifths of all elected representatives is needed to change the French constitution.

Le Figaro says Hollande obviously hoped to improve his own political standing by proposing a measure with all the marks of right-wing nationalistic fervour. Nicolas Sarkozy of the Republicans and Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National are both ardent supporters of the move to deprive convicted terrorists of their French nationality. But the move has backfired on the president, a man the right-wing daily describes in a dubious pun as “deprived of his rationality”.