Human Rights Watch Slams France for Upping Counter Terror Measures

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PARIS — A major human rights group has blasted the French government for a proposed law aimed at countering Islamic terror attacks, alleging that it undermines human rights as well as the rule of law.

A draft Law to Strengthen Internal Security and the Fight Against Terrorism was presented to the French Council of Ministers on June 22, 2017, in an effort to bolster its counterterrorism forces, which have been conspicuously ineffective in preventing terror attacks.

The new law would grant greater powers to local authorities to protect an event or location thought to be at risk from attack, without first seeking permission from the courts. This could include, for example, placing a security cordon or carrying out bag checks and searches without seeking approval beforehand.

The proposed law would also permit authorities to close down places of worship thought to be promoting extremism for up to six months.

France has been particularly hard hit by Islamic terror attacks, with five separate assaults by jihadists in 2017 alone, including a machete attack, two shootings, an assault on a police officer with a hammer, and a car bomb. The country has also been victim to the brutal throat-slitting of a Catholic priest in Normandy, the mowing down of scores of pedestrians by a jihadi-driven truck in Nice, and numerous Paris attacks including the mass murder of November 2015 and the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in January of the same year—all perpetrated by Muslim terrorists.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the new counterterrorism bill would move some “overly broad emergency powers into normal criminal and administrative law without adequate judicial safeguards” and thereby “undermine the rule of law.”

“Instead of truly ending France’s 19-month temporary state of emergency, the government is making some of its far-reaching powers permanent but with little effective court oversight,” said Kartik Raj, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“If France’s new government is serious about defending core values while fighting terrorism, it should amend this law to restore the rule of law to counterterrorism efforts.”

But among France’s “core values,” the one that seems to have suffered the most in past months is the right not to be murdered on the streets by armed terrorists.

While HRW complains that France “already has some of the continent’s most expansive laws to deal with terrorism,” the fact remains that they have been totally insufficient in thwarting Islamic terror efforts on French soil.

And while the draft bill may be too “vaguely worded” for HRW’s tastes, Muslim terrorists have continuously adapted their strategies and methods, suggesting that security efforts must be correspondingly elastic.

HRW also expresses its concern that poorly worded laws likely to lead to closing solely Muslim places of worship “may also help feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society.”

While this risk undoubtedly exists, honesty requires that everyone—including human rights groups—soberly acknowledge the facts society is dealing with at this time.

Terror attacks are not emanating from Jewish synagogues, Buddhist temples or Christian churches. They are emanating exclusively from radicalized Mosques. This means that if places of worship are closed down by anti-terror forces, they will in all likelihood be mosques. This is not, however, the result of prejudice or unjust discrimination, but of simple recognition of the facts and a sincere effort to protect citizens.

Will this, as an unintended side-effect, “feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society”? It’s hard to say. What is absolutely certain is that unchecked attacks by Islamic terrorists are creating legitimate fear among the general population. If anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice increase, this is principally due to the actions of the jihadists themselves, and not of those who work to stop them.

While no one wants to “normalize abusive practices,” no one wants to see further deaths at the hands of Islamic terrorists either.

If HRW and its allies have better ideas for protecting the French people, the world is all ears.

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