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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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France Slammed for Paris Attacks Response

(CN) - With France's parliament considering extending its state of emergency, Amnesty International reports that the three-month-old measures following the terror attacks in Paris this past November have "trampled on the rights of hundreds of men, women and children."

Measures banning public assemblies and giving French authorities wide latitude to search houses, buildings, and mosques without judicial authorization have been in place since Nov. 13, the day after militants killed at least 130 people in six shootings and explosions throughout Paris.

Reports quickly linked to the attackers to the self-professed Islamic State, a terrorist group also known as ISIL that claimed credit for the attack.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the French government confirmed it would attempt to double the life span of its state of emergency, and the parliament is expected to debate that proposal on Thursday.

As midnight falls on Amnesty International's London office, the human rights group cataloged what it called the "heavy-handed" response of its European neighbor in a report titled "Upturned Lives: The Disproportionate Impact of France's State of Emergency."

Since French President Francois Hollande's emergency declaration, police there have searched 3,242 houses or other properties without court approval. More than 400 people have received residence orders designating them a "threat to public security," forcing them to report to a precinct several times a day, according to the 40-page report.

Beyond the measures' human rights implications, Amnesty describes them as ineffective, resulting in a "very low number of criminal investigations."

Amnesty counted only four criminal investigations for terror-related offenses and 21 investigations under an "apology for terrorism" provision, a "vague" statute often directed at the "legitimate exercise of freedom of expression," according to the group.

The report quotes from interviews with 60 people who bore the brunt of the measures.

A woman named Nadia told the group that police raided her 80-year-old father's home right after his release from the hospital for heart problems.

"Police forced the entrance door open, they did not ring the bell, they burst into the flat, started screaming and handcuffed both my father and my sister," she told Amnesty, according to the report. "My father felt unwell and after a few minutes fainted. They had to call an ambulance. He was so terrified, he cried a lot when we visited him at the hospital the first days."

An unnamed member of "La Fraternite," a mosque in Aubervilliers, told Amnesty that police "broke the doors, came into the mosque with their shoes on and threw the Quran onto the floor," the report states.

Amnesty noted that France also used its sweeping powers to search the homes of activists before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

John Dalhuisen, the group's director for Europe and Central Asia, conceded in a statement that governments "can use exceptional measures in exceptional circumstances," but "they must do so with caution."

"The reality we have seen in France is that sweeping executive powers, with few checks on their use, have generated a range of human rights violations," Dalhuisen said. "It is difficult to see how the French authorities can possibly argue that they represent a proportionate response to the threats they face."

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