Human Rights First sends its deepest condolences to the government and people of France for the unspeakable act of violence that has claimed more than 80 lives in Nice. The attack follows the horrific terror attacks carried out by Islamic extremists in Paris, and earlier attacks on Charlie Hebdo, and a kosher supermarket. As France seeks to shore up its national security, Human Rights First urges U.S. leaders to work with their French counterparts to take steps that advance national security and promote a sustainable, rights-respecting solution to the root causes of this violence.
“The Nice attack occurred as French citizens gathered for Bastille Day, a celebration of liberty, equality, and fraternity. It is these unifying democratic values that will hopefully help the nation heal and guide its next steps,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “Our hearts go out to all of the citizens of France, and we extend our solidarity, partnership, and friendship in the effort to prevent future tragedies.”
Following the tragic terrorist attack in Nice, French President Francois Hollande announced that the national state of emergency originally put in place following November’s terrorist attacks in Paris will be extended for an additional three months. While France grapples with the threat of terrorist violence and how best to protect itself from these threats, leaders must ensure that policies contained within the current state of emergency provisions – including provisions that permit extraordinary powers to investigate, arrest, and detain individuals – do not exacerbate existing tensions that can lead to further unrest. France’s longer-term security will depend on counterterrorism measures that respect human rights.
Experts have already raised concerns that current emergency measures are being applied in France in an overly-broad and in some cases discriminatory manner. Over the past decade and a half since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has learned, sometimes painfully, that we are more successful, not less, particularly in the long term, confronting violent extremism with strategies founded in respect for human rights. This learned experience has been highlighted in President Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative and is at the core of the U.N. Secretary General’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism.
These observations are examined in a fact sheet released today by Human Rights First, as well as Human Rights First’s report Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France.” The report analyzes the nature and extent of antisemitism and extremism in France and presents recommendations for combating it by promoting tolerance and inclusiveness. Based on public information and in-country interviews with a range of government officials, civil society representatives, and academic experts, the report examines this problem within broader and interrelated phenomena, including the ascendancy of the far-right party the National Front, mounting anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment, the spread of Islamic extremism, and the increasing alienation of many Muslims in France.
“In the wake of this latest tragedy, the French government is right to take concrete steps to thwart security threats,” noted Corke. “It should seek long-term solutions that create a future when a continued state of emergency is not needed. By coming together in this sad moment, citizens of all faiths and all races can best overcome terrorism by building stronger and more inclusive communities.”
Human Rights First notes that, as President Obama and Secretary Kerry have stated, the United States has an important role to play in ensuring that the French government is adequately equipped to respond to attacks. Corke notes that U.S. leaders should encourage their counterparts to turn to rights-respecting techniques that build stronger and more inclusive communities and civil society groups.
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