Over the last fifteen years, the United States has experienced rapid policy changes at the national level in response to an ever-growing number of terrorist attacks worldwide. This week, France followed suit, their Parliament and Senate passing an anti-terrorism law that could have a drastic impact on the country.
The law would make it possible for police to search homes and seize property without a warrant and place terrorist suspects under house arrest without a judge’s ruling. The Senate and Parliament passed slightly different versions of the bill, which will need to be corrected, but most of the bill that passed in the Parliament is expected to stand. Human rights groups criticize the new law for giving police too much power without checks in place to prevent human rights abuses.
France has been in a state of emergency for the past two years, since 130 people were killed in a terrorist attack in November 2015. Many citizens and politicians have wanted the state of emergency to be lifted, something which Macron as a candidate pledged to do, but the government doesn’t seem to want to lose the expanded powers that come with being under a state of emergency.
With this law, the French Parliament and Senate seem to have created a loophole. The expanded government powers granted in the new law resemble the expanded government powers under the state of emergency. This way, they can effectively end the state of emergency, and still have the expanded government power of being in a state of emergency.
Rather than minimize the sense of being in a state of crisis, this alternative seems to reaffirm a sense of national emergency. According to France’s director for Human Rights Watch, Bénédicte Jeannerod, the past two years have seen a weakening of judicial oversight when it comes to counter-terrorism. “The normalisation of emergency powers crosses a new line,” she said.
Al Jazeera reports on this new development, and what it could mean for everyday French citizens (read: Muslims, minorities, and people of color) who could be hit hard by this decision.