On 18 September 2014, the near empty French National Assembly adopted the “law strengthening the provision relating to the fight against terrorism”. In an atmosphere marked by “apocalyptic” anxiety and speeches on the terrorist threat, particularly within the Internet, minister Bernard Cazeneuve and rapporteur Sébastien Pietrasanta wore down all opposition, blocking any further reflection on the serious breaches of the rule of law that are brought on by this bill.
The evaluation of the proposal turned into a game of “who can propose the most extreme measures” between Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, rapporteur Pietrasanta and representatives from across the political spectrum.
Despite criticism on both the content and form of the law increasing (including from the media usually unwilling to raise their voices on such issues), many Parliamentarians were ready to give up fundamental freedoms in the name of the fight against terrorism.
The most discussed articles at the Chamber had already been identified as problematic early on by the French civil rights organisation La Quadrature du Net. These include:
- Travel restrictions, control of freedom of movement via bans on leaving the country (Article 1);
- Removal of the concept of “apologie du terrorisme” from the French press law of 1881 (Article 4);
- Creation of an individual corporate terrorist offence and creation of an offence of regularly visiting terrorist websites (Article 5);
- Administrative blocking of Internet websites that promote terrorism (Article 9).
During the examination of the text, Bernard Cazeneuve evaded difficult questions, taking refuge in half-truths. For instance, he referred to the intervention of the administrative judge in the blocking process and suggested that he or she would systematically intervene as a mediator – while the text of the law foresees no such thing. Through denigration of his opponents and against the press that raised concerns about the law, he showed that his objective was mainly to pass ad hoc legislation to ease red tape for the police, rather than producing a proper law.
In order to engage citizens and volunteers to take part in the debate before the vote, to raise awareness and to influence the parliamentarians, La Quadrature du Net created a website “presumes-terroristes.fr” (presumed terrorists) which provides a thorough analysis of the law, its consequences and dangers. Other associations, such as Reporters Without Borders and the Human Rights League, joined the campaign.
The Senate will consider the text in the coming weeks. Even if the dangers of this law caught the attention of civil right associations already several months ago, media and press attention came very late. La Quadrature du Net calls on citizens to contact their Senators to raise awareness as early as possible about the dangers of this law, and continues to raise awareness, as it is crucial for the legislative process and could profoundly change the text during its reading at the Senate.
France’s new anti-terror bill: All presumed terrorist until proven guilty? (22.06.2014)
“Presumes-terroristes.fr” (presumed terrorists)
Terrorism: a dangerous bill (15.09.2014)
(Contribution by Christopher Talib, La Quadrature du Net)