French Presidential Election 2017

English translation unavailable for French Presidential Election 2017.

Let's Rise Up For Our Rights!

By Bénédicte Jeannerod, France Director at Human Rights Watch and Camille Blanc, President of Amnesty International France.

Published on Mediapart's website (in French)

Human Rights principles were proclaimed universal almost 70 years ago. They were articulated after a period of barbarity and contempt for human dignity caused by a lack of understanding of the critical importance of these rights. But we are seeing the most virulent attack on these principles in decades.

In France, speeches and proposals for emergency measures based on fear, intolerance, and stigmatization have been at the forefront of the presidential campaign. The disastrous logic behind these ideas has contaminated the political discussion. Even if candidates espousing these views do not win the election, which no one is in a position to predict conclusively, these ideas are settling into our political landscape.

We are concerned about the strength of the dikes protecting the rule of law and our democracy and of respect for the basic principles of human rights. Yes, we are afraid for the founding values of this country, which have been undermined and sometimes are even preempted by disturbing trends that we observe in Europe and in the world.

Expressions of xenophobia and hatred, which many leaders around the world have promoted, thrive on the feeling of insecurity in the face of terrorist attacks, unemployment, the crisis around welcoming refugees, and the perception of a dilution of national identity due to globalization. Demagogues play on the legitimate concerns of a section of the population to free themselves from the fundamental principles of the rule of law, which protect every human being. Instead they are promoting a double standard for protecting these rights, a contempt for justice, and a rejection of institutions that provide checks and balances on their power.

Hammered like a mantra and ignoring the facts, this rhetoric unfortunately seems to find a loud echo in a part of French society.

In the name of fighting terrorism, an elementary truth has been forgotten: that human rights were not invented by dreamers of beautiful and great principles. They are instead an essential condition to allow each and every one of us to live in safety, protected from arbitrary decisions to restrict our rights. They were acquired through social struggles and revolutions, and learned from the experience of previous generations. To be safe, we do not need fewer rights; instead, we must fight to ensure that all rights are effective for everyone.

In the face of a world that is disoriented and upset, wouldn’t the worst option be to give in to fear? To renounce the essential principles that guide us and let them be trampled? Should we not, on the contrary, reject without concession xenophobia and discrimination and preserve the understanding that the capacity for empathy defines our humanity? Should we not defend a strong and independent justice, and fiercely free and meticulous media in the search for the facts?

The situation is serious, but we refuse to see it as fatal. It is up to all of us working together to mobilize for the upcoming election and beyond, to show how much these principles matter to us and that they cannot be dissolved based on the fears of the moment.

Whichever candidate wins, we will be there to constantly remind the future President of the Republic of the principles for which they are the guardian and whose effective implementation they will have to ensure. These "human rights" are, above all, our own, so let us rise to demand them, defend them, protect them!

***

This call by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International France is supported by Robert Badinter (former Justice Minister), Tahar Ben Jelloun (writer), William Bourdon (lawyer), Clotilde Courau (actress), C215 (street artist), Mireille Delmas-Marty (professor emeritus at Collège de France), Dan Franck (writer), Costa Gavras (filmmaker), Emily Loizeau (singer), François Morel (actor), Franck Pavloff (writer), Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber (journalist), Lambert Wilson (actor).    

France: Presidential Run-Off Offers Choice on Rights

(Paris, May 1, 2017)—A comparison of the positions of the two remaining candidates for France’s presidency (see chart below) shows that they take significantly different positions on human rights at home and abroad, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Looking closely at the positions and statements of Le Pen and Macron indicates they would take very different approaches to human rights as president of France,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “We believe it is important for voters to consider both candidates’ positions on key human rights issues,  so they can be aware of the impact the candidates’ positions will have on human rights and use that information when they cast their votes on May 7."

Emmanuel Macron, candidate in France's 2017 French presidential election, attends a campaign rally in Paris, France on April 17, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

Human Rights Watch sent a questionnaire to all the candidates in the first round seeking responses to a range of human rights issues. The comparison is based on the responses of Emmanuel Macron to those questions and other public statements, and on public statements by Marine Le Pen on the same issues. Le Pen did not reply to the Human Rights Watch questionnaire.

Marine Le Pen, candidate in France's 2017 French presidential election, celebrates after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Henin-Baumont, France on April 23, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

The comparison looks at the position of the candidates on: police identity checks; the state of emergency and counterterrorism in France; access to asylum; the role of the EU in human rights; human rights in relations with the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and China; the situation in Syria; French military intervention in Africa; and the fight against impunity for international crimes.

 

Identity checks and ethnic profiling

 Human Rights Watch Position

 

To fight ethnic profiling, Human Rights Watch recommends police officers in France be required to issue a receipt every time they carry out an identity check to explain its legal basis and establish a written record.

 

 (more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “We are not in favor of receipts.” (Letter)
  • “The practice of identity checks sometimes contains discriminatory elements. (Letter)
  • “Training in police schools should be improved in this regard.” (Letter)
  •  “Generalize the use of body cameras to record identity checks.” (Program)

 

  • To the best of our knowledge, Marine le Pen has not addressed the question of ethnic profiling by the police or how identity checks are conducted.

 

 

State of emergency and counterterrorism

 Human Rights Watch position

 

The indefinite extension of the state of emergency is a danger to the rule of law and the protection of fundamental freedoms. Human rights should be fully respected in all security and counterterrorism measures.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “No candidate has the necessary information to know if the level of risk (…) allows for lifting the state of emergency.” (Letter
  • “[Only after my election] could I decide whether or not to lift the state of emergency.” (Letter
  • “[Lifting the state of emergency] is an objective for which we must aim, because a state of exception cannot become the norm.” (Letter)
  • “[Revoking nationality for dual nationals] is dangerous and unrealistic.” (Program)
  • Criticized a “sham state of emergency.” Has not expressed a position on when the state of emergency should end. (Le Figaro, April 4th, 2017)
  • “Ban organizations with links to Islamist groups.” (Program)
  • “Revocation of nationality (…) for any dual national with links to a jihadist organization. Deport all foreigners with links to Islamist fundamentalism.” (Program)
  • “Place in preventive detention French nationals with links to any foreign organization provoking hostile acts against France.” (Program)

 

Asylum

 Human Rights Watch position

 

France should uphold its international obligations to protect refugees fleeing violence and persecution and should show greater leadership within the European Union in that respect. The human rights of all asylum seekers on French territory should be protected. Strengthening the protection of unaccompanied migrant children, who are particularly vulnerable, should be a priority.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “Europe has a duty to provide asylum to those who are persecuted and ask for its protection.” (Program)
  • “[Asylum requests] should be taken care of in six months maximum, including appeals.” (Letter
  • “Study the possibilities of strengthening the protection of these unaccompanied children.” (Letter
  • “Improve information for these youths.” (Letter
  • “equitable sharing between European countries.” (Program)
  • “All migrant camps will be dismantled.” (Communiqué)
  • “Undocumented persons (…) will be sent to the border.” (Communiqué)
  • “We will drastically reduce asylum.” (Communiqué)
  • “Asylum requests will not be studied in France but in French embassies and consulates.” (Communiqué)
  • “Make it impossible for undocumented immigrants to obtain papers or citizenship.” (Program
  • “No more schooling for undocumented [children].” (Huffington Post, December 8th, 2016)
  • “Eliminate the State Medical Aid for undocumented people.” (Program

 

European Union

 Human Rights Watch position

 

The European Union should live up to its founding values of respect for human rights, in a context of skepticism toward European institutions and the rise of extreme nationalism. Human rights should be a priority of European diplomacy and internal policy, in particular regarding migration policy.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “We note a progression of intolerant and racist language in Europe and the United States.” (Letter)
  • “Europe must speak in a single voice on human rights.” (Letter)
  • “The difficulties of Europe [include] the rise of nationalism, calling into question the Schengen area.” (Program)
  • “Europe is (…) a project of peace, prosperity and liberty.” (Libération, March 23rd, 2017)
  • “The refusal of several Central European countries to receive migrants is unacceptable. There must be sanctions. Countries that do not respect our principles should not have access to European funds.” (Libération, March 23rd, 2017)
  • “A negotiation will be opened with our European partners followed by a referendum on our membership in the European Union.” (Program
  • “Reestablish national borders and leave the Schengen area.” (Program)  

 

United States

 Human Rights Watch position

 

 France’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the United States should always make the respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law a priority. President Trump has taken steps that cause concerns for the protection of human rights in the United States and globally.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “Several declarations by President [Trump] raise doubts about the new administration’s intentions concerning respect for human rights.” (Letter)
  • “The United States leaving the UNHRC would be a worrying sign.” (Letter
  • Regarding a proposal by Lafarge, a large French multinational construction firm, to sell cement for the US-Mexico border wall: “Our businesses have a social and environmental responsibility and they participate in the world order.” (La Voix du Nord, March 10th, 2017)
  • "With Trump, with Theresa May, with Putin, with the Visegrad group, I do not feel isolated at all!” (Marine le Pen’s twitter account, November 20th, 2016)
  • "Donald Trump’s election opens a new era of cooperation between nations.” (Marine le Pen’s twitter account, January 19th, 2016)
  • “Most of the reactions [to the US travel ban] have been in bad faith.” (CNN interview, February 1st, 2017)

 

Syria

 Human Rights Watch position

 

It is essential for any peace plan to include guarantees to respect human rights and protect civilians as well as accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out in Syria.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “Considering the dismissal of Bashar Al-Assad as a prerequisite to everything was a mistake. Our main problem is ISIS.” (Speech in Lebanon, January 24th, 2017)
  •  “Bashar al-Assad is a dictator. He has committed crimes, denounced by the United Nations. There won’t be any peace without justice. Thus, I am not in favor of (…) a position of accommodation with Assad.” (L’Orient, January 26th, 2017)
  • “Crimes must be prosecuted.”  “History teaches us […] that impunity shall not be accepted.”  (Letter)
  • “The settlement of the Syrian conflict requires a demanding and realistic discussion with all the powers involved in this situation.” (Letter)
  • In favor of “an international military intervention under UN supervision” [if it is proven that the Syrian regime is responsible for the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun]. (l’Emission politique, April 6)
  • On the American airstrike : “It is always preferable to have coordination between allies on this matter.” (Le Parisien, April 12th, 2017)
  • “Bashar al-Assad is the viable solution […] and a much more reassuring solution for France than ISIS.” (Speech in Lebanon, February 20th, 2017)
  • “Who else, other than Bashar al-Assad” can offer the best defense against ISIS. “This doesn’t mean that I don’t consider the chemical attack as a horror. Let’s wait for the results of the international investigation before  pursuing[OK?] justice ourselves.” (RLT-LCI, April 9th, 2017)
  • On the American airstrike: “I note that [Trump] makes […] a choice […] inconsistent with what he promised.“ (RTL, April 9th, 2017)

 

 

Russia

 Human Rights Watch position

 

In its relations with Russia, and with others about Russia, France should take into account the numerous violations of human rights and international law committed by the Russian authorities, as well as its position at the UN Security Council with regard to Syria.

 

(more information here)

 

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “It is necessary to talk with Russia to ensure the stability of the Middle East. But let us not forget who they are, what they do, and the nature of their regime.” (Libération, March 23rd, 2017)
  • “Russia has revived its aggressive foreign policy, in Ukraine for instance, and threatens Eastern Europe, while tensions in Southeast Asia cause concern.” (Program)
  • “We also intend to promote […]  the limitation of the use of the right of veto by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council when mass crimes occur.” (Letter)
  • “This question divides Europe. It is first with our closest neighbors that we need to discuss and clarify an approach that gives human rights all their place in our relation with Moscow.” (Letter)
  • [The Russian intervention in Syria] “has seriously undermined fundamentalism.” (Meeting with Putin, March 24th, 2017)
  • “We do not believe in a diplomacy of threats, sanctions or blackmail.” (Meeting with Putin, March 24th, 2017)
  • [Crimea] "has always been Russian […] the sanctions against the Kremlin are completely stupid.” (CNN, February 1st, 2017)
  •  “I went [to Russia] to discuss the necessity for great nations to cooperate […] in the fight against terrorism.” (Europe 1, March 27th, 2017) 

 

Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Watch position

 

 As long as the bombings targeting civilians have not ceased and are not investigated in an independent and credible manner, it is essential that any arms sales to Saudi Arabia and to the countries of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen stop.

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “We do not want to sell weapons that could then be used to kill civilians. This is unbearable. If we work with the Gulf monarchies, we will condition our contracts to the respect of human rights and ensure that French weapons are exclusively used for the defense of our partners.” (Letter)
  • To the best of our knowledge, Marine Le Pen has not expressed a public position on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition.

 

China

 Human Rights Watch position

 

France, which has close diplomatic and economic relations with China, should call for the immediate release of Liu Xiao Bo, Nobel Peace Laureate in 2010, and call for an end to arbitrary detention in China.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “We won’t put aside any topic when in discussions [OK?]  with China. Those you mention are important. They will have to be addressed effectively.” (Letter)
  • “China is a fundamental actor with which France and Europe must strengthen and balance their relations on security, trade and ecology. As such, we will open with our European partners a comprehensive initiative to negotiate a cross-border agreement with China.” (Program)
  • To the best of our knowledge, Marine Le Pen has not expressed a public position on discussing human rights with the Chinese authorities.

 

Military intervention in Africa

 Human Rights Watch position

 

France should ensure that military intervention abroad, in particular in the context of counterterrorism cooperation in countries of the Sahel region, does not contribute to violations by the armed forces backed by France, or by French forces themselves.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “France [will continue] judging its soldiers accused of having committed violations  and let[ting] justice do its work with full independence.” (Letter)
  • “We encourage the UN to invest more in [….] [its] service of ethics and discipline that ensures the Blue Helmets respect all the norms of conduct of the UN.” (Letter
  • In the Sahel, […] [we must reinforce] training of local armed and security forces that  always has a significant component on the respect of human rights […] whenever possible.” (Letter
  • To the best of our knowledge, Le Pen has not expressed a public position on how to ensure that military intervention abroad does not contribute to violations by armed forces. She has said the following on military intervention on the African continent:
  • “The French army is not there to protect regimes anymore, but to support local armies in their fight against terrorism. (Le Monde Afrique, April 11th, 2017)
  • “[French] support in Africa will be conditioned to good governance and to respect for the rule of law.” (Le Monde Afrique, April 11th, 2017)

 

Fight against impunity

 Human Rights Watch position

 

France should fight impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by ensuring strong political and financial support for the International Criminal Court.

The president should support ongoing efforts by French judicial authorities to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed abroad, in places such as Syria.

 

(more information here)

Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

  • “France has always supported the ICC […] The French contribution [to the ICC budget] has increased in the past few years […]. We will continue this effort.” (Letter)
  • ” The fight against impunity must be seen in a more global way: new forms of transitional justice are currently being explored and deserve to be supported.” (Letter
  • “It is also necessary to explore the fight against impunity at the non-judicial level. Some recommendations must be submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations by the month of June.” (Letter
  • “We intend to support an active preventive diplomacy […] in order to […] anticipate and prevent the commission of such crimes.” (Letter
  • To the best of our knowledge, Marine Le Pen has not publicly expressed a position on this matter.