(Paris) – Human Rights Watch has sent 11 key questions about human rights that France’s next president will face to all candidates for the May 2017 presidential election. At a time when universal human rights and the principles of the rule of law are under attack around the world, including in France and other European countries, this initiative aims to encourage candidates to make their positions and policies known to voters on crucial issues.
Human rights issues have been virtually invisible in the French presidential campaign, but are essential for the country’s future, both in terms of national policy and diplomacy, Human Rights Watch said.
“The next president of the French Republic will need to be a guardian of the founding values of democracy and the rule of law, for everyone living on French territory and for France’s relations with other countries,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “French voters deserve to know whether those who seek the nation’s highest office are committed to those values and how they intend to defend them.”
The questionnaire is divided into four subthemes: human rights in France, Europe, and the rest of the world, and international justice. The first theme covers the protection of fundamental rights and individual freedoms in France while combatting terrorism; the need to tackle racially biased police identity checks; and the protection of the right to asylum. The second addresses France’s role in defending human rights and the rule of law in Europe. The third section addresses the conflict in Syria; the place of human rights in France’s relations with Russia, the United States, and China; the sales of French arms to Saudi Arabia in the context of violations of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen; and external military interventions of France in the Sahel region. The final section addresses the fight against impunity and international justice.
The answers should help give voters a sense of the candidates’ commitment to preserve human rights in their national and international policies, Human Rights Watch said. These commitments will be especially important in a global context of rising nationalism and xenophobia, repression of nongovernmental groups, and large-scale abuses in conflict areas.
The topics covered in the questionnaire are at the heart of Human Rights Watch’s work. The questions are published on a dedicated page (in French) and sent to the candidates through social media via the #UrgenceDroitsHumains (#HumanRightsEmergency) campaign. Candidates’ responses will be made public before the first round of the presidential election.
Here are the 11 questions that Human Rights Watch asked the candidates:
When you are president,
Will you defend universal human rights values in your national and international policies, in a context of xenophobia, rejection of foreigners and rise of national extremism?
1. Identity checks and police violence
Will you undertake a reform of identity checks and introduce systematic recording of police stops, to fight ethnic profiling by police forces in France?
What strategy will you implement to lead France out of the state of emergency in place since November 2015, and to ensure respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law while combating terrorism?
How will you ensure that France shows greater leadership within the European Union and internationally in welcoming and protecting refugees fleeing violence and persecution?
What will you do to strengthen the protection of unaccompanied minors in France?
4. European Union
What steps will you take to ensure that the European Union lives up to its founding values of respect for human rights in the current context of skepticism toward European institutions and the rise of extreme nationalism?
Around the world
5. United States
How do you propose to engage with President Trump, when he acts in ways that threaten human rights and basic democratic principles, including his attacks on the media?
How would you lead France in ensuring that human rights priorities, the protection of civilians, and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria are part of any agreed upon peace deal?
How do you envisage building relations with President Putin, given Moscow’s human rights record, its positions on issues such as Syria at the Security Council, and its lack of respect for international law?
8. Saudi Arabia
Will you cease selling arms to Saudi Arabia and to the countries of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, as long as the bombings targeting civilians have not ceased and are not investigated in an independent and credible manner?
Will you publicly and personally call for the immediate release of Liu Xiao Bo, the Nobel Peace Laureate in 2010, and call for an end to arbitrary detention, despite the economic and political links between France and China?
How will you ensure that military interventions abroad, in particular in the context of counter-terrorist cooperation in countries of the Sahel region, do not contribute to violations by the armed forces backed by France, or by French forces themselves?
11. Fight against impunity
Will your government fight impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by ensuring strong political and financial support for the International Criminal Court?
Will you support ongoing efforts by French judicial authorities to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed abroad, in places such as Syria?