GENEVA (3 December 2020) – France’s controversial bill on global security would be incompatible with international human rights law, and should be comprehensively revised, human rights experts* said today.
“It is a good sign that members of the Parliament have said they will rewrite Article 24 restricting the publication of images of police officers, but it needs to go further and rethink the purpose of the bill as a whole,” the experts said.
“Simply rewriting Article 24 will not solve its flaws, and the provision is certainly not the only one that infringes on fundamental human rights.”
Approval of the draft “global security law” by the National Assembly last week prompted tens of thousands of people to protest in cities all over France. Protesters were also angry about videos showing police violently breaking up a migrant camp in the heart of Paris, and the beating of a Black music producer by police officers that was caught on security camera footage. Four police officers have been charged in connection with that incident.
“These are very timely reminders that images of police abuse captured by the public play a vital role in oversight of public institutions, which is fundamental to the rule of law,” said the experts.
“Among many other provisions in the bill that could limit human rights, Article 22 permitting use of drone surveillance in the name of security and counter-terrorism would permit widespread surveillance, in particular of demonstrators. This has serious implications for the right to privacy, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the country – as well as in any other country that might be inspired by this legislation,” they added.
"The introduction of such surveillance measures must take into account new technologies, including facial recognition and the massive and indiscriminate collection of personal data, which could deter people from exercising their human rights," they warned.
While welcoming the establishment of a commission led by the President of the National Human Rights Commission to formulate recommendations to Article 24, they urged the authorities to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the compatibility of the whole bill with international law.
The experts have previously expressed their concerns regarding the law to the French authorities and reiterate their availability to provide any technical assistance the authorities may require in this context.
Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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