Counter-terrorism legislation proposed by the French government will “normalize abusive practices,” undermine personal freedoms, and may fuel prejudice against the Muslim minority, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.
A bill presented last week would enshrine curbs on fundamental rights in law if approved by parliament, the rights group said.
Newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron wants the legislation to replace temporary emergency powers in place since Islamist militants attacked Paris in 2015.
“Instead of truly ending France’s 19-month temporary state of emergency, the government is making some of its far-reaching powers permanent, but with little effective court oversight,” HRW’s Kartik Raj said.
“France needs to find a way to end its state of emergency without normalizing abusive practices.”
France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, has grappled with a response to homegrown jihadists and foreign militants following attacks that have killed more than 230 people since early 2015.
The draft bill envisages extending police powers to stop and search people or conduct house searches. The law would also give officials more discretion in deciding when to invoke a risk of terrorism as justification for curbs on freedoms.
Mr. Macron has assured the European Court of Human Rights the legislation would respect public freedoms.
“As the text stands, it [the law] could, for instance, be used arbitrarily to prohibit any meeting at which ideas or theological concepts associated with conservative interpretations of Islam, such as Salafism, are expressed regardless of whether there is any demonstrable connection to criminal activity,” HRW said.
“Poorly worded laws that are likely to lead to closing solely Muslim places of worship may also help feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society,” it said.
Several mosques have been shut temporarily under the state of emergency, imposed after Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in a concert hall and restaurants and bars in Paris in November 2015.
On Tuesday (14 March), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against two Muslim women who claimed employment discrimination after being fired from their jobs for wearing hijab, modest religious dress which includes a headscarf.
British legal experts say that the ruling will automatically remain enforced in the UK until it has actually split from the EU. This process will take about 2 years. After this period, it is unlikely that a British court would overturn the ruling.
A related British court case in 2012 had the opposing outcome. A guard at Buckingham Palace successfully opposed the military’s opposition to his turban. While this court case does not directly overturn this ruling, it opens possibilities for future opposition.
A 2007 British airways ban on Christian crosses was also struck down in court because headscarfs and turbans were permitted for religious reasons. The grounds for this decision were that the ban did not treat religious groups equally.
UK employers and legal experts, however, do not see the ruling as a major reversal of British legal approaches of the past. One reason for this is that companies still cannot ban religious garb for any reason other than “neutrality” of uniforms, including if customers complain. The courts in the UK will still likely avoid extreme positions on individual cases.
Muslims organisations in the UK, including the Muslim Council of Britain, see the ruling as an affront to equality.
In 2010 a ban against women wearing burqas in public buildings was approved by the city of Lleida in Catalonia. Women who would disobey such ban would incur in a fine between €300 and €600. The ban was adopted by several other localities in the area on the basis of public space control and public safety.
Later in 2013, all bans against the use of burqas and niqab in the region of Catalonia were annulled by theSpanish Supreme Court claiming that local authorities do not have the juridical right to legislate about fundamental rights.
Following the Strasbourg Court recent conclusions that the use of burqa or niqab in public buildings is not against the European Convention of Human Rights, the Catalonian Government announced that they will begin to prepare a new set of laws to regulate the use of integral veils and burqas in these spaces. The new conclusion of the European Court opens according to the Catalonia Government a new perspective that concerns the women’s right of dignity.
The president of the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE) Riay Tatary, said that the High Court of Justice of Madrid (TSJM) rule about the Camilo Jose Cela de Pozuelo de Alarcón school’s decision to prohibit a Muslim student, Najwa Malha, from wearing a headscarf in class, will be dismissed in the case it goes to European Court of Human Rights. Tatary noted that “we need national dialogue” and a unification of the rules in this domain and in other matters as “it is not about a girl or a particular garment, but about a fundamental right, the right to religious freedom. “
26 February 2013
Sabir Khan, a Dutch Pakistani al-Qaeda suspect, is to be extradited to the United States, where he is accused of planning acts of terror. The decision follows a decision by Netherlands Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten in December to extradite Khan. Khan’s lawyers attempted to overturn on the ground that his extradition to face five terror-related charges would breach the European Convention on Human Rights preventing torture as well as break Dutch law. Khan has been in the Netherlands since April 2011. Khan’s lawyer has announced he will now take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
3 July 2012
Five Muslim men, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdul-Bary, Abu Hamza al-Misri, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan have reached to the final stage of their legal battle over their extradition to the US wherein they are thought to spend the rest of their lives in solitary confinement in a Supermax prison.
Cage Prisoners have been campaigning for the men as they have lost their case in Britain and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). If their appeal is turned down by the Grand Chamber of ECtHR they then will be extradited to the US due to US-UK extradition treaty. The case is a very high profile in the UK and the media is waiting the decision impatiently.
The European Court of Human Rights has backed the extradition of Abu Hamza and four other terror suspects from the UK to the US. The Strasbourg court held there would be no violation of human rights for those facing life and solitary confinement in a “supermax” prison.
Judges said they would consider further the case of another suspect because of mental health issues.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “very pleased” with the news.
“It’s quite right that we have a proper legal process, although sometimes you can be frustrated by how long things take,” he added.
The court’s decision <http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?action=html&documentId=905791&portal=hbkm&source=externalbydocnumber&table=F69A27FD8FB86142BF01C1166DEA398649>is one of its most important since 9/11 because it approves of human rights in US maximum security prisons, making it easier for the UK to send suspects to its closest ally.
There could still hypothetically be an appeal against the court’s ruling in its final Grand Chamber – but in practice, very few cases are re-examined in that final forum.
News Agencies – January 13, 2012
A Sikh man in France has won the backing of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in his fight over religious headgear. It said France was violating Sikhs’ religious freedom by forcing them to remove their turbans when having photos taken for passports and ID cards. Ranjit Singh, 76, said he had turned to the UN because he found the French policy disrespectful and unnecessary.
Sikhs in France have been fighting a long battle over the turban. In 2004 France passed a law banning religious signs in schools. This included turbans and Muslim headscarves.
In 2008 the European Court of Human Rights dismissed an appeal on grounds of security.
It said that whilst Shingara Singh’s religious rights had been infringed, France was justified to ban the turban on the driver’s licence photo because the turban posed a security risk of fraud and falsification. That is when Ranjit Singh decided to file a case to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). It has now judged that a turban does not pose a risk to security.
News Agencies – September 22, 2011
A French court has imposed fines on two women for wearing the full Islamic face-covering veil, for the first time since a law was passed making it illegal to wear it in public. 32-year-old Hind Ahmas and Najate Naït Ali, who is 36, were ordered to pay fines of 120 euros and 80 euros respectively. The two women were not able to enter court to hear the judge’s pronouncement. At the hearing in May, one of them turned up outside the court, but was not allowed to enter because she refused to remove her full veil and reveal her face.
Yann Gré, who is the lawyer for the two women, declared that they will appeal against the ruling and are ready to take the case before the European Court of Human Rights.
Several women wearing the niqab turned up outside the courthouse to support the women.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has called for a moratorium on the
Swiss minaret ban during a debate on Islam, Islamism, and Islamophobia in Europe. The
recommendation was passed with the unanimous support of the entire assembly, including that
of all the Swiss representatives, even André Bugnon, who had earlier supported the ban. In the
adopted text, the minaret ban was criticized as a form of discrimination against Muslims, and
recommended that minarets be treated in a similar fashion to church steeples; the text went on to
recommend against legally banning the veil or the burka in Europe.
Other complaints against the minaret ban have been lodged with the European Court of Human
Rights, which were recognized as valid by the court in May 2010. Folco Galli, spokesperson
for the Swiss Ministry of Justice, states that Switzerland takes notice of the resolution, but that
authorities are obligated to follow the official change to the Swiss constitution brought about by
the referendum on minarets. In a similar fashion, while the Neue Zürcher Zeitung did not take
issue with the general position taken by the Council of Europe, the recommendation to impose a
moratorium on the ban was criticized as misguided, as it would imply that state officials ought to
disregard prevailing constitutional law.