ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: État de surveillance contre État de droit ?
by Patrick Le Hyaric
Translated Sunday 17 May 2015, by
These laws do not improve the domestic security in which France is lacking. Twenty five similar laws have been adopted in the past fifteen years. Many of these were written in reaction to sensational news headlines – to emotional shocks – without preventing the latest tragedies the country has seen. To say the least, it’s yet to be proven that these ad hoc laws are effective in achieving their stated goals.
When a law concerning our security and our liberties is voted on with “fast track authority”, leading to a short time between its deliberation in the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly – without debate in society – some questions are raised. When, before it is even voted on, the President of the Republic announces that he will refer it himself to the Constitutional Counsel for a test of its constitutionality, we might have some doubts. When a cabinet calling itself leftist refuses to listen to the warnings of a multitude of organizations (from the Squaring of the Net to Amnesty International, from the Human Rights League to the Magistrate’s Trade Union, and from authorities such as the French Data Protection Authority and the Monitor of Security Interceptions, to even the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights) and prefers to push through this text with the Right, well, it’s worth worrying about!
Moreover, there is danger when in France we adopt a law that is cut from the same cloth as the one that American lawmakers adopted following the attacks of September 11, 2001 – a law they are reconsidering today. This is not to say that we think we shouldn’t combat terrorism. Of course we need to give ourselves the means to defeat it. But the horrifying and criminal acts which have taken place on our home soil are the acts of individuals who, it seems, had been identified and tracked by the authorities. Therefore, the real question is why these killings were not prevented. Why were no reports, no assessments presented to the country?
These days, the powers that be intend to organize a widespread surveillance of telephone communications, to capture computer data, to order surveillance planes to locate people or vehicles in real time, without judicial oversight. In other words, they mean to collect billions of pieces of data on the entire population, it seems, to identify … “fifteen”, perhaps “twenty” presumed terrorists. That’s a handful of results out of billions of pieces of information – on all of us – that the police have been keeping for at least five years!
However, these laws do not improve the domestic security in which France lacking. Twenty five similar laws have been adopted in the past fifteen years. Many of these were written in reaction to sensational news headlines – to emotional shocks – without preventing the latest tragedies the country has seen. To say the least, it’s yet to be proven that these ad hoc laws are effective in achieving their stated goals. On the contrary, they are detrimental to the rule of law. A power which plays on emotions this way in order to restrict rights thrusts a long dagger into the already abused body of our Republic. A Republic whose name is so tarnished these days.
We can even consider that article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights stating that the “right to respect for one’s private and family life” is being flouted.
Are we advancing towards a state that liberally uses new technological instruments to gain access to individuals’ private lives, their relationships, their thoughts, their opinions, their movements and privacy? An attempt to undermine the rule of law in favor of the emergence of a supposedly “safe” state would be first of all a victory for terrorism and the enemies of human rights and citizen’s rights. Simultaneously, democracy restrains itself to benefit the elites.
Despite the National Assembly’s vote in the first reading of this law on spying, it is not too late to make yourself heard. The powers that be cannot think that local organizations, legal experts, and society are always wrong. They can no longer think that by refusing this “widespread surveillance” law, we have bad intentions. If they were so sure of their actions, they should have organized a public debate on this subject with all the relevant authorities, from the Constitutional Council to the European Court, so that they could play a role and be heard.
At this moment, we cannot help but recall the words written in 1899 by Francis de Pressensé, a founder of the League of Human Rights, and one of the members of l’Humanité’s founding team alongside Jean Jaurès, criticizing the exceptional laws passed in 1893-1894, after the bombings bloodying the Third Republic: “Many times over the course of this century, when panics were provoked by certain attacks, France has skillfully exploited the reactionary attitude which has always charged liberty the fees of a liar’s security.” We hope that he will be proven wrong.