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France terror expulsion policy lacks basic safeguards: HRW report

[JURIST] France's practice of expelling non-citizens accused of links to violent extremism lacks sufficient procedural safeguards and undermines human rights [press release], according to a report [PDF text] released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch [advocacy website]. The report found that the current French policies allow the expulsion or deportation of a suspect once an initial decision has been reached in an immigration court, even if the individual has a pending appeal or if the individual is in fear of persecution upon return to the country of nationality. HRW characterized the policy as a way for the French government to expel an individual "by the way of an administrative decision" which allows the bypassing of "more stringent evidential and procedural guarantees in the criminal justice system."

HRW wrote that France [JURIST news archive]:

has an obligation under European and international human rights law to ensure that measures taken in the name of countering terrorism and protecting the public are compatible with coexisting human rights protections, including the rights of those deemed to pose a threat. The French government is obliged to ensure that the process of removals on national security grounds has effective safeguards to guarantee due process and to protect those subject to removal against serious violations of their fundamental human rights.
HRW made several recommendations in the report, urging the French government to:
  • Ensure that any person subject to forced removal from France is allowed to remain in France until the determination of any appeal in relation to the risk of torture or other ill-treatment or interference with the right to family life.
  • Ensure that individuals claiming asylum may remain in France until the conclusion of the asylum determination procedure.
  • End the national security exception to the granting of "subsidiary protection" — a temporary form of protection in lieu of refugee status — where a person faces the risk of the death penalty, or torture or other ill-treatment.
  • Improve and apply more fairly the system of assigning individuals to compulsory residence in France as an alternative to forced removal when the removal cannot be carried out in a manner consistent with human rights law.
  • Clarify in law and jurisprudence the materiality and intensity of the threat to national security allowing for expulsions, especially in cases involving speech offenses.
  • HRW also emphasized that the expulsion policies occur in "Western Europe's largest Muslim community," and cautioned that the perception by French Muslims that the policies are "discriminatory and unjust" may hinder French efforts to integrate its society and combat terrorism with domestic cooperation. AP has more.

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