On May 5, 2015, members of the lower chamber of French Parliament approved the so-called “French Patriot Act”, or “Projet de loi relatif au renseignement”, despite the serious concerns about users’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Starting today through June 4, 2015, the French Senate will analyse the bill, which will be up for a vote on June 9th.
What has happened so far
The bill successfully passed the lower chamber of the French Parliament following a vote on May 5th. While a large majority of the assembly approved the bill, the 86 votes against and the 42 abstentions show that political opposition has grown significantly, considering that when debate started no more than 20 members of the Parliament (MPs) publicly opposed the law. The day after the vote, the French Prime Minister even went so far as to complain about pressure from citizens and civil society that led to several MPs changing their votes.
The government’s decision to limit discussion of this legislative text through a fast-track process, eluding necessary consultations and in-depth debates, helped secure the passage of the bill in the assembly. Emergency legislative process is more often than not driven by irrational fears, and this can lead to adoption of ineffective laws that undermine our freedoms and rights. In a political climate where French citizens have been told that the only way to protect their security is to undermine their civil liberties, it is vital to stop this law from passing. Otherwise, it will have a long-lasting negative impact on citizens’ right to privacy.
But it’s not over yet…
The French President, François Hollande, has declared that he would not sign the executive decree implementing the bill until the French Constitutional Court delivered its opinion on the legislation. The Court review has been seized upon by both the French President and a group of MPs, as they are concerned about the lack of judicial oversight in the bill, as well the vague scope of its application. However, It should be noted that the question of whether such requests will be handled efficiently depends on the strength of the arguments that are presented. While we don’t yet know what the motion is that the MPs will submit, and it could lead to a full examination of the legislation’s compliance with human rights, the one introduced by the President is said to be relatively weak, making it therefore unlikely for the Court to overturn the bill.That’s why senators must hold firm against the legislation in the upcoming vote on June 9th.
We urge French senators to consider the concerns of the numerous experts and activists calling unanimously for the rejection of the proposed legislation. The bill has been strongly criticised by civil society groups, not less than 949 technology companies, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement unions, and several eminent human rights experts, including Nils Muižnieks, Michel Forst, and Ben Emmerson, among others.
Take action now!
Despite the numerous attempts by the French government to limit public debate and ride roughshod over citizens’ legitimate concerns, this legislation can still be rejected.
Post co-written by Justine Chauvin
Image by La Quadrature du Net