The “French Patriot Act” before the French Senate: it’s time to reject the bill
On May 5, 2015, members of the lower house of the French Parliament approved the “French Patriot Act”, or “Intelligence billDespite serious concerns about users’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression. From today until June 4, 2015, the French Senate will analyze the bill, which will be put to the vote on June 9.
What has happened so far
The bill was successfully adopted by the lower house of the French parliament following a vote on May 5. While a large majority of the assembly approved the bill, the 86 votes against and 42 abstentions show that the political opposition has increased considerably, considering that at the start of the debate, no more than 20 members of parliament (deputies) publicly opposed the law. The day after the vote, the French Prime Minister even went as far as to complain about pressure from citizens and civil society which has led several deputies to modify their votes.
The government’s decision to limit discussion of this legislative text to an accelerated process, avoiding the necessary consultations and substantive debates, ensured the passage of the bill in the Assembly. The emergency legislative process is most often motivated by irrational fears, which can lead to ineffective laws being passed that undermine our freedoms and rights. In a political climate where French citizens are told that the only way to protect their security is to violate their civil liberties, it is vital to prevent this law from passing. Otherwise, it will have a lasting negative impact on citizens’ right to privacy.
But it is not finished…
French President Francois Hollande said he would not sign the executive decree for the execution of the bill until the French Constitutional Court rules on the legislation. Judicial review has been seized by both the French president and a group of MPs as they worry about the bill’s lack of judicial review, as well as the vague scope of its application. However, it should be noted that the question of whether such requests will be dealt with effectively depends on the strength of the arguments that are presented. While it is not yet clear what motion MPs will put forward, and whether it could lead to a full review of the law’s compliance with human rights, the one presented by the president would be relatively low, which therefore makes it unlikely that the Court will overturn the bill. That is why senators must stand firm against the bill in the next vote on June 9.
We urge French senators to take into consideration the concerns of the many experts and activists calling unanimously for the rejection of the bill. The bill was heavily criticized by civil society groups, no less than 949 technology companies, judges, lawyers and law enforcement unions, as well as several eminent human rights experts, including Nils Muižnieks, Michel Forst and Ben Emmerson, among others.
Despite numerous attempts by the French government to limit public debate and flout citizens’ legitimate concerns, this legislation can still be rejected.
Article co-written by Justine Chauvin
Image from La Quadrature du Net