Francois Mori/AP
French President Nicolas Sarkozy

France’s Antiterrorism Tactics Questioned

July 03, 2008 11:09 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
A human rights organization is questioning France’s antiterrorism tactics, at a time when the country faces a significant threat from an al-Qaida cell in Algeria.

30-Second Summary

According to a report conducted by Human Rights Watch, France’s antiterrorism strategies are unlawful and prevent fair trials for suspects. An article in The New York Times said France “allows authorities to arrest and interrogate large numbers of people even when they have nothing to do with suspected terrorist activity.”

In Europe, France has stood out for its counterterrorism success, and the French government has said its flexible laws and judicial system have been key to preventing attacks. But Human Rights Watch finds fault with France’s system, which limits suspects’ access to lawyers in the crucial early stages of investigations.

The terrorism threat in France is real. A group of Algerian militants, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, have been expanding its presence, and is strongly anti-French.  The sentiment stems from the Algerian war of independence that occurred in the 1950s and ’60s.

France still maintains its ties to Algeria, according to The New York Times. In June 2008, France signed agreements to develop Algeria’s military and nuclear arsenal. 

This is not the first time that Human Rights Watch has denigrated France’s antiterrorism techniques, and in 2004, The Washington Post reported on France’s extreme counterterrorism strategies, such as preemptive arrests and ethnic profiling.

Just last month, in June 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy committed to revamping France’s defense strategies, which will involve cutting military positions in favor of technologically advanced equipment and intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks.

Sarkozy has not commented on the Human Rights Watch report, and some are calling France’s criticism of U.S. policies in Guantanamo hypocritical in the report’s wake.

Headline Links: France’s policies questioned amid threat

Background: The worst place to be a terrorist?

Related Topics: France defense overhaul; Guantanamo ruling

Reference: Algerian war for independence


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