Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 / France

France is a multiparty constitutional democracy. Voters directly elect the president of the republic to a five-year term. They elected Emmanuel Macron to that position in May. An electoral college elects members of the bicameral parliament’s upper house (Senate), and voters directly elect members of the lower house (National Assembly). Observers considered the April 23/May 7 presidential and the June 11/18 parliamentary (Senate and National Assembly) elections to have been free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Since the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, the country was under a state of emergency that gave expanded powers to police and other government authorities. The emergency law authorized the government to dissolve associations deemed to be working towards the serious disruption of public order. It also authorized prefects in all regions to close temporarily concert halls, restaurants, or any public place and to prohibit public demonstrations or gatherings posing a threat to public safety, as they deemed appropriate. While the state of emergency generally enjoyed legislative and public support, some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and parliamentarians expressed concern it negatively affected the balance between security and individual rights. On October 31, the state of emergency was lifted, and the government enacted legislation to codify certain powers granted under it. To prevent acts of terrorism, the law permits authorities to restrict and monitor the movement of individuals, conduct administrative searches and seizures, close religious institutions for disseminating violent extremist ideas, implement enhanced security measures at public events, and expand identity checks near the country’s borders. The core provisions will expire at the end of 2020 unless actively renewed by parliament. Some members of the National Assembly and human rights organizations criticized the bill for incorporating the emergency measures in common law, a step they believed eroded civil liberties and diminished judicial oversight.

The most significant human rights issues included reports of societal acts of violence against migrants, minorities, Jews, Muslims, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons; authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate prosecuted, such cases.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish members of the security forces and other officials who committed human rights abuses. Impunity was not widespread.

During the year the country experienced six terrorist attacks, at least five terror-related individual killings targeting security forces, and several attempted terrorist attacks. As of year’s end, authorities continued to investigate elements of these cases.

Note: The country includes 11 overseas administrative divisions covered in this report. Four overseas territories in French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and La Reunion have the same political status as the 22 metropolitan regions and 101 departments on the mainland. Five divisions are overseas “collectivities”: French Polynesia, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna. New Caledonia is a special overseas collectivity with a unique, semi autonomous status between that of an independent country and an overseas department. Citizens of these territories periodically elect deputies and senators to represent them in parliament, like the other overseas regions and departments.

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