All photos: AFP
Amnesty took the unusual step of unveiling its latest annual report in Paris, with Amnesty chief Salil Shetty noting that France is “the cradle of human rights”.
But today its citizens are seeing their rights eroded in the name of security, he said.
“There are few countries in the world where human rights are more tightly woven in the national psyche than in France,” he said, but now the country is at “a tipping point”.
He took aim at the Socialist government for repeatedly extending a state of emergency since the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
The increased security measures, which extend police powers of search and arrest, have been backed by “all political parties” in France, he noted.
“It's absolutely the responsibility of the government to protect the people, but it has to be proportionate,” he said, speaking out against “traumatising house raids… all pointing towards one religion”.
“We are very worried about the situation here,” he added.
“The world is watching France.”
The Amnesty report for France also noted that the state of emergency threatens people's right to protest (although the French are still managing to flock to the streets). It blasted French police for using “excessive force” against protesters “which resulted in hundreds of people being injured”.
The report also said France was wrong to dismantle the “Jungle” camp in Calais without consulting the asylum seekers as the law requires.
It said France was mistreating the Roma community, too, pointing out that 7,341 people in the community had been evicted over the first three quarters of last year.
The report also mentioned the Burkini controversy of last summer, when a handful of coastal towns banned people from wearing the Burkini swimwear on the beaches.
Outside of France, the report went on the offensive against US President Donald Trump and other leaders whose policies “demonise” entire groups of people pose a growing danger for the world.
“The poisonous politics of demonisation” are making the world “more fragmented, more unequal (and) more unsafe”, Shetty said.
The report says that “divisive fear-mongering has become a dangerous force in world affairs,” adding: “More and more politicians calling themselves anti-establishment are wielding a toxic agenda that hounds, scapegoats and dehumanises entire groups of people.”
Shetty pointed to Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as leaders employing “us versus them” rhetoric.
Their brand of identity politics is causing a “global pushback” of human rights and undermining a coordinated response to mass atrocities, Amnesty said in the report, which evaluates the state of human rights in 159 countries.
“We have reached a point where there is no longer any red line. Almost no action has become too appalling or indefensible,” Shetty said. “In this new reality it's easy to imagine a dystopian future where unrestrained brutality becomes a new normal.”