CATF Reports Nov. 18, 2016, 3:34pm

One year after the November 13, 2015 atrocities in Paris, the plot behind the attacks that took 130 lives has considerably less missing pieces. Earlier this month French authorities identified dual Belgian and Moroccan citizen Oussama Ahmad Atar as one of the strategists on their watch list suspected of coordinating the Paris terrorist operations from Syria. While the protracted state of emergency introduced the day after the attack that granted French authorities farther-reaching powers produced quantifiable successes from a law enforcement and counterterrorism point of view, it also came at a price: human rights guarantees were often pushed aside for the “greater good.

Over the past year, France has slowly transitioned to a police state in which pre-judicial authorizations are not required in order to search houses or dissolve groups and associations supposedly caught breaking public order. The French Muslim population has especially suffered from exponentially increased warrantless searches of private houses, mosques, and prayer rooms, and house arrests often vaguely justified by national security reasons. In February 2016 Human Rights Watch claimed that “France has carried out abusive and discriminatory raids and house arrests against Muslims under its sweeping new state of emergency law,” thereby creating or exasperating economic hardship and further stigmatizing targeted individuals and families.

Interviewed by the French media channel Antenne 1 on November 9, French Minister Manuel Valls stated that almost 300 individuals are currently detained in France on terror charges, while 700 jihadists comprised of French residents and citizens continue to fight in Iraq and Syria and 196 fighters were reportedly killed. France remains one of the largest exporters of foreign fighters to Middle Eastern arenas and certainly harsher measures may have proved more effective in gathering critical information at a moment of heightened security threat for the country. Nonetheless, abuses perpetrated under the state of emergency generally accentuated societal polarization and nurtured growing disaffection of the local communities towards law enforcement agents, who more and more often now tend to decline spontaneous cooperation.

From the International Center for Counter-Terrorism:

“All of this testifies to a climate of fear and distrust in which it will be difficult to return to the old, ‘pre-emergency’ situation (which […] was already quite tough in terms of counter-terrorism measures). […]

Taking that reality into account, one can either stick to international law, human rights and the rule of law principles in general, principles that have been secured after many years of struggle, and accept that sporadically an attack may occur, or run the risk of moving gradually into the direction of a police state, nullify everything that has been built up and that our societies stand for, and still be confronted every now and then with an attack. In fact, it is argued that this latter route will do even more harm in the long run, since the harsh measures – as was shown earlier – will predominantly affect the Muslim population, which may lead to more discrimination, distrust, stigmatisation, polarisation, exclusion, alienation, resentment, radicalisation and, in the end, a greater pool of recruits for the organisations the politicians are trying to fight.”

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