Conflict & Justice

French law challenged

Long before the 9/11 attacks, France had some of the most sweeping anti-terrorism laws in the world, coming in response to attacks on French soil in the 1980s and 90s. but Human Rights Watch says it's time for those laws to be amended, with particular focus on the Criminal Association law. This Human Rights Watch official says it lets French authorities cast too wide a net and hold people for too long. There are no Europe-wide statistics on how many people are being detained without charge on suspicion of terrorist activity but the number could well be in the thousands and France is suspected to be holding hundreds. This woman says her brother was once among those detainees and was picked up in Dubai on suspicion of association with Al Qaeda, and was held for two and a half months before authorities flew him to France where he suffered horrible treatment. Allegations of mistreatment and torture were never considered in his trial. Cases like that are becoming more common due to European anti-terrorism laws. Most European countries have followed the US's lead, such as the US's Patriot Act which allows authorities to hold enemy combatants indefinitely. Spain has bucked the trend towards toughening laws, and Spain's President says his country has learned through combating ETA that laws which deny even basic human rights don't work in the long run.

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