Amnesty wants Hollande to up human rights effort

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has filed its end of year report on French President François Hollande's record on tackling human rights issues. Its conclusion was: Could do better.

Amnesty wants Hollande to up human rights effort
Protesters at an Amnesty International demo in Paris. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Amnesty has called on French President Francois Hollande to fulfill the commitments he made during his electoral race to shore up human rights. However, the rights watchdog nonetheless noted a change in governmental attitude toward human rights since the days of Nicolas Sarkozy. 

In April 2012, the human rights organization sent a letter to all the presidential candidates vying for entry to the Élysée Palace, asking that they consider ten points of improvement to help safeguard human rights in the country.

"Well, firstly, Mr Sarkozy did not reply," Amnesty International France spokesman Patrick Delouvin told The Local.

"Mr Hollande sent us a long letter in response. We have some expectations on the new government." 

In a report entitled "Francois Hollande – One year later," released this week, the human rights organization went through its list of recommendations – ranging from asylum seekers to Roma, and looking at civil liberties.

It said that while Amnesty welcomed the legalization of same-sex marriage in France, there was nonetheless the need for further efforts to tackle homophobia. 

The treatment of asylum seekers and of the Roma people were also mentioned among the areas where France needed to take action to ensure human rights were protected.

The organization had addressed its concerns with the French prime minister in November, after several high-profile evictions of Roma took place over the summer. Amnesty noted that dismantling their settlements endangered the rights of those expelled to get access to housing, health and education. 

In the report, Amnesty said that the then presidential candidate's response at the time was to try to find "alternative solutions". 

"We must find solutions to combine the respect of private property, the safety of those affected(…) with the task of integrating the (Roma) population," Hollande is quoted as saying in the letter he sent Amnesty last year.

Delouvin said the situation for the Roma was probably the toughest point on the list of suggested improvements, and welcomed the inter-ministerial push for action, which tied the interior minister and six other ministers to a steering document on the issue. The government had also appointed a special rapporteur. 

"Unfortunately, the situation for Romas is sill very difficult we hope that in the future the (rapporteur's) work will permit some improvements locally," Delouvin said. 

Amnesty also said the procedures for how to welcome and house asylum seekers, as well as ensuring their access to the asylum application system, needed review. As did laws concerning foreign nationals in France. 

"The recommendations we made in 2012 came from difficulties in laws in France because of the presence of Mr Sarkozy," said Delouvin.

"We had worse laws on asylum and foreigners in general, now we have recently had consultations with officials in the home office and we are awaiting new laws."

There was also praise for concrete action from the French president. The report authors credited Hollande with making sure France signed up to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as to the Arms Trade Treaty. 

Feedback on Hollande's push to speak up for human rights on the global scene was more tempered, however.

Amnesty said that while a speech at the Francophone Summit had highlighted such issues with the Congolese delegates, the French president had not followed through in certain key bilateral talks, including with Russia, Morocco and China

"Amnesty finds it regrettable that the president showed reluctance to address human rights on official visits," the report read.

Ann Törnkvist Follow Ann on Twitter here

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Remembering Nazi crimes inseparable from German identity, says Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said acknowledging Nazi crimes was part of Germany's national identity in a message aimed at far right calls for a shift away from a culture of remembrance.

Remembering Nazi crimes inseparable from German identity, says Merkel
Angela Merkel at former concentration camp Auschwitz on Friday. Photo: DPA

Members of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party have said there should be less apology for Germany's Nazi past and other periods of its history should be celebrated instead.

“Remembering the crimes… is a responsibility which never ends. It belongs inseparably to our country,” Merkel said during her first visit as chancellor to the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

READ ALSO: Germany donates €60 million to Auschwitz as Merkel visits for first time

“To be aware of this responsibility is part of our national identity, our self-understanding as an enlightened and free society, a democracy with rule of law,” she said.

Merkel said Auschwitz “demands that we keep the memory alive”.

She expressed Germany's enduring “deep shame” at what happened in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a million Jews lost their lives between 1940 and 1945.

“There are no words to express our sorrow,” she said.

Addressing Holocaust survivors present, she added: “I bow my head before the victims of the Shoah”.

The chancellor also addressed a rise of anti-Semitic and other hate crimes in Germany in recent years, saying they had reached an “alarming level”.

“To combat anti-Semitism, the history of extermination camps has to be shared, it has to be told,” she said.