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Hollande Abandons Plan To Strip Convicted Terrorists Of French Citizenship

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech after the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Stephane de Sakutin
French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech after the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

French President Francois Hollande is abandoning a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the government to strip convicted terrorists of their French citizenship.

"A compromise appears out of reach on the stripping of terrorists' nationality," Hollande told reporters, according to AFP. "I also note that a section of the opposition is hostile to any constitutional revision. I deeply regret this attitude."

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley told our Newscast unit that the proposal also would have enshrined the state of emergency in France's constitution. A state of emergency has been in effect since the November terrorist attacks in Paris, and was extended to May 26.

The measure has sharply divided France since it was proposed three days after the November attacks. It seems to have provoked soul-searching about the nature of citizenship and the protections that entails, while also underscoring the challenges authorities face in the wake of increasingly sophisticated militant attacks.

France's justice minister, Christiane Taubira, resigned in January in an apparent protest of the proposed constitutional changes, as The Two-Way reported.

"The withdrawal of the measure is a big blow to Hollande, who has been pushing it for months," Eleanor reports. "The French president's critics say he failed to create the conditions for the measure to pass, and has divided the country and plunged it into a state of paralysis."

But when the measure was put forward immediately after the attacks, "Hollande had appeared both resolute and consensual, as the measure was favoured by the right," Reuters reports. Here's more from the wire service:

"Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation at the rare joint meeting of both houses in Versailles.

"But after the shock of the attacks began to fade, many on the left of the ruling Socialist party criticized the measure. In one version, it created a two-tier nation, differentiating between those who could be deprived of their citizenship and those that could not, depending on whether they held dual nationality."

The BBC describes how the bill went through several versions:

"Sole French nationals were excluded from the proposal. Under international law, governments cannot make citizens stateless.

"The lower house removed the reference to dual nationality when it approved the bill, even though opponents pointed out that the proposal would create a two-tier system — it could only be applied to dual-nationality French citizens.

"The upper house, the Senate, restored the original wording that had sparked the initial debate."

The proposals abandoned today were among a number of measures introduced after the attacks under the auspices of fighting terrorism. Amnesty International said that on Nov. 20, France's Parliament extended the state of emergency and along with it, passed a bill that "provided for a range of measures that deviated from the ordinary criminal law regime." Here's more:

"The measures included house searches without a warrant, forced residency and the power to dissolve associations or groups broadly described as participating in acts that breach public order. Under the law, pre-judicial authorization for these measures was not required."

Amnesty notes that France also passed legislation in November that gave it expanded powers to conduct mass surveillance on electronic communications to or from foreign countries.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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