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An interview with a French or international personality from the world of economics, politics, culture or diplomacy. Every Wednesday at 4.45 pm Paris time and Saturday at 7.45 am.

Latest update : 2017-02-22

Amnesty chief urges France to 'stay true to its values'

This year, London-based Amnesty International took the unusual step of unveiling its much-awaited annual report in France. Amnesty Secretary-General Salil Shetty explains why France is under the human rights spotlight and what it means for the international community.

The 2016/17 Amnesty report on the state of the world’s human rights is a 409-page tome covering 159 countries. But while the report covers diverse violations across the world, the central theme this year is the rise of populist leaders peddling a poisonous rhetoric that involves manipulating economic and security fears to win votes.

With just weeks to go before the April 2017 first round of the presidential election, all eyes are on France in the human rights community. As Shetty explains, it’s not just far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen who is using a dangerously divisive rhetoric. The discourse is also seeping into the campaigns of some of the mainstream political parties.

"We believe that it’s a time for the French government and the French people to stay true to the values [of the French Republic]," said Shetty. "This country was founded on the values of human rights. But look at what’s happening already with the election campaigns. It’s not just the National Front, which is of course putting up posters of a homeless woman, saying you'd be better off being a migrant, and all that hateful rhetoric against Muslims and migrants. But our worry is even the other politicians. So we’re watching the election rhetoric and platforms closely as well."

Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump's attempts to crackdown on immigration also came in for some scathing criticism.

"If you take for example the so-called travel ban -- which is really a veiled Muslim ban -- first of all, it’s unlawful because it’s against the US Constitution itself, which is why it’s been suspended. Secondly, it’s inhumane because these are Somalis, Syrians who are trying to find their way to the US. And thirdly, it’s just stupid because what he is ending up doing is making the entire world unsafe, not just the US unsafe and also making it less prosperous. The argument is we’re gonna make this country more safe and prosperous - it’s quite the reverse."

Programme prepared by Narimène Laouadi and Hanane Saïdani.

By Leela JACINTO

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