Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2020-21/Evidence in the French Security Law

The French Global security lawEdit

The 20th of October 2020, Jean-Yves Fauvergue et Alice Thourot introduced a new proposition of law to put in action within the French government. It included new regulations upon the municipal police’s power, the instauration of new equipment and devices of video monitoring for enhanced social security and new policies to restrict rights to disseminate videos of the police.[1]

Sociological approachEdit

Sociological insight on a law appears beneficial in the understanding of a policy's effect on society. According to the government, this law only aims to tackle issues of increasing violence against the police due to online diffusion of videos calling out for violence. Even though, this law claims to protect the nation’s police, many activists, journalists as well as the EU and the UN are expressing their dissatisfaction with this law, which is not in line with French values and human rights.[2] Sociologically, videos are primary sources of evidence that can reveal violation of human rights. In a society where social medias reveal themselves as platforms of self-expression, the use of video as an evidence to denounce, critique and question is one of the most used and relevant tool.[3] However, some factors associated with the social media obstruct the evidentiary value of a video: the anonymity, display of misinformation or information with lack of context, all make social media not always very convincing and often subjected to collective denial for lack of credibility.[4]

Conflict Theory PerspectiveEdit

Conflict theorists, center their sociological perspective upon power relationships within broader social structure, in particular inequality and uneven wealth distribution causing consequent class conflict.[5] According to Chevigny and based on evidence he collected in America, a conflict theorist, police brutality is a governmental instrument used for and by social elites to suppress potential social threats that could destabilize their privileges.[6] This perspective emphasize the exploitative aspect of social structure and the global passivity and lack of consciousness due to an established status quo.[7] Using this perspective as an evidence, this new law regulating rights upon video-recording authority, appears as a mean to prevent the population from having access to disturbing videos that could destabilize the order to the detriment of potential victims, as well as allowing police officers to commit unjustified violence with impunity to groups that would represent a threat. This law is meant to cover up undesirable social movements, likely to cause social unrest.

Philosophical ApproachEdit

With the new security law, civilians don't have the right to take any video footage of the police. The French people are now watched and are incapable of looking back at the authority, making the look a new object of power.[8] In "Discipline and Punish", Michel Foucault reflects on the panopticon a project thought by Jeremy Bentham. The "panopticon" would be a tower of control at the centre of a prison where someone observes every movement of the prisoners without them being able to look back at him. Humans tend to act correctly in front of a camera: they stand straight and tries to look decent in front of the observer. The subject of the film becomes the subject of the observer installing a new power relation between the two. In this context, allowing a one-way observation provides full control for police officers and attacks our freedom. However, Hobbes demonstrates that giving more power to a member of society is the key to societal cohesion. According to his book, "Léviathan" the " man is a wolf to man"[9]. Humans are naturally egoistic beings that fight amongst themselves. Civilians therefore accept to submit themselves to one leader to guarantee security and social cohesion. Thus Hobbes would claim the law is both legitimate and improves social cohesion.[10] Philosophy embraces different opinions on subjects through different experiences. In philosophy, limited quantitative or qualitative evidence is found as one relies on their own subjective interpretations of the world. Evidence in philosophy is, therefore based on theories that are often only conceptualised. Arguably, philosophical evidence wouldn't be concrete enough in a practical situation such as the global security law, but can allow us to conceptualise some of the incentives and issues that come with the law.[11] Philosophy and sociology prove that with a same issue and two different sets of evidence lead to different interpretations of the global security law.

Law, Philosophy and Human RightsEdit

A key tension over the justification for the Security Law is the nature of human rights. It is around this issue that there has been much contention, namely with the UN high commissioner for human rights calling for a rewrite on the grounds of human rights[12]. As laws are ultimately justified through the authority that a government is granted to create laws, the only evidential claim against the law is on the grounds of human rights. Human rights are claimed to be "inherent to all human beings"[13] by the united nations but there is less clarity about which rights should have priority. Legally, Human rights hold a higher standing than international law and can be used by citizens to hold their governments accountable[14], so if the liberty of the populace is prioritised over the security of the police then obligations to the law are justified. It is here that philosophy can help exemplify which of these rights should be protected. An approach by Maurice Cranston, can help to provide ways to analyse rights themselves. If we apply some of Cranston's tests, particularly the idea that rights must respond to threats to other or the same rights[15], we can see that we can justify the UN reaction as the right of the freedom of press in regards to the police contributes to the prevention of future injustices done by the police, so the rights of freedoms, in this case, help protect future security rights of the public. On the contrary, the rights the police have to security stand not in defence of any other rights, but instead stand in contradiction to the future security rights of the public. As such, through this combined approach we can justify the UN response and see how we can prioritise rights over one another.

The Interdisciplinary ApproachEdit

The usage of evidence, and the types of evidence in these three disciplines is ultimately very different, and as such lead to very different outcomes. Political Philosophy uses evidence, with a stronger focus on reason alone, to support normative claims[16], whilst Sociology aims to explain why things are in society and create theories around that, using real life systems as evidence [17] and law is used to exert powers over a society, and is evidenced by societal power systems in place[18]. Evidence used by these disciplines greatly differ, they are still beneficial as they aim to explain different things; Philosophy helps us grasp the purpose of the law in a wider societal perspective, the sociology helps us grasp how the law will impact society and the discipline of law helps explain how the law will be put into practice and on what grounds. The three disciplines, despite some of their contradicting theories, approach the French Security Law from different angles, which ultimately aids us in understanding the law as a whole.

  1. 1.loi de sécurité globale police | Vie publique.fr [Internet]. www.vie-publique.fr. [cited 2020 Dec 10]. Available from: https://www.vie-publique.fr/loi/277157-loi-de-securite-globale-police
  2. 7.Beswick E. Why is France’s new national security bill controversial? [Internet]. euronews. 2020. Available from: https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/28/why-is-france-s-new-national-security-bill-controversial
  3. About Video as Evidence [Internet]. Video as Evidence. Available from: https://vae.witness.org/about-video-as-evidence/
  4. “Discovery of Social Media Evidence in Legal Proceedings.” www.americanbar.org/groups/gpsolo/publications/gpsolo_ereport/2020/january-2020/discovery-social-media-evidence-legal-proceedings/
  5. 8.What is Conflict Theory? - 2020 [Internet]. Robinhood. 2020. Available from: https://learn.robinhood.com/articles/gzswQoUGEZSTPk9xcGS2T/what-is-conflict-theory/
  6. 9.Chevigny P. Edge of the knife : police violence in the Americas. New York: New Press ; London; 1998.
  7. 10.Snyder B. Policing the Police: Conflict Theory and Police Violence in a Racialized Society [Internet]. [cited 2020 Dec 11]. Available from: https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/22805/Snyder_washington_0250O_11356.pdf?
  8. Elahi, Manzoor. “Summary of Social Contract Theory by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2013, 10.2139/ssrn.2410525.
  9. 11.Hobbes T. Leviathan. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc; 2018. ‌
  10. Driver, F. “Power, Space, and the Body: A Critical Assessment of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, vol. 3, no. 4, Dec. 1985, pp. 425–446, 10.1068/d030425.
  11. “WHAT IS EVIDENCE?” A PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE PRESENTATION SUMMARY NATIONAL COLLABORATING CENTRES FOR PUBLIC HEALTH 2007 SUMMER INSTITUTE “MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL” BADDECK, NOVA SCOTIA, Preliminary version-for discussion. (2007). [online] Available at: https://www.ncchpp.ca/docs/Weinstock_Evidence_Ang.pdf [Accessed 13 Dec. 2020].
  12. Willsher K, The Guardian, 2020 Available at: :https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/04/france-security-law-incompatible-human-rights-un-experts Accessed:7/12/2020
  13. "Human Rights" available at: https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/ Accessed: 8/12/2020
  14. D'Amato A, "The concept of Human Rights in International Law", Columbia Law Review vol.82 no.6, 1982
  15. Cranston M, What are Human Rights? New York, 1973
  16. Dryzek J. S, Honig B, Philips A, The Oxford Handbook of Political Science, Oxford, 2011
  17. Garrison H. H, "The uses of Sociology.", Journal of applied sociology vol.9, 1992
  18. Gerald T, "Michael Foucault:Law Power and Knowledge", Journal of Law and Society vol.17 no.2, 1990