Seated around a table seminar-style with 15 Yale Law School students, Patrick Weil, a visiting law professor and research scholar, led a discussion on the legal ramifications of November’s Paris terrorist attacks.
Weil — a senior research fellow at the French National Research Center at the University of Paris 1, Pantheon-Sorbonne who is teaching at the Law School this academic year — has advised the French government on various occasions. Most recently, he urged the French parliament to vote against President Francois Hollande’s proposal to amend the country’s constitution to allow judges to strip some natural-born citizens of their citizenship if convicted of a terrorism-related crime or misdemeanor. During the talk, which was sponsored by the Graduate Programs Office at the Law School, Weil addressed tension between national security and civil rights that the French Parliament had struggled with while making its decisions on the amendment. On Tuesday, Weil emphasized the importance of citizenship to an individual, saying that the deprivation of one’s citizenship creates people who are “nothing more than human animal.” Weil strongly disapproved of the bill, which was approved by the National Assembly in February.
“Our constitution starts with a universal declaration of human rights,” he said. “But to put in the middle of it, ‘provisional deprivation’ and ‘statelessness,’ it’s ridiculous, absolutely contradictory.”
Still, Weil lauded members of the French Parliament for being able to set aside their political differences during such a difficult time for the nation and work together to reach a conclusion following the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13. The amendment, which was approved by 80 percent of the population primarily due to fears for natural security and was therefore expected to pass easily in Parliament, has surprisingly faced fierce opposition.
After the National Assembly approved of the bill by a vote of 317-199 in February, the Senate — Parliament’s higher governing body — voted after a series of debates to pass the amendment by 176-131, but added a clause narrowing the passport-stripping rule down to concern only dual citizens, sending it back down to the lower body for a re-vote. The new amendment sparked debates around the nation, Weil said, prompting questions as to whether dual nationals would be discriminated against as a result of this clause. Hollande announced on March 30 that he would withdraw his proposal for the amendment.
Alex Frank LAW ’18, who attended the talk, said the French Parliament’s ability to “come together based on good, solid principles, especially right after they suffered the worst attacks on French soil in 60 years” was a “good hopeful story.”
Frank, who served in the American Army as an infantry officer prior to coming to Yale and had first-hand experience with national security matters, asked Weil during the talk about the dichotomy between principles and pragmatism in the security sector.
“You need good solid principles, but you then also need a pragmatic astuteness to adapt to circumstances,” Frank told the News. “If you’re in very stressful circumstances, like whether you just took a terrorist attack, or you’re in Afghanistan and two of your soldiers just got killed by an IED, you need something to fall back on; otherwise, you just tip over, and you can’t inspire people.”
Alexander Rosas, associate director of graduate programs at Yale Law School and the primary organizer of the event, said he was glad the talk brought members of the Law School community together to reflect on the Paris attacks and to consider what has been done subsequently.
“Professor Weil related to us a story of problematic laws that have been passed in the aftermath,” Rosas said. “It’s obviously a hot topic, and it’s one that we wanted our students to have a dialogue about.”
Weil also participated in a Presidential Commission on secularism in 2003, in addition to completing a report on immigration and nationality policy reform for French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in 1997, which directly led to the implementation of new immigration and citizenship laws the following year.