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France's new emergency powers 'threaten' rights

Security has been stepped up on the streets of Paris and other French cities [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2015

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New powers granted to French authorities with the activation of emergency law should be applied prudently, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

French authorities should apply new emergency laws in as "narrow and limited manner as possible", Human Rights Watch have said.

Government was granted sweeping new powers following the Paris terror attacks which killed 130 people. French President Francois Hollande was given a three month extension of the emergency laws on Saturday.

It allowed police to launch raids on dozens of homes across the country, as part of a manhunt to find possible fugitives linked to the 13 November terror attacks.

Paris has also stepped up its attacks on Islamic State group targets - who claimed responsibility for the attacks -  inside Syria.

"The French government should keep people safe and bring those responsible for the horrific attacks to justice, but it also has a duty to protect people's freedom and rights, and not to discriminate against any segment of the population," said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"Parliament should ensure that the sweeping powers it has granted the government are used in the narrowest possible way and for the shortest possible time."

The new powers have allowed the police to make 1,072 searches leading to 139 interrogations, detain 117 suspects, and place 253 more people under house arrest, according to the French Interior Ministry.

Although many in France say they feel safer with the new laws, human rights groups and lawyers are wary that human rights could be "trampled on".


On 19 November, Amnesty International warned that the new laws must not be a "permanent fixture in France's anti-terror arsenal".

The new laws allow police to impose house arrests and conduct searches without the approval of judges, and seize computer files, block websites that are viewed as "glorifying terrorism" without judicial authorisation.

A number of demostrations and sporting events have been cancelled or banned in the interest of "public safety".

Under French law, these powers can only be enacted if the country faces "imminent danger following serious breaches of law and order".

Hollande has said that beefed up security on the streets od Paris is needed to ensure "no future terror attacks can take place".

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