France: New anti-terror law makes emergency powers permanent

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New anti-terror law makes emergency powers permanent
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"France's lower house of parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a new counter-terrorism bill, making permanent several controversial measures in place under a nearly two-year-old state of emergency.

It will allow the authorities to confine suspected jihadist sympathisers to their neighbourhoods, close places of worship accused of condoning terror and carry out more on-the-spot identity checks -- all without the prior approval of a judge.

The legislation has encountered little resistance from a public traumatised by a string of jihadist attacks, despite criticism it will undermine civil liberties.


"We're still in a state of war," Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told parliament Tuesday, warning of a "very serious threat" level.

Rights groups have countered that the state of emergency did not prevent a string of attacks in the past two years.

On Monday, anti-discrimination group SOS Racisme demonstrated outside parliament against provisions that will allow police to carry out more spot ID checks.

"People who are supposedly foreigners, black or north African will be stigmatised," Thierry Paul Valette, head of another anti-racism group, Egalite Nationale, told the Liberation newspaper."

Source:France adopts tough new anti-terror law (RFI, link)

UN experts criticised the law 'to Strengthen Internal Security and the Fight Against Terrorism' (Projet de loi renforçant la sécurité intérieure et la lutte contre le terrorisme) in a letter to the French government, highlighting numerous problems including:

  • "vague definitions of terrorism and threats to national security";
  • "a number of measures that write exceptional, emergency practices into normal criminal and administrative law"; and
  • "limits the judicial overview of the exercise of the increased prefect's powers, as well as the right of appeal for executive orders limiting where a person has to live and for closing places of worship".

See: Two UN rights experts urge France to bring its draft counter-terrorism law in compliance with its international human rights obligations (UN, link):

"The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights in the context of countering terrorism, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders are calling on France to honour its international human rights commitments and obligations while debating a new draft law that may perpetuate the emergency measures introduced in 2015, and establish a permanent state of emergency.

“The normalization of emergency powers has grave consequences for the integrity of rights protection in France, both within and beyond the context of counter-terrorism,” the United Nations human rights expert, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin* warned today."

See the letter dated 22 September 2017 (pdf).

And: France’s Counterterrorism Bill Normalizes Emergency Practices (Human Rights Watch, link). The new law:

"takes elements of emergency practices – intrusive search powers, restrictions on individuals that have bordered on house arrest, closure of places of worship – that have been used abusively since November 2015, and makes them normal criminal and administrative practice. It does all this in a way that weakens the judiciary’s control over and ability to check against abuse in the way the new counterterrorism powers are used by prefects, the Interior Ministry’s appointed delegates in each region."

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