France Extends Freedom-Threatening State of Emergency

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France Extends Freedom-Threatening State of Emergency

Threats to freedoms as a result of the increase in state powers have been widely rebuked by human rights and civil liberties watchdogs.

The Palais Bourbon, where the National Assembly meets.  (Photo:  Ammar Abd Rabbo/flickr/cc)

Despite widespread criticism over its threats to fundamental rights, French lawmakers on Tuesday voted to extend the state of emergency for an additional three months.

The 212 to 31 vote by the National Assembly extends the powers, imposed following the November terrorist attacks, until May 26.

The powers afforded by the state of emergency allow, as the New York Times reports, "police to conduct raids of homes, businesses, associations and places of worship without judicial review and at any time. The police can place people under house arrest even if they do not have sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to detain or charge them."

"Our country is confronted with a terrorist threat more serious than any in our history," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told lawmakers Tuesday.

Yet, as the Times adds, the new powers have not been effective. "Less than 1 percent of raids have resulted in new terrorism investigations, the Interior Ministry acknowledges."

The threats to freedoms as a result of the increase in state powers have been widely rebuked by human rights and civil liberties watchdogs.

There's something in the air...

In reports released earlier this month, for example, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found that the sweeping new powers have been used in ways that have not only failed to uphold the rights of men, women, and children but have also been traumatizing.

"France has a responsibility to ensure public safety and try to prevent further attacks, but the police have used their new emergency powers in abusive, discriminatory, and unjustified ways," said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. "This abuse has traumatized families and tarnished reputations, leaving targets feeling like second-class citizens."

As for how long the state of emergency could eventually continue, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in January that it may be "as long as is necessary" due to the threat from the Islamic State, adding, "It is a total and global war that we are facing with terrorism … The war we are conducting must also be total, global and ruthless."

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