France’s National Assembly approves state of emergency bill

Paris, Feb 9 (IANS) France’s National Assembly, the lower house of the country’s parliament, has approved the government’s constitutional reform aimed at giving the green light to a state of emergency amid growing concerns that it will weaken citizens’ rights and freedom.

With the absence of three-quarters of lawmakers, 103 of them on Monday approved the constitutional amendment that includes procedures to empower the police to handle terrorist threats. A total of 26 voted against the bill while seven abstained, Xinhua reported.

Under the proposed amendment, the parliament will have to endorse any state of emergency that can last a maximum of four months before requiring another approval.

The state of emergency allows police to conduct searches without judicial warrants, ban public gatherings, put people under house arrest and close the country’s borders.

French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency a day after the Paris terror attacks on November 13 that killed 130 people, the first of its kind since the Algerian War of Independence from 1954 to 1962.

Since November, the granted state of emergency has helped to foil 11 terrorist assaults with 3,289 raids launched.

The French police seized 560 arms and detained 341 people, according to official figures.

French authorities stressed the necessity to impose emergency measures to cope with severe terrorist threats. However, many critics opposed the law, saying it would undermine the country’s values as well as freedom of expression and gathering.

“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 traumatised families and tarnished reputations, leaving targets feeling like second-class citizens,” he said.

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