50-year-old curfew law leftover of Algerian war

8th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 8 (AFP) - The French government on Tuesday invoked a 50-year-old law dating from the start of the war in Algeria to authorise the imposition of curfews in areas affected by the last 12 nights of rioting.

PARIS, Nov 8 (AFP) - The French government on Tuesday invoked a 50-year-old law dating from the start of the war in Algeria to authorise the imposition of curfews in areas affected by the last 12 nights of rioting.

Law number 55-385 of April 3, 1955, permits the cabinet to declare a state of emergency within fixed areas, where state authorities can then ban the movement of people and vehicles at certain times.

A decree was expected imminently to set out the geographical zones where the state of emergency is in place.

Article 1 reads: "A state of emergency can be declared on all or part of the metropolitan territory, Algeria and the overseas departments ... in the case of immediate danger resulting from serious breaches of public order."

Algeria was a French province at the time.

Under Article 5, regional prefects -- state-appointed governors -- can "forbid the movement of people and vehicles in places and times fixed by decree."

The same article permits prefects to keep out of the zones "any person seeking to obstruct, in any manner whatsoever, the action of the public powers."

Article 6 authorises the interior minister to issue house-arrest warrants for people "whose activity is dangerous for public safety and order."

Under Article 8, the authorities can "order the temporary closure" of theatres and cinemas, bars and "meeting places of all kinds."

"Meetings likely to provoke or fuel disorder" can also be banned.

Article 11 allows the authorities to "order house searches at any time of day or night."

The same article also gives authorities the right to "control the press and publications of all kinds as well as radio emissions, cinema projections and theatrical shows."

The state of emergency in the defined zone or zones may be extended after 12 days.

Any adult breaking the law risks two months in jail and/or a fine of up to EUR 3,750 euros. For minors, the maximum imprisonment term is one month.

The law has been invoked only once since the 1954-62 Algeria war. In 1984 the government of president François Mitterrand used it to impose order in the overseas Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

The government's decision to invoke the law sends a message of "astonishing brutality," France's leading newspaper Le Monde said Tuesday.

The daily said in an editorial that the decision to revive it showed that prime minister Dominique de Villepin "does not yet have the nerves of a statesman".

"Exhuming a 1955 law sends to the youth of the suburbs a message of astonishing brutality: that after 50 years France intends to treat them exactly as it did their grandparents.

"The prime minister should recall that at that time the combination of misunderstanding, warlike posturing and powerlessness brought the republic to its worst ever moment," the paper said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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