France puts early end to state of emergency

3rd January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 3 (AFP) - The French government on Tuesday passed a decree to lift a state of emergency which has been in place since urban riots that erupted nationwide two months ago.

PARIS, Jan 3 (AFP) - The French government on Tuesday passed a decree to lift a state of emergency which has been in place since urban riots that erupted nationwide two months ago.

The move was made by the cabinet one day after President Jacques Chirac's office announced that the state of emergency would be lifted on Wednesday.

It was introduced on November 8 under a little-used law dating back to 1955, during France's long and unsuccessful war against independence fighters in the former colony of Algeria.

The state of emergency broadened police powers, notably by permitting searches without warrants and the option of imposing curfews in certain areas.

Initially enacted by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's government on November 8, it was extended for three months by parliament on November 21 and was to have run to the end of February.

The extraordinary measure was credited with countering the three weeks of rioting that flared in run-down suburban areas outside Paris and most other cities and towns between October 27 and November 16.

The unrest — the worst France had seen in four decades, since a 1968 student uprising — was fuelled by a sense of alienation among youths of African and Arab immigrant background who took part.

It was sparked when two teenagers of African background died by electrocution while fleeing a police identity check.

At its height, 300 towns were affected by the violence, with arson attacks on 10,000 cars and 200 public buildings.

More than 5,000 people were arrested, and more than 400 sent to jail.

Chirac, making a traditional New Year's address to his cabinet, said the state of emergency had been "essential" yet "strictly temporary".

"Given the situation of the past few weeks, I have decided to end it," he said.

The government had previously defended the continued application of the state of emergency against criticism from the left-wing opposition, civil rights groups and some lawyers by citing the risk of a flare-up during New Year's celebrations.

Car-burnings have become a barometer for social unrest in France in recent years, and are a grim New Year's ritual in many rough areas.

But the New Year's Eve passed off without large-scale arson attacks or other serious violence, easing official fears of a new wave of rioting.

Police said 425 cars were torched nationwide, a one-third rise on the number reported for the same night last year.

According to a November poll, a majority of the French people — 73 percent — backed the government's decision to introduce curfew powers to address the unrest.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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