'State of emergency' powers extended

14th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 14 (AFP) - Under a 1955 law activated in France to authorise a state of emergency to curb urban unrest, enhanced police powers can be extended after an initial period of 12 days -- but only by the passage of a new law through parliament.

PARIS, Nov 14 (AFP) - Under a 1955 law activated in France to authorise a state of emergency to curb urban unrest, enhanced police powers can be extended after an initial period of 12 days -- but only by the passage of a new law through parliament.

Article 2 of the law states that "extension of the state of emergency beyond 12 days can only be authorised by the law," while Article 3 states the "law extending the state of emergency fixes its definitive duration."

The French cabinet agreed Monday to extend the nationwide state of emergency by three months. A draft law to that effect was to be put to the National Assembly on Tuesday, where it was certain to be approved.

The 1955 state of emergency law was originally passed to quell disturbances at the start of France's long war in Algeria. It has rarely been used since then -- most recently in 1984 to stop unrest in the Pacific overseas territory of New Caledonia.

Prime minister Dominique de Villepin invoked the law last Tuesday in response to the growing wave of suburban rioting, and decrees published Wednesday set out certain geographical limitations.

The state of emergency has been imposed across the whole of the country, but certain measures apply only in parts or the whole of 25 of metropolitan France's 95 departments -- or counties -- affected by violence over the last two and a half weeks.

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

The same article allows prefects to bar from defined security zones "any person seeking to obstruct, in any manner whatsoever, the action of the public powers." These powers apply across the whole of France.

Others powers apply only in riot-hit areas set out in the decrees:

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 powers have been used sparingly over the past five days, with curfews for under 16-year-olds in place in just 30 localities. Two temporary banning orders on public meetings were imposed in Paris and Lyon at the weekend.

According to a poll published last week in Le Parisien newspaper, 73 percent of French people support the government's decision to introduce curfew powers to help curb the unrest.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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