French president to seek renewal three-month state of emergency

AFP , Friday 22 Jan 2016

French President Francois Hollande gestures as he delivers a speech to foreign ambassadors during a ceremony to extend New Year wishes at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 (Photo: AP)

French President Francois Hollande will seek to renew the three-month state of emergency imposed following the deadly Paris attacks in November, the president's office said Friday.

He will ask his cabinet on February 3 to approve a draft law to extend the measures for another three months when they expire on February 26, a statement said.

The measures put in place after the coordinated jihadist attacks killed 130 in Paris on November 13 give greater powers to security services to act without requiring judicial oversight or search warrants.

They have drawn criticism from French and UN rights experts and the Council of Europe, which urged France not to renew the state of emergency, saying it undermined democratic principles.

The confirmation came after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the BBC that France would "use all means" at its disposal to combat terrorism "until we can get rid of Daesh," an acronym for Islamic State.

The remarks seemed to suggest that the state of emergency could be renewed indefinitely.

On January 7, Hollande said the measures were not meant to last long "in a democracy that wants to defend itself but also wants to defend its freedoms".

A panel of UN human rights experts said Tuesday the measures placed what they saw as "excessive and disproportionate" restrictions on key rights.

Since they came into force, authorities have carried out thousands of searches but "only a few of them have led to procedures linked to terrorist acts," Council of Europe human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks said earlier this month.

Following Valls' comments, his office told AFP the government had no intention of keeping the state of emergency in place for years.

"It is not envisaged in any way to extend it indefinitely," a source close to Valls said.

When asked about the government's intentions regarding the state of emergency, the source said simply that France was at "war", hence "we shall see if we are going to extend it (for) as long as necessary."

France is seeking to crank up its response to the threat posed by extremist groups with proposed constitutional reforms including the power to strip French citizenship from people convicted of terrorist offences if they have another nationality.

The proposal has created divisions within the government and the country at large.

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