French state of emergency laws spark large protests in Paris
Thousands of people took to the streets of France's capital city Paris on Saturday to protest against the national state of emergency
Demonstrators say that thousands of people took to the streets of France's capital city Paris on Saturday to protest against the national state of emergency that has been in place since the deadly November attacks.
Thousands walked through Paris on Saturday shouting “liberté” (liberty), as they demanded the removal of the state of emergency.
The state of emergency was announced within a few hours of the November attacks that left 130 people dead.
Under the special rules police are given unprecedented powers including conducting house raids without a warrant or judicial oversight, and allows the authorities to restrict the movements of people and vehicles at specific times and places.
Camille Blanc, vice chairman of Amnesty International in France told Al Arabiya English that the state of emergency was bad for people’s basic human rights.
“We don’t think this is a useful measure and it is something where there will always be some people who are discriminated against. We are really afraid about the discrimination that might take place,” she said.
“Under the state of emergency more Muslim people have been discriminated against. We saw some house raids because people were Muslim.”
She said in Canada they removed the state of emergency “because it served no purpose”.
“So in France we are wondering why they are still pursuing this line,” Blanc added.
On Feb. 16 the French government voted overwhelmingly to extend the state of emergency for three months until May. This followed a previous extension that was scheduled to end on Feb. 26.
Julien Molesin head of the Paris Federation Human Rights League told Al Arabiya English, they were demanding the end of the state of emergency.
“We don’t want this in the constitution,” he explained. “A state of emergency should not be in the constitution, it should be a temporary measure. Putting it into the constitution presents a risk that this could become permanent.”
He said that while they accepted there was a risk to France’s national security, a state of emergency was not the answer to the problem – this, he said, would not solve terrorism.
Molesin said the rules gave police a number of special powers, including the right to go to people’s homes.
“They can go to your home, visit it, take whatever they want during the night, without any judge’s approval,” he explained. “We have seen this happen. Some people have been placed under house arrest without any judicial authority.”
Even the right to protest – something the French have done for centuries – is faced with increased restrictions, Molesin explained.
He added: “At the moment we have a government that is happy for protests to take place. But if under the state of emergency the next government decides it does not like them, they only need to say that there is a threat to security and they can be stopped.”
Members of the protest march suggested there were thousands in attendance - but French police told Al Arabiya English that there were hundreds.
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