France’s National Assembly approved a new law on October 3, enhancing the power of police and security forces in combating terrorism. Many hope this will bolster vigilance and thus bring a nearly two-year state of emergency to a close, but others critique the curbing of civil liberties.
The bill, President Emmanuel Macron’s first major security legislation, was approved by 415 votes to 127, with 19 abstentions. It is expected to take effect before the latest extension of the state of emergency expires on November 1.
Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told parliament that France is “still in a state of war.” France has been in a state of emergency since the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, when ISIS militants coordinated attacks on restaurants, bars, a concert, and a stadium, ultimately killing 130 people. In light of further attacks since, the state of emergency has been extended six times.
The new law codifies and makes permanent emergency measures for preventing further attacks. The interior ministry, with approval from a judge, would be able to raid private property and seize anything as evidence to prevent a terrorist act. The ministry would also be able to restrict freedom of movement and shut down places of worship if intelligence implies that religious leaders are inciting violence or promoting radical ideologies.
Some human rights groups resisted the bill amidst claims of curtailing civil rights. John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, released a statement saying, “The ongoing use of disproportionate sweeping executive powers, with few checks on their use, is resulting in a host of human rights abuses.” Bénédicte Jeannerod, France’s director for Human Rights Watch, said, “The normalization of emergency powers [is crossing]a new line.” Critics also claim that these new measures could worsen racial profiling and discrimination.
Should the upper and lower house of Parliament agree on the final version of the bill before the ultimate vote later this month, most of the terms are expected to remain intact.