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1ST LEAD French Senate approves controversial anti-terrorism law By Pol O Gradaigh, dpa

Europe
18.10.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Paris (dpa) - The French Senate on Wednesday approved a controversial security law that the government says is needed to combat terrorism once a state of emergency expires at the end of the month.

The bill, which enshrines modified emergency powers into ordinary law, now goes to President Emmanuel Macron for signature.

Macron rejected calls for him to ask France‘s Constitutional Council for a ruling before signing the law, which has been criticized by France‘s rights ombudsman and UN human rights experts.

"For my part, I will not take the decision to refer this law to the Constitutional Council," Macron said, citing the "quality of the work" of the parliament on the text of the law.

Macron added that he would demand an "unfailing" implementation of the law.

France has been under a state of emergency since terrorist attacks, claimed by the Islamic State extremist organization, that killed 130 people in Paris in October 2015.

The new law allows authorities to restrict the movements of persons suspected of terrorist links and to search properties.

It also empowers them to close places of worship where extremist ideas are propagated.

At the Senate‘s insistence, those powers will expire automatically at the end of 2020.

"All these measures which restrict liberties... will be measures that last only three years and cannot be renewed without a new debate by the parliament," Senator Philippe Bas of the centre-right opposition said, speaking in support of the text during the final debate.

"It is a question of making the fight against terrorism as effective as possible while respecting the rule of law and our republican tradition," he added.

Security forces are also empowered to stop any person and check their identity within 10 kilometres of major international ports and airports.

An initial draft had put that limit at 20 kilometres, which newspaper Le Monde calculated would have placed 67 per cent of the French population within the new border zones.

Security minister Jacqueline Gourault said this month‘s knife attack in which two women were killed at Marseilles train station as well as other recent attacks and foiled attacks underlined the need for vigilance.

At the same time, she asked senators, "can we reasonably remain in a state of emergency when we have been living in it for more than two years now?"

UN human rights experts Fionnuala Ni Aolain and Michel Frost warned last month of "vague wording" in the draft law and "grave consequences for the integrity of human rights."

Toubon said the proposed powers would allow the freedom of individuals to be restricted on the basis of suspicions or attitudes rather than as punishment for offences.

Macron, meanwhile, said that a further law to be presented to parliament next year would also "remove several brakes" on the deportation of foreign suspects.

The Marseille attacker had been arrested two days before his attack on suspicion of theft but was released when prosecutors decided not to press charges although he was in contravention of immigration law.

More than 230 people have been killed since early 2015 in France in a succession of attacks by Islamist extremists.

 

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