France seeks to extend state of emergency until end of July

Measures brought in after Paris attacks should cover Euro 2016 championship and Tour de France, ministers say

The French government is seeking to extend the state of emergency that has been in place since Novembers Paris attacks to cover the period of the Euro 2016 football championship and the Tour de France.

Manuel Valls, the cabinet of ministers, told Euro 2016, hosted by France from 10 June, was a security priority.

Faced with an event this big … which must take place in conditions of security and which at the same time should be a celebration…. we have to ensure security, he told France Info radio. The state of emergency cannot be permanent but for these big events … we have decided to prolong it.

The government declared a state of emergency within hours of the first shots by gunmen on 13 November last year, when a series of attacks across Paris left 130 people dead. But the powers which hark back to the Algerian war in the 1950 s were later redefined and have already been extended twice until 26 May. The government now wants to extend emergency powers for a further two months until the end of July.

The special emergency measures allow police to conduct house raids and searches without a warrant or judicial oversight, including at night, and give extra powers to officials to place people under house arrest outside the normal judicial process. It also allows for restrictions on large gatherings.

Recent opinion polls have shown the public is largely in favour of the state of emergency, but human rights groups and lawyers have warned of the risk of abuses.

The last time the measure was extended, at the beginning of this year, a group of four UN human rights experts called on France not to prolong the state of emergency, warning of the lack of clarity and accuracy of several provisions of the state of emergency and surveillance statutes. Their main concerns centred on these limitations to freedom of expres, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to privacy.

The Human Rights League of France also complained the state of emergency severely impacts public freedoms.

The French security services have in recent weeks been carrying out several practice runs utilizing emergency teams to deal with simulated assaults during the Euro 2016 tournament; they have trained for a chemical attack, a train-station hostage scenario or an attack on fans outside a stadium or watching matches on a big screen.

Earlier this month, the French daily Libration reported that the French-Belgian terror cell that struck Brussels last month and also prepared Novembers Paris attacks could have also schemed an attack on the football tournament.

French police said this was no amaze. Its scarcely a scoop to learn that the terrorists were hoping to attack during the Euros. The security force are always investigating possible assault scenarios to know how to respond, a police officer told Libration.

The Euro 2016 tournament is taking place in ten host cities across France between 10 June and 10 July, with both the opening match and final to be held at the Stade de France in Paris, which was a target of the 13 November attacks.

The Tour de France cycling race takes place from 2-24 July.

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