Will France’s State of Emergency Ever End?

Paris, France (HRW) – “The state of emergency cannot be permanent,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a radio interview this morning. But he added that the government would be requesting its extension by two months, until the end of July, to cover the European football championships and the Tour de France. If adopted by parliament, it would be the third extension since President Hollande declared a state of emergency in the wake of the despicable attacks of November 13, 2015 that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured.

The state of emergency grants the government considerable powers to search homes without judicial warrants and impose control orders, designed to restrict the movement of people authorities consider a threat to public order or security, but who have been charged with, far less convicted of, nothing.

In February 2016, Human Rights Watch documented abusive and discriminatory raids and control orders against Muslims in France executed under state-of-emergency powers. People described to us how police officers stormed into their homes in the middle of the night, broke their belongings, traumatized their children, and left them with tarnished reputations. We also spoke with people whose control orders prevented them from leaving their town and, for up to eleven hours per day, their home. The control orders even required them to check in at a police station up to three times per day, causing economic hardship and even health problems.

Almost all of the 3,397 raids conducted under these powers took place by January 1. As it seeks to extend these powers once again, the government should explain why it cannot ensure public order and safety with the wide range of laws and powers already at its disposal.

The prospect of eight months of the state of emergency – with no commitment as to when it might end – raises the question of whether it could, in fact, become permanent. A further extension of these powers would also set a dangerous example to other countries that could use France as an example to justify their own endless restrictions on freedoms.

This report prepared by Izza Leghtas for Human Rights Watch.