France to extend emergency powers ‘until after Euro 2016’

The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced on Wednesday that the government plans to extend the state of emergency, which has been in place since the November Paris attacks, until after the Euro 2016 football championships and the Tour de France.

France to extend emergency powers 'until after Euro 2016'
Photo: AFP

The French government will seek to extend the current state of emergency in the country for a fourth time, PM Manuel Valls announced on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister told French radio that the government wanted to extend the period by a further two months to cover the Euro 2016 football championships, that will take place from June 10th to July 10th.

The extension would also cover the Tour de France from July 2nd to 24th. 

That would mean France being under a state of emergency for almost nine months and counting.

The state of emergency that was put in place after the Paris attacks on November 13th was set to end on May 26th but conscious of the heightened terror threat and the fact jihadists have already expressed a desire to attack the tournament, France does not want to take any chances.

“We will propose to extend (the emergency) for a period of two additional months from the end of May in view of the threat,” Valls said.

“Because faced with this threat we need to have these powers, these possibilities, under the control of a judge, under the control of parliament, to allow for the best response faced with terrorism.”

The proposal to extend the emergency powers, which have allowed police to carry out thousands of raids on homes without the usual judicial oversight, will be put to a parliamentary vote in the coming weeks.

As well as the raids on homes, thousands of suspects have been placed under house arrest.

Since it was imposed in November, “more than 3,500 searches have been carried out… resulting in 400 arrests, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Friday.


The extension was perhaps expected given the reports that the Brussels bombers had initially intended to attack the tournament, before deciding to bring their plans forward fearing they were about to be foiled.

However it will no doubt be criticized by rights groups who have lined up in recent months to scold France for undermining democracy and throwing away its sacred principle of “liberté”.

The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks warned earlier this year that the state of emergency could constitute a “threat” to democracy.

He raised concerns about ethnic profiling of suspects facing police searches.

And a panel of UN human rights experts said the measures placed what they saw as “excessive and disproportionate” restrictions on key rights.

While the government says the emergency powers have enabled them to crack down on arms trafficking, with thousands of guns seized and insist that it has helped them foil at least one terror plot, critics say the draconian police powers are counterproductive in the fight against terror.

Earlier this month President François Hollande scrapped his plan to have the emergency powers enshrined in the constitution.





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Orange bosses summoned to ministry after phone glitch leaves French emergency services uncontactable

The French government on Thursday summoned the head of the Orange telecom operator after a network outage that left people unable to reach emergency services.

Orange bosses summoned to ministry after phone glitch leaves French emergency services uncontactable
Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

A person in the western Morbihan region suffering from a heart condition was reported dead after failing to put through an emergency call during the outage which lasted for several hours on Wednesday, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said.

While it was not certain that the death was caused directly by long delays in getting through, “what is beyond doubt is that people have told us that they tried calling several times and that they couldn’t get an operator immediately,” he told reporters.

Two people with heart conditions in the overseas territory of La Réunion were also reported dead.

Calling the outage a “serious and unacceptable malfunction”, Darmanin said that Stephane Richard, the CEO of Orange which is France’s biggest telecom company, had been summoned early on Thursday to his ministry “to tell us the current state of play”.

Darmanin reported on Wednesday evening that some emergency call centres “are having difficulty receiving calls due to a technical problem from the operator”.

“Everything is being done to resolve these malfunctions as quickly as possible,” he tweeted.

By Thursday morning the emergency numbers – 17 for police, 15 for ambulance, 18 for firefighters and 112 for all emergencies – were back up and running, although temporary numbers set up overnight were also left in place.

READ ALSO Emergency in France – who to call and what to say

Health Minister Olivier Véran said the breakdown was “obviously due to a maintenance problem” by French telecoms group Orange.

The maintenance carried out “by Orange would have caused fairly random breakdowns, with up to a 30-percent drop in some regions”, Véran told the TF1 channel.

Orange confirmed to AFP that a “technical incident on a router had greatly disrupted VoIP (voice over internet protocol), internet calls in some regions”.

A source close to the case ruled out any kind of “hacking”.

Problems were reported across the country from 6pm, causing havoc for emergency services.

Emergency doctor and head of the Samu-Urgences emergency medical services union François Braun said “people were unable to access the service, calls were not coming through, others were cut off in the middle of a conversation”.

He said that almost all of France’s departments were affected, adding that calls usually peak around 7pm.

“We don’t know what consequences this breakdown will have, it’s too early to say,” he said.