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CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

SECURITY

Cannes: Will the guns and guards overshadow the glitz?

Cannes Film Festival will be held amid maximum security given the ongoing terror threat, but will all the bomb checks and bag searches ruin the party atmosphere?

Cannes: Will the guns and guards overshadow the glitz?
Armed police stage a mock terror attack at the Cannes Film Festival. All photos: AFP

Bomb experts will carry out daily sweeps at the Cannes film festival, opening this week under maximum security as France faces its highest ever terror threat, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday.

The glitterati, set to descend on the resort town as the festival opens on Wednesday, will also have to tip open expensive handbags for inspection after climbing the red carpet into the main venue, the Palais des Festivals, which is to be secured by some 400 private security agents.

Hundreds more police officers and specialised units will be on duty in the city, whose lure for the rich and famous makes it equally attractive to jewellery thieves and robbers.

The 69th Cannes film festival comes six months after Islamic State jihadists launched co-ordinated attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, and France remains under a state of emergency.

“We must keep in mind as we prepare to open this festival, that we are faced with a risk which has never been as high, and faced with an enemy determined to strike us at any moment,” said Cazeneuve.

“We must demonstrate extreme vigilance at all times.”

(Police stage a mock terror attack at Cannes. Photo: AFP)

Cazeneuve, who visited the city two days before it becomes the world movie capital for the two week cinematic extravaganza, said the stakes were high for security forces.

He said the city had to take into account “the global nature of the event, its visibility, the high number of celebrities who must be protected, the concentration of crowds in public spaces, without forgetting the need to preserve the atmosphere of conviviality which is crucial to the success of the festival.”

Just along the coast from Nice on the French Riviera, Cannes is home to 500 CCTV cameras, making it the most closely monitored town in France, said mayor David Lisnard.

He dismissed concerns that the tight security will throw a wet blanket over the parties, glitter and glamour of the event.

“Do you think an attack brings merriment? We have succeeded in preserving the festival atmosphere. The public will be at the foot of the (red-carpeted) steps. All the parties will be authorised, but, security must be taken care of,” he told AFP.

“Cannes must be protected not because of the cocktail parties, but because it is a professional event of a high level which brings honour to France.”

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POLICE

Amnesty condemns ‘arbitrary’ detentions during protest in Paris

A slate of detentions carried out on December 12 during a Paris protest by tens of thousands of people against France's controversial security bill were "arbitrary", Amnesty International France said on Monday.

Amnesty condemns 'arbitrary' detentions during protest in Paris
Photo: AFP

Out of 142 people who were arrested, including 124 who were taken into custody, “nearly 80 percent faced no charges in the end”, a study by the French branch of the rights watchdog concluded.

A similar proportion of detainees to charges laid was seen in the “yellow vest” movement that peaked in late 2018 and early 2019, according to Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz.

AIF, which joined an umbrella group opposed to the security bill, said it had “legitimate concerns over the possibility that there were arbitrary arrests and other violations of human rights”.

The legislation, since scrapped, would have restricted publication with so-called malicious intent of photos of on-duty police officers, a move condemned as a curb on press freedom.

AIF's Anne-Sophie Simpere, the report's author, told AFP the December 12th protest march in central Paris did not see “notable violence”, adding: “Nothing seems to justify what happened in terms of arrests or charges.”

The report focused on police questioning, medical certificates and judicial documents in 35 cases of people who were held but not charged. Two were held for nearly five hours, while the other 33 were held overnight.

A heavy police contingent preceded the marchers and flanked them on both sides, preventing any of them from leaving the protest, AFP journalists reported at the time.

On the basis of witness testimony and video footage, Amnesty said arrests were not preceded by “audible warnings” and at moments when no “significant disorder” was noted in the march.

Alexis Baudelin, a lawyer who was taken into custody, told AFP: “I was surprised by the strategy… At each intersection, the security forces charged on non-violent demonstrators without reason or warning.”

The offensive tactic was aimed at preventing the formation of “Black Bloc” anarchist groups after two consecutive weekends of violent demos in Paris, the police said later.

Amnesty also pointed to “detentions based on vague laws”, notably one against “taking part in a group with the aim of planning violence”, cited in 25 of the cases studied.

In only two of the cases studied had the detainees been carrying objects that could justify suspicions of violent intent.

“It's a catch-all offence,” Simpere said. “You punish an act before it is committed.”

Such lack of precision can “unduly infringe on human rights”, the report said.

Lara Bellini, whose 16-year-old son was held for 20 hours before being released without charge, told AFP: “They (the police) told me he belonged to a malicious band. It was incomprehensible… My son is an activist, but he is in no way a violent person.”

In five of the cases, police used a March 2019 law to slap a ban on appearing in Paris for up to six months.

The ban amounts to “punishment without trial” without even the possibility of appeal, Amnesty said, calling on parliament to scrap the legislation.

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