US issues travel alert for France ahead of Euro 2016

The US warned its citizens on Tuesday about the risks of being in France during the Euro 2016 football tournament next month.

US issues travel alert for France ahead of Euro 2016
Photo: AFP
The move came as part of the State Department's continuous efforts to alert Americans travelling abroad with information about safety. 
And on Tuesday, France was among the countries singled out as potential terror targets.
“Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists,” the State Department warned. 
The travel warning is in place until the 31st of August, with authorities also noting that the Tour de France will be taking place for most of July – without giving a specific warning about the race. 
The State Department added that citizens should be vigilant in public places and when using mass transportation, to avoid crowded places and to monitor media. 
It also suggested Americans should be prepared for additional security and should stay in touch with family and “ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency”.
Is it really safe to come to France for Euro 2016?
France is taking security at Euro 2016 extremely seriously, announcing last week that it will deploy more than 90,000 police and security guards for the tournament, which runs from June 10th to July 10th and will be held at stadiums across the country. 
Deputy mayor of Paris Jean-François Martins told The Local recently that the city was “prepared and determined” when it came to safety around the event. 
He pointed out the fact the Stade de France bombers could not get inside the stadium on November 13th proves that authorities security checks and systems work.
“We have been preparing for this for many years and that includes how to deal with the terror threat,” he said, before refusing to go into detail about the security operation, stressing it needs to remain confidential.

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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.