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New Emergency Surveillance Measures Must Not Be Permanent, Say Amnesty

Emergency measures rushed through French Parliament to counter terrorism must not become "permanent addition to France's anti-terror arsenal", say human rights campaigners.
A bird flies in front of the Eiffel Tower ,which remained closed on the first of three days of national mourning, in Paris, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. - Sputnik International
Western Governments Press for Sweeping Powers After Paris Terror

France remains in a state of emergency which means extraordinary extra measures to counter terrorism are being allowed to be rushed through parliament.

The "state of emergency" law allows the government, security services and police more powers, including the right to ban associations and public demonstrations. It also means the French government and police can carry out house searches and impose house arrest without a warrant.

People living in France will also see more police, more armed forces and more security at schools, universities and airports. But it's not just a more visible presence of powers — the French government will also be able to block websites and social media accounts on the internet for up to three months.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, France adopted a new surveillance bill, 'Projet de loi relatif au reseignement', which gave government authorities and intelligence agencies the power to instantly access live phone and cellular data from anyone suspected of being linked to terrorism activity.

The bill also forces Internet Service Providers and phone companies to release data upon request and intelligence services will have the right to place recording devices and cameras in private property and install so-called 'keylogger' devices that record key strokes on specifically targeted computers.

The bill has already caused controversy with privacy and human rights campaigners who remain concerned that the current state of emergency measures could remain a permanent fixture in France.

Amnesty International is warning that the new powers passed could potentially erode the founding values of the French Republic.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Director of Europe and Central Asia said:

"Right now the protection of the population from further imminent attack is rightly the number one priority. But the emergency powers currently being rushed through parliament provide for a sweeping extension of executive powers at the expense of essential human rights safeguards.They must be used only when strictly necessary and should not become a permanent addition to France's anti-terror arsenal."

Defending the emergency measures, Prime Minister Emmanuel Valls told parliament:

"This is the fast response of a democracy faced with barbarism. This is the effective legal response in the face of an ideology of chaos."

But Dalhuisen remains concerned that the emergency measures will be extended and codified until they become part and parcel of the ordinary law, "chipping steadily away at human rights."

"In the long run, the pernicious ideology underpinning the Paris attacks can only be defeated by upholding the foundational values of the French Republic."

According to the Financial Times, French police have searched more than 400 houses, arrested over 60 people, placed 110 people under house arrest and seized more than 75 weapons in just a week following the attack with killed 129 people on Friday 13 November.

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