French Parliament approves new anti-terror law

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a speech on security to representatives of French national police, Gendarmes and Sentinelle security plan soldiers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Oct 18, 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a speech on security to representatives of French national police, Gendarmes and Sentinelle security plan soldiers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Oct 18, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • The French Parliament has adopted a controversial anti-terror Bill that gives the authorities permanent new powers to search homes, shut places of worship and restrict freedom of movement.

The new law, which will replace the state of emergency imposed after the 2015 Paris attacks, was adopted yesterday by the Senate on its second reading, despite campaigners warning of a threat to civil liberties.

The vote coincided with a major security speech by President Emmanuel Macron, who had pushed for the controversial law, at the presidential palace where he was expected to outline his plans to increase resources for the police and intelligence services.

"The idea is to adapt to the worries of citizens and define the organisations and the types of interventions needed," a source in the presidential palace told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Mr Macron, who was elected in May, was expected to flesh out his campaign pledges to create new local police forces, a new executive intelligence unit in the President's office, and on-the-spot fines for small offences.

France has been hit by a series of attacks since 2015 by Islamist extremists that have left more than 200 people dead.

The new anti-terror legislation had encountered little resistance from a public traumatised by a string of militant attacks, despite criticism that it will undermine civil liberties.

A recent poll found 57 per cent of the French were in favour.

The law will enable the authorities to confine suspected militant sympathisers to their neighbourhoods, close places of worship accused of condoning terror and carry out more on-the-spot identity checks - all without the prior approval of a judge.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has said the law strikes the right balance between security and individual freedoms.

France has progressively tightened its legal arsenal to tackle terror threats, passing around 15 different laws since 1986.

Rights groups oppose the new legislation, with Human Rights Watch calling it a "normalisation of emergency powers".

United Nations experts also raised objections in a letter to the French government last month.

The Oct 1 fatal stabbing of two women in Marseille brought to 241 the number of people killed in attacks claimed by, or attributed to, militants since January 2015.

French anti-terror police also arrested 10 people on Tuesday over a suspected right-wing extremist plot to target mosques and politicians, including a government spokesman, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

The government says it has helped foil 12 planned attacks so far this year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'French Parliament approves new anti-terror law'. Print Edition | Subscribe