French State Of Emergency Bill Overwhelmingly Passed, Fueling Fears Of Police State

The French National Assembly has decided to extend their state of emergency for an additional three months. The Assembly is also going to revise the provisions that were originally established in the 1955 French legislation in order to better reflect technological developments since then.

However, civil liberty activists are alarmed by the state of emergency bill. The activists are claiming that several of the measures are authoritarian in nature. Most troubling is that the government will obtain several police powers, such as the ability to conduct computer searches, censor the internet and limit the freedom of association.  

The bill has already overwhelmingly passed through the lower French parliamentary house, achieving a vote of 551 to 6. The act will soon be reviewed by the Senate. Assuming it passes, the bill will represent the first ever amendment to the act of 1955.

Before the vote in the lower house took place, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned the National Assembly that today’s world faces danger from terrorists, as well as chemical and biological weapons. Valls announced that more than $427 million had been designated to fund the country’s state of emergency crackdown.

He also confirmed that the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud had been killed in a recent raid.

The French advocacy group known as La Quadrature du Net said that the extension of powers to the police was unjustified. Many searches and raids have already been conducted in association with administrative cases under general law that are not connected to the fight against terrorism in any way. Activists are very worried that France will quickly develop into a police state, based on the grounds that they are in the middle of an “emergency”. Since the terrorist attacks, more than 400 raids have taken place and 60 people have been arrested.

La Quadrature spokesperson Adrienne Charmet said, “We are hoping certain provisions, especially those allowing the Minister of the Interior to censor websites, are not included in the bill when it passes through the Senate. We are particularly concerned with the police ability to restrict the freedom of association on security ground.”

She continued, “If we invite people to a cryptoparty and the police believe cryptography is a security threat then they could force us to disband. Of course we hope it wouldn’t be used against us, but there is no protection in the law. Despite the recent surveillance law passed in France, these attacks happened. We don’t accept that the population must remain under mass surveillance while terrorists are not being placed under targeted surveillance. The principle behind a state of emergency is to make a police state. It is to transfer justice to the police.”

In the coming days, the organization will begin calling on French citizens to urge Assembly members to launch an inquiry as to whether or not the proposed surveillance legislation is acceptable.

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