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State of emergency possible until IS group ‘totally defeated’, says French PM

© AFP | A member of the elite French Foreign Legion on patrol outside Paris's Notre Dame cathedral

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2016-01-23

France will seek to maintain its state of emergency until the Islamic State group has been defeated, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a BBC interview published Friday, adding that terrorism threatens “total and global war”.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Valls said that the country would be “using all means in our democracy under the rule of law to protect the French people”.

"As long as the threat is there, we must use all available means," he said, adding that France’s controversial state of emergency should stay in place "until we can get rid of Daesh”, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group.

"In Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, we must eradicate – eliminate – Daesh," Valls said. "It is a total and global war that we are facing with terrorism. The war we are conducting must also be total, global and ruthless."

Asked how long he thought the measure would remain in place, Valls said: "[For] the time necessary. We cannot always live all the time in a state of emergency."

Move to extend state of emergency

The state of emergency – which gives police the power to raid homes without warrants and to impose house arrests without first seeking judicial oversight – was put in place in the aftermath of the November 13 Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed by gunmen in a series of coordinated attacks across the French capital.

It was the first time the state of emergency had been imposed since the Algerian War of Independence, in the 1950s and 1960s.

French President François Hollande announced in the wake of the November attacks that the government also wanted provisions written into the country’s constitution to make it easier to impose a state of emergency when France comes under attack.

The proposed reforms include allowing the state to strip dual citizens of their French nationality if they have been convicted of terror offenses – a move that has created profound divisions in the government and in the country at large.

The current state of emergency is due to expire at the end of February. The government is expected to extend the controversial measures for another three months in the coming days with the support of parliament.

Support and opposition

The state of emergency has proved popular with some voters, and Hollande’s moves have taken some wind from the sails of the conservative opposition and the resurgent far-right National Front party, which has called for the toughest possible response to the terror threat.

But rights groups worry that the measures undermine France’s republican values of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

A group of UN experts this week expressed concern that the state of emergency measures "do not seem to adjust to the fundamental principles of necessity and proportionality".

The group of four United Nations rights specialists, concerned that the state of emergency had been used to silence environmental activists, on Tuesday called on France not to extend the state of emergency.

The group said in a statement that there was a “lack of clarity and precision of several provisions of the state of emergency and surveillance laws", adding that the state of emergency risked undermining freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to privacy.

On Wednesday the French Human Rights League said it had approached the country's highest court to end the state of emergency, which it said was no longer justified and "seriously affects public freedoms".

Europe's migrant crisis

Valls went on to warn that Europe's migrant crisis was putting the EU at risk. He told the BBC that Europe is simply not capable of accepting all of the refugees now fleeing the wars in Syria or Iraq.

"Otherwise our societies will be totally destabilised," he said.

More than a million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, according to UN estimates.

Date created : 2016-01-22


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