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Top French court rejects suspending state of emergency

Ludovic Marin, AFP | File photo of the Conseil d'Etat on the Place du Palais Royal in Paris by night on February 6, 2014.

The Conseil d’État, France’s highest court on administrative justice, on Wednesday rejected an appeal to suspend a state of emergency imposed after the November 13 Paris attacks.


The appeal, filed by the Paris-based Human Rights League (known by its French acronym, LDH) ) suggested that if the state of emergency could not be suspended, the Conseil d’État should at the very least suspend some of its measures, such as house searches and the ban on public gatherings.

In its ruling delivered Wednesday, the Conseil d’État noted that, “the imminent peril justifying the state of emergency has not disappeared given the continuation of terror threats and the risk of attacks.”

The Conseil d’État – France’s top court on administrative justice, which also serves as the legal advisor of the executive branch – also ruled that French President François Hollande’s decision “not to end the state of emergency does not carry a serious and manifestly illegal infringement of a fundamental freedom".

Wednesday’s ruling came hours after Christiane Taubira, an outspoken politician, resigned from her post as France’s justice minister over her opposition to the government’s bid to amend the constitution so that dual nationals convicted of terrorism could be stripped of their French citizenship.

A 1955 legal provision instituted during the brutal Algerian war of independence, the state of emergency was imposed for an initial 12-day period in the immediate aftermath of the November 13 attacks, which killed 130 people. Barely a week later, parliament voted to extend the law for another three months – until February 26.

Hollande’s government is seeking parliamentary approval for a further three-month extension of the state of emergency, with the upper house Senate expected to vote on February 9 and the National Assembly vote set for February 16.

Executive power without judicial oversight

The state of emergency grants the executive branch extraordinary powers without judicial oversight, including the imposition of house arrests without authorisation from a judge, house searches without a judicial warrant and a ban on public gatherings that could disturb the public order. Authorities can also block websites deemed to glorify terrorism without prior judicial authorisation.

The measures have sparked harsh condemnations from civil rights groups and critics have maintained that the extension of the state of emergency will not make France safer from terror threats.

However a majority of the French population support the measures. An iTele-Huffington Post survey published in early January found that nearly seven in ten French people -- or 69 percent of respondents -- were in favour of the extension of the state of emergency beyond February 26.

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