French government wants to extend the state of emergency

PARIS -- France's government is calling for a three-month extension of the state of emergency that was declared after the Nov.

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13 deadly attacks in Paris, a move criticized by human right groups as damaging democracy.

The measure proposed Wednesday in a Cabinet meeting now requires parliament's approval.

"The terrorist threat is still extremely high" in France and Europe, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Wednesday. "The state of emergency is necessary. It has been useful and must continue to be. "

The state of emergency has already been extended once and was scheduled to end on Feb. 26. It expands police powers to carry out arrests and searches and allows authorities to forbid the movement of persons and vehicles at specific times and places.

In a written statement, President Francois Hollande said a three-month extension is justified by the need to face the "terrorist threat."

Another government bill also presented Wednesday would allow officers to use their weapons to "neutralize someone who has just committed one or several murders and is likely to repeat these crimes."

Currently, self-defence is the only legal justification for shooting someone. The proposed change would, for instance, permit police to shoot a gunman who has fired at civilians and is likely to do it again in a very short period of time.

The proposals would also make it easier for police to carry out raids at night, and searches of luggage and vehicles near "sensitive" sites and buildings.

In total 3289 police raids have been carried out under the state of emergency that led to 571 judicial investigations -- mostly for drugs or possession of unauthorized weapons.

Several human rights groups are opposed to the extension of the state of emergency. Thousands people marched in Paris Saturday to protest it.

Amnesty International stressed that "the state of emergency cannot be a permanent solution without undermining fundamental freedoms".

"We must not give up on our rights and freedom", France's Human Rights League said in a written statement.

France's top administrative court last week upheld the current state of emergency, rejecting a request by the Human Rights League.


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