Tuesday, November 08, 2005

French riot police enforce curfew

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy visited riot-hit Toulouse

The French city of Amiens has become the first to impose an overnight curfew under emergency powers passed by the government to curb the rioting. The measures, which came into effect at midnight, give police extra powers and aim to stop under 16-year-olds going out unaccompanied late at night.

Other towns in and around Paris have imposed their own local curfews. As the emergency decree came into force, sporadic violence was reported for the 13th consecutive night:
-The entire public transport network was shut down in the central-eastern city of Lyon after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a train station
-A gas-powered bus exploded in the suburbs of the south- western city of Bordeaux after it was hit by a Molotov cocktail
-Youths in the nearby city of Toulouse threw firebombs at police and set fire to cars Paris, where the rioting began nearly two weeks ago, was relatively calm with some isolated cases of arson and a dozen arrests, the police said.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, on a visit to Toulouse, said police had reported a "fairly significant fall" in the number of violent incidents across the country by 2200 on Tuesday. State of emergency The emergency powers were approved in a special cabinet meeting earlier on Tuesday.

-Cabinet can declare state of emergency in all or part of the country
-Regional leaders given exceptional powers to apply curfew and restrict movements
-Breach of curfew could mean a fine or two-month jail sentence
-Police can carry out raids on suspected weapons stockpiles
-Interior minister can issue house-arrest warrants for persons considered dangerous to public safety
-Public meeting places can be closed down
-House searches possible day or night
-Authorities can control press or broadcast media, film and theatre performances
-State of emergency can only be extended beyond 12 days if approved by parliament
They allow a state of emergency to be declared in defined areas, restricting the movement of people and vehicles, says the BBC's Alistair Sandford in Paris.

Police are entitled to carry out house searches under certain conditions, and ban public meetings.

Mr Sarkozy, who announced the measures, said earlier: "The violent events that happened in our territory, and the people responsible [for the violence] will be arrested and punished".

But some opposition parties, and the French magistrates association, have described the measures as a danger to civil liberties. Amiens, in the northern Somme region, became the first city to make use of the powers and others are expected to follow in the coming days.

Minors are subject to the law between 2200 and 0600 (2100 and 0500 GMT) unless accompanied by an adult, and are also banned from buying petrol.

Two Paris suburbs, Savigny-sur-Orge and Le Raincy, as well as the historic city of Orleans, have already declared separate curfews not covered by the law.

Social improvements

The nightly protests have gripped deprived areas with large African and Arab communities where unemployment is rife and residents complain of racism and discrimination.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Tuesday the restoration of law and order in those suburbs would take time and hard work. And he also outlined plans to improve opportunities for young people through jobs and education programmes and create an agency to combat racial discrimination.

"The republic is at a moment of truth," he said. "What is being questioned is the effectiveness of our integration model." The unrest was first sparked by the deaths in the run-down Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois of two youths, who were accidentally electrocuted at an electricity sub-station.
One man killed
5,873 cars torched
1,500 people arrested
17 people sentenced
120 police and firefighters injured
Figures as of 8 November
Locals said they were being chased by the police, but the police deny this.

The new emergency powers handed to local authorities have been invoked under a 1955 law.

The law was originally passed to combat violence in Algeria in its war of independence against France from 1954-62. It was also used in New Caledonia in 1985.

This is the first time the law has been implemented in mainland France.


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