French Cabinet approves February extension to emergency riot laws

[JURIST] The French Cabinet Monday approved an extension to emergency powers authorized earlier this month [JURIST report; press release, in French] in order to help quell riots [JURIST report] that started on October 27. Parliament is expected to approve the bill, deemed by French President Jacques Chirac [official profile] to be a "measure of protection and precaution." The bill was submitted in a special cabinet session to extend the emergency powers by three months from November 21 when the state of emergency is currently due to expire. On November 8, the country declared a state of emergency [PDF decree] under a 50-year-old law [JURIST document] which gives top local officials broad powers to impose curfews and restrictions as required in light of the surge of violence. Police said violence dropped after the 18th straight night of unrest [JURIST report] in the poorer suburbs of the Paris region and provincial cities, with youths setting fire to 284 vehicles compared to youths destroying 375 vehicles in petrol bomb attacks [Reuters report] the night earlier. The riots are thought to be a protest against racism, poor job prospects and the sense of exclusion felt by young French immigrant youths from North and West Africa in French society, and have been said to have been sparked off by the country's banning of religious dress [JURIST report]. France is expected to start deporting foreigners that are implicated in the violence according to a plan set out by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile, in French], raising human rights concerns [JURIST report] and questions from other ministers. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy [official profile, in French] said he agreed that illegal immigrants could be sent home, but not foreigners with permission to live in France, noting that "[a] French person who carried out a crime or a misdemeanor in France cannot be treated in one way while a foreigner with papers in order is treated in another." AP has more.

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