France´s Macron signs controversial anti-terror law

Members of the RAID, the French national police intervention group, take part in a simulation exercice of terrorist attack at the Toulouse stadium on April 14, 2016 as part of the Euro 2016. / AFP PHOTO / REMY GABALDA

French President Emmanuel Macron signed a controversial anti-terror law Monday that gives authorities permanent powers to search homes, shut places of worship and restrict the movements of suspected extremists.

The new law, which replaces the state of emergency imposed after the 2015 Paris attacks, sailed through France’s parliament this month despite criticism from campaigners that it jeopardises civil liberties.

“This law will allow us to end the state of emergency from November 1 while fully ensuring the security of our citizens,” Macron said as he signed the bill in front of the cameras.

He added that it could come into force as early as Tuesday, though his office said it would become law when the state of emergency finally expires at midnight Wednesday after being extended six times.

Macron noted there had been “sustained debate” over the bill and said it would be reassessed in two years’ time.

The legislation, which sparked weeks of intense debate in parliament, makes permanent several of the measures enacted after the terror attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead in November 2015.

Without seeking permission from the courts, authorities will now be able to close religious sites that promote radical ideas and confine suspected terrorist sympathisers to their neighbourhoods.

Police will be allowed to carry out more on-the-spot identity checks in border areas, as well as around train stations, ports and airports.

Rights groups have voiced fears that such checks will be chiefly used against migrants and minorities.

France has been hit by a series of attacks since the start of 2015 by known or suspected extremists that have left 241 people dead.

There has been little public resistance to the new anti-terror law, reflecting a hardening of attitudes after nearly three years of periodic attacks.

A poll last month for the daily Le Figaro found 57 percent backed tougher laws, even if 62 percent feared this would come at the expense of basic freedoms.

The bill is the third major piece of legislation Macron has signed since he took power in May, following a law on public ethics and flagship reforms to France’s complex labour code.