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UN rights experts warn France not to limit freedoms under anti-terror laws

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police officers secure an area after a fatal shooting attack was carried out at a police station in the 18th district in Paris, France, January 7, 2016. ©Reuters

United Nations human rights experts have expressed concern about new counter-terrorism measures adopted in France against the backdrop of the deadly 2015 Paris attacks, calling on the French government to protect fundamental freedoms in its anti-terror battle.

In a statement released on Tuesday, a group of four UN rights specialists said the current state of emergency in France and surveillance laws impose “excessive and disproportionate restrictions” on the basic rights of people.

The statement said the main concerns center on “the lack of clarity and precision of several provisions of the … laws, related to the nature and scope of restrictions to the legitimate exercise of right to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the right to privacy.”

On November 13, 2015, assailants struck at least six different venues in and around Paris. The terrorist attacks left 130 people dead and over 350 others wounded. France introduced the state of emergency following the horrendous assaults, which were claimed by the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

People form a human chain around the make-shift memorial at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, on January 11, 2016, to honor all those killed in the November 2015 attacks in Paris. ©AP

The exceptional measures adopted under the state of emergency empower the French police to keep people in their homes without trial, searching houses without judicial approval and blocking suspicious websites. The new measures also include a ban on public demonstrations and allow authorities to dissolve groups inciting any acts that seriously affect public order in France.

The UN rights specialists also called on the French government not to extend the state of emergency beyond February 2016 and ensure protection against any abuse of power while combating terror.

Yasser Louati, a spokesman for the Collective against Islamophobia in France, an anti-racist group, said last month that the state of emergency has unfairly targeted Muslims in France.

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