France invokes emergency law in response to riots

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Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Dominique de Villepin

The French government used a 1955 law to impose a state of emergency across France in an effort to quell the rioting that has wracked the country for the last 12 days. French Prime Minster Dominique de Villepin today declared, "The republic is at an hour of truth."

Curfews designed to restrict the movement of those that might engage in violence and rioting allow the government to imprison individuals for up to two months. The northern city of Amiens was one of the first to impose a curfew; unaccompanied youth in that city will be unable to walk the streets between midnight and 6:00 a.m.

The 1955 law invoked by the cabinet Tuesday morning will allow local officials throughout the country to impose curfews. In French terminology, the government invoked the law through a presidential décret (decree), which corresponds to an executive order in American terminology. The law originates from the Algerian War and has never been used in Metropolitan France until now. Villepin said that more than 9,500 police have been called up to help bring the riots under control.

A car burns in Strasbourg, France. Photo credit: François Schnell. (CC-BY 2.0)

Article 11 of the law permits censorship of all types of media (including theatre performances), if specifically authorized by a decree. The French government has so far not elected to use this possibility.

In the last 12 days more than 5,000 cars have been set ablaze, and at least 1,500 have been arrested in what is the worst public violence in France since 1968.

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