Urgency procedure for draft French anti-terrorism law

By EDRi · December 5, 2005

The French government has decided to apply the urgency procedure to a new anti-terrorism draft law, with only one reading by each Chamber. The draft law was already passed by the National Assembly (French Lower House) on 29 November 2005 and will be examined by the French Senate in late December or early January 2006. The proposal creates increasing powers for the police and the intelligence services, thus undermining the protection of formal judicial procedures.

The law will extend the use of video-surveillance, authorising private parties to install CCTV cameras in public places “likely to be exposed to terrorist acts”, and in places open to the public when they are “particularly exposed to risks of aggression or theft”. Obviously, this covers almost any public or privately-owned place, including shops. In case of emergency, CCTV cameras may be installed prior to any authorisation.

The draft law also extends telecom data retention possibilities, by putting cybercafe owners and WiFi providers (whether wireless Internet access is free or with payment) in the same category as telecom operators. This means, in practice, that cybercafe owners, as well as bars, restaurants and hotels will have to ask their customers for their IDs for Internet use in their establishments. Any logged data may also be seized directly by the police, without any judicial order, as is obliged currently.

Another major aspect of this draft law is a serious violation of freedom of movement. Anywhere on French territory, the police is authorised to take photographs of car plates and of people travelling by car on French roads, for the purpose of “fighting car theft”. Furthermore, an administrative authority may allow for law enforcement to take pictures of people attending big public events (like football matches or street demonstrations), for the purpose of “public order preservation”.

Finally, the draft law allows the French ministry of Interior to collect and process PNR (Passenger Name Record) data of any traveller to or from non-EU countries, for the purpose of fighting illegal immigration. Not only are the French willing to apply to non-EU countries what the US have done to the EU, but they are also extending the idea beyond air travel, since travelling by sea or rail is also concerned.

The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) has expressed serious reservations on this draft law. However, the French ministry of Interior has made it clear that it has no intention to listen, stating in a communique that “each party must take its responsibility”. In a joint press conference with the French Human Rights League and other French NGOs as well as magistrates and lawyers trade-unions, EDRI member IRIS also assessed the dangers of the draft law, explaining how it violates the finality and proportionality principles.

In a press release published today, IRIS also makes the link between this French draft law and the Directive proposal on data retention, to be examined by the EP on 12 December.

IRIS press release (in French, 05.12.05)

CNIL opinion (in French, 10.10.05)

Ministry of Interior press release (in French, 18.10.05)

IRIS et al. joint press release (in French, 23.11.05)

French National Assembly Dossier on draft law (in French, 29.11.05)

(Contribution by Meryem Marzouki, EDRI-member IRIS, France)