The French government has authorized local officials to set curfews in order to curb the urban rioting that has spread across the country over the last two weeks. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy says the decision was made today at an emergency cabinet meeting. The move follows a 12th straight night of rioting by young disenfranchised Muslims of North African descent, who burned cars and set fire to buildings.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin later presented to lawmakers a series of social and economic measures aimed at dealing with long-time problems in minority neighborhoods of French cities. In broadcast comments Monday, he listed the problems as high youth unemployment, discrimination against ethnic minorities and poor education The riots broke out October 27th after news spread of two Muslim teenagers who accidentally electrocuted themselves while hiding from police at a power station outside Paris.
Jean-Pierre Dubois, the president of the French Human Rights League in Paris, is critical of the curfew – which is based on a 50-year-old French law first used in France and Algeria to suppress violence during the war of Algerian independence. Mr. Dubois told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that the curfew also curbs the civil liberties of immigrants – and allows authorities to search their property without permission from a judge. Mr. Dubois favors the increased involvement of civic groups and elected local officials to quell the disturbances.