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HRW Urges France to Remain Mindful of Human Rights

FILE - Forensics of the French police search for evidence Nov. 18, 2015, outside a building in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, where French police special forces raided an apartment.

Human Rights Watch is urging French authorities to avoid "trampling on human rights" as they pursue terrorists after the deadly Paris attacks.

French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency after the November 13 attacks in Paris and the suburb of Saint-Denis killed 130 people and injured more than 300 others.

The French parliament has since extended the decree by another three months.

"The French government should keep people safe and bring those responsible for the horrific attacks to justice, but it also has a duty to protect people's freedom and rights," said Izza Leghtas, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Parliament should ensure that the sweeping powers it has granted the government are used in the narrowest possible way and for the shortest possible time."

Since the state of emergency was declared, Le Monde newspaper reported Monday that French authorities have conducted 1,072 searches and 139 police interrogations, detaining 117 people and placing another 253 under house arrest.

The emergency powers allow the government to impose house arrest without authorization from a judge, conduct searches without a judicial warrant, seize any computer files it finds, and block websites deemed to glorify terrorism without prior judicial authorization.

Human Rights Watch warned that these powers interfere with the rights to liberty, security, freedom of movement, privacy and freedoms of association and expression.

"Now more than ever, France should be irreproachable in its respect for human rights," Leghtas said. "Excessive restrictions would be a gift to those who seek to instill fear, undermine democratic values, and hollow out the rule of law in France and in Europe."