Monday, March 02, 2009

sarkozy tightens screws on search warrants

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The Sarkozy administration has moved to further shut down active investigations in France.

A draft law covering the 2009 – 2014 programme of military spending requires judges to request permission for searches that involve defence secrets, reports Le Monde newspaper.

The bill provides for restricting access to locations “likely to harbour elements covered by the national defence" and "local private companies involved in research or defence".

Currently, judges can go where they want and ask the Advisory Committee on National Defence Secrets (CCSDN) for declassification of documents, decided on a case-by-case basis.

Under the new bill, the Ministry of Defence would issue search warrants.

If the ministry gives the green light, the magistrate must make an appointment with the president of the CCSDN to accompany searches in these places.

The magistrate is obliged under the bill to give written reasons for the search, and the documents sought.

If adopted, this process would remove the element of surprise which judges have now when they move to conduct searches on their own decision, in all places classified.

"This is a new step towards regaining control of judges by political powers," says Laurent Bedouet, Secretary General of the Union of Judges (USM majority).

"The government rolled out the heavy artillery to impede or neutralize the work of some judges who are still able to investigate troublesome cases", said the Union of Magistrates.

According to the union, the bill was “designed in response to investigations that have caused turmoil in the political and military milieu: investigating the Taiwan frigates, a search warrant on the presidency for the Borrel case, and, especially, one for the Clearstream Affair at the headquarters of the DGSE (Directorate General for External Security).”


Des magistrats s'insurgent contre le projet d'extension du secret-défense . . .