Sarkozy review of police database

Human rights outcry as police gather information on sexual orientation, health and politics of people as young as 13.

President Sarkozy has ordered a review of a police database which stores information on sexual orientation, health and political persuasion of people aged as young as 13.

Critics of the Edvige database say it is an attack on civil liberties in France.

Earlier this week a Le Monde editorial described it as a tool worthy of the Stasi and another step down the path to a 1984 Big Brother society.

Over the weekend Defence Minister Hervé Morin openly questioned the need for the sweeping new domestic spy system that will track political, business or religious leaders as well as trade union activists.

While his comments were initially dismissed by PM François Fillon and Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie – the pair have since been ordered by Sarkozy to review the policy.

During talks, Sarkozy “reminded those present that the priority was the fight against juvenile delinquency,” according to a source close to the president.

Set up on July 1 by government decree, the Edvige database holds details of anyone "likely to disrupt public order" and will be run by the new public security police directorate (DCSP).

About 100 civil liberties associations have launched a petition collecting some 130,000 signatures while 13 complaints challenging its legality have been lodged at the state council, France's highest administrative court.

Human Rights Minister Rama Yade acknowledged on Tuesday that “clarifications” were needed, in particular on whether information on a person's sexual orientation will be kept on file.

Alliot-Marie said the Edvige database was simply the continuation of another computerized file system set up in 1991 by the Renseignements Généraux
(RG) police intelligence.

She said the new database was "adapted" to new laws and offered assurances that its use would be "strictly controlled".

But the interior minister stood firm on calls to scrap another database, called Cristina, run by the state's counter-terrorism agency and considered top secret.
"Cristina is protecting the French against terrorism. This is the heart of security," she said.

The Socialist opposition has appealed to the government to withdraw the decree setting up Edvige while a group of 12 unions and rights groups have called a national protest for October 16.