French PM asks deputies to extend state of emergency

Fight against terrorism/bill to extend the state of emergency – Speech by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, in the National Assembly (excerpts)

Paris, 19 November 2015

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen ministers, ladies and gentlemen deputies, we have especially difficult times ahead of us.

Paris terrorist attacks

On Friday, France – Paris, its capital, and Saint-Denis – were hit as never before. The operation was prepared down to the last detail. It was methodically executed. It was conceived abroad, in Syria and Belgium, and carried out with French accomplices.

At the gates of the Stade de France, three suicide bombers blew themselves up. In five bars, cafés and restaurants in the 10th and 11th arrondissements [districts], people were killed with automatic weapons and a bomb. Finally, in the Bataclan concert hall, there was a masscre.

One hundred and twenty-nine lives were snuffed out mercilessly. At this moment, men and women are fighting for their survival and suffering from their wounds. And while I speak to you, all our thoughts go to them, their families and friends.

France at war

We are at war. It’s not a war to which history has tragically accustomed us. No, it’s a new war – external and internal – where terror is the number one aim and the first weapon.

It’s a war in which the front line is constantly moving and is at the very heart of our daily lives. In January, the editorial team of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. In June, a sensitive site and an appalling act in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier. And now, a large stadium, a café, a concert venue. And before that, there were the failed attacks targeting churches in Villejuif – although one woman lost her life – and on the Thalys.

And yet this new war is a planned war, waged by an army of criminals. What’s new is the modus operandi: the ways of striking and killing are constantly changing. The macabre imagination of those who give the orders knows no limits: assault rifles, decapitation, human bombs, knives, or all simultaneously, perpetrated by individuals or, this time, specially-organized commandos. We must now rule nothing out. We mentioned it yesterday, and I say it with all due care, but we know it: there’s a risk of chemical and biological weapons.

Finally, it’s a new war because it challenges borders. Remotely, in cyberspace, Daesh – Islamic State – just like al-Qaeda, indoctrinates, recruits, trains, interconnects, transmits its orders and organizes.

With a single watchword: chaos. Spreading chaos.

France’s response

On Friday, the terrorists didn’t choose their targets at random.

They attacked young people in love with life, people seeking freedom through knowledge, a taste for diversity, culture, music and connecting with others.

Let’s make no mistake: terrorism struck France not because of what it does – in Iraq, in Syria or in the Sahel – but because of what it is.

This totalitarianism seeks to subject us, make us give up and surrender to fear. But France – because it is France, because it has a whole people behind it – isn’t subjected, doesn’t give up and doesn’t surrender. France fights.

Under the authority of the Head of State, it fights with its armed forces in Africa and the Levant. For the past two days, our Mirage and Rafale planes have been stepping up their strikes on training and command centres in Raqqa. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle set off yesterday. It will enable us to triple our capacity to act.

France fights on its soil. Again yesterday, an unprecedented police operation went ahead in the centre of Saint-Denis, to arrest and neutralize terrorists linked to the attacks of 13 November.

France fights. To that end it needs unity and togetherness. Not because we must silence divisions, but because unity, in these difficult times, is the prerequisite for effectiveness.

Extending the state of emergency

We must be united and, because we’re a great democracy, draw on the strength of our law. And the strength of our law includes the state of emergency.

On Friday, in the face of an attack of such seriousness, a response was needed that was commensurate, immediate and powerful. This operation – provided for by the act of 3 April 1955 – was ordered by decree in under two hours and signed by the Head of State, and it enabled the authorities to implement, without delay, exceptional methods and procedures to protect our fellow citizens and ensure their safety.

Safety is the first freedom. It’s the reason why other freedoms have been or may be temporarily limited, in a strictly necessary measure.

In the Paris region, large gatherings have thus been banned until this Sunday. The state of emergency has also led to 118 house arrests in the space of six days. It’s enabled more than 400 police searches to be carried out, both by day and at night, throughout the country, and 87 weapons, including 11 military weapons, to be seized.

These searches will target all those people known for their involvement in or support for the jihadist movement. Any weapons discovered, any documentation expressing support for terrorism, any evidence of terrorist activity will immediately be brought before the courts and will lead to prosecutions.

House arrests and searches have enabled us to move quickly in dismantling groups likely to act and neutralizing individuals with threatening behaviour.

In addition to these measures, which result directly from the state of emergency, other measures have been taken. An additional 3,000 soldiers will patrol to ensure the safety of our fellow citizens. In total, 10,000 are deployed throughout the country, in addition to the 100,000 police and gendarmes.

On our borders, controls have also been restored. One hundred and thirty-two authorized crossing-points are permanently monitored: 61 by border police and 71 by customs. Checks have also been stepped up on rail and air transport. In this regard, it’s high time Europe adopted the legislation on the PNR – Passenger Name Record – in order to guarantee the traceability of journeys, including inside the EU. It’s a prerequisite for our collective security.

At tomorrow’s Justice and Home Affairs Council – which will be held at our request – Bernard Cazeneuve will emphasize the need to carry out systematic checks at all the EU’s borders on those benefiting from free movement. Unless we do this, the survival of Schengen will be at stake.

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, because the terrorist threat is there, because our fellow citizens are asking us to do everything to protect them, because we must continue acting effectively, the state of emergency must be extended throughout the country, both in metropolitan in overseas France.

The duration submitted for your decision is three months. It will enable us to dismantle terrorist networks more quickly, with due respect for judicial action, which remains the sole medium- and long-term response for neutralizing those networks.

Adapting the law

This extension must be matched by a modernization of the provisions of the 1955 act, because when it was adopted the context was very different.

The 1955 act was conceived to deal with civil unrest, not to confront 21st-century terrorism! So it was necessary to take into account a legal but also technological environment which bears no relation to today’s: the terrorists know this very well.

First of all, the bill submitted to you specifies the scope of house arrest, so as to release its full potential. The measure is little used, even though it’s especially well-adapted to the terrorist risk. We’re broadening the possibility of using house arrest. It must target not only dangerous activities that have been confirmed – i.e. when it’s too late – but also threats based on serious suspicions.

We also envisage coercive action to forcibly take the individuals concerned to their place of house arrest and deprive them of their passports and travel documents. They will also be required to clock in and out and to observe compulsory curfews.

The final, especially important element: a ban is envisaged on all direct or indirect contact, either in person or by telephone or the Internet, between individuals under house arrest and others who pose a threat.

The second aim of the bill is to make searches more effective by enabling the security forces to gain access, when the situation justifies it, to the content of telephones and computers and make copies of it for subsequent use. This is necessary in view of the new organizational and communication techniques used by terrorist networks, which may be using encrypted programmes.

Of course, the law respects the procedural balance needed to protect public freedoms. So on the other hand, it makes police searches impossible on the premises of protected people – journalists, judges – and provides for a right of appeal in accordance with common law.

The bill also aims to close radical Salafist mosques more quickly – within a few days. It’s about dismantling de facto voluntary organizations or groupings which pose a serious threat to public order, by creating a more flexible system than the common law system. We must intervene with the maximum firmness against these supposed places of worship. Radical Islamism, jihadism, are real cancers for Islam. They seduce and lead astray hundreds of individuals. We must combat them with the greatest firmness.

Finally, we’re working to get rid of certain measures that have become obsolete, like control of the press or publications. I know we’re going to debate this, and we’ll listen to Parliament.

All these measures – house arrest, searches, dismantling voluntary organizations – obviously come under the framework of international legislation, including on human rights. For example, Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights authorizes us to take exceptional measures, I quote, “in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”. (…)

Legislation/staffing/constitutional revision

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, the state of emergency is a short-term response tailored to the situation we’re facing. We’ll modernize it; we’ll give it solid legal foundations. But all this must be part of a long-term policy. It requires us, first of all, to equip ourselves with the necessary resources. Since 2012, we have taken action, by creating the General Directorate for Internal Security, by passing – each time by a very large majority – two anti-terrorist acts and an intelligence act, most of whose provisions came into force in October. Legislative developments – which, incidentally, include many parliamentary proposals by the majority and the opposition – have considerably strengthened our services’ action plans: more effective international surveillance, recourse to search techniques such as algorithms, continuous surveillance of jihadists in real time. And we are going to continue – the French demand it of us – the massive increase in staff for services which help fight terrorism, with 8,500 extra jobs: 5,000 in the police and gendarmerie, 2,500 in the justice system and 1,000 in customs. These reinforcements will be supported by the necessary equipment. The Finance Minister will have the opportunity to detail these late this morning in the Senate. As for the number of defence staff, as the President announced on Monday, it will be increased until 2019.

Secondly, providing a long-term solution means revising our constitution. Article 16 provides for the President of the Republic to take “the measures required by the circumstances” only if “the proper functioning of the constitutional public authorities is interrupted”. On Friday, this wasn’t the case. This provision does not correspond to the type of crisis we are experiencing. Nor does that of Article 36, on the state of siege. Because the state of siege can be declared only in the event of “imminent danger, arising from a foreign war or armed insurrection”. It is therefore imperative for the state of emergency to be incorporated into our constitution and thus for it to be given the essential solid foundation. The constitutional revision we’ll be proposing to you will also deal with the situation of French people who, by their actions, sever their ties with the Republic. Here too, and I stress this, judicial review will be introduced to prevent any abuses. These provisions will have to be worked out in more detail, but consideration is already being given, as the President said, to extending the scope of loss of French citizenship to include French-born dual nationals found guilty of terrorist acts.

We also want to place very tight restrictions – I’m taking the opportunity to return to this here – on the return to France of those who have left to wage jihad. If they return to French soil, they pose a very serious security threat. I would remind you that 966 individuals are reported as having gone to Syria or Iraq. Of those, 142 – I repeat, 142 – have died there, 588 are still over there and 247 have returned. These figures show the scale of the threat. Some of them make regular return journeys. Some of them are former terrorists who have “turned away” from jihad and whose sincerity is difficult to gauge. We want to ban these people who are French or resident in France from returning without express permission. This operation, which complements what we established in 2012 – the ban on leaving the territory, the ban on foreign residents returning – presupposes a further stage being reached, by revising the constitution. So we’re building, with clear thinking and a rigorous approach, a constitutionally sound, effective security apparatus, along with – I emphasize this – necessary control mechanisms. Work on this will begin immediately, but resolve doesn’t mean haste. We will have to begin this with a great sense of responsibility, listening and talking to people, and with the desire to move forward together.

Tackling radicalization

Finally, providing a long-term response to Islamist terrorism means tackling once and for all, here, in France, the root causes of this evil. There isn’t, in our country, a generation which is voluntarily set on radicalization. There’s a process, i.e. a build-up over time, with its environments – the prison environment, in particular –, and its virtual spaces – the social networks. This must mobilize all of us, collectively – elected representatives, public authorities, voluntary organizations, trade unions, businesses, religious leaders and the media. Fighting radicalization doesn’t mean having to find excuses or justification. It doesn’t mean blaming ourselves. On the contrary, it means measuring up to a major imperative: to be clear-sighted. This is the work we are carrying out, by allowing professionals to detect signs of radicalization more effectively thanks to special training, by ensuring in every department that radicalized young people and their families are closely monitored by everyone involved – police, teachers, social workers etc. –, by acting in a targeted way and by developing a counter-argument both on social networks and in prisons. It’s a huge task: we must step up our action to achieve this, broaden its scope and go further.

So a first structure for radicalized young people is going to be created. The financing is ready and the finishing touches are being put to the legal framework and educational project. The site will be chosen between now and the end of the year. The first people admitted will be terrorists-turned-informers, whom we will put to the test in order to assess their willingness to reintegrate into the community in the long term. The creation of such a centre – which doesn’t necessarily reflect our culture, at least up until now – based on individual, multidisciplinary monitoring – is essential. But as your colleague Sébastien Pietrasanta emphasizes, the individuals admitted must be admitted following a judicial decision and can in no way be jihadists who have returned from Syria or Iraq. Their place is in prison. A deradicalization centre cannot be an alternative to being locked up.

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, on Friday, France was attacked. The French people, our fellow citizens are – how could it be otherwise? – in shock. They are expecting from all of us firm, swift, effective responses. They are expecting all of us to react proportionately to this shock, this attack. I can appreciate how intense, how unprecedented, too, this moment is for each of you, here, on these benches. But at this moment, we must rise to the challenge. This bill is a response from a strong France, which is unyielding and will always be so. It’s a swift response from a democracy faced with barbarism. It’s an effective response from the law of a free country, of a democracy, faced with an ideology of chaos. It is this imperative we must uphold together./.

Published on 18/02/2016

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