Minister discusses approach to tackling French jihadists

Fight against terrorism – Interview given by Mme Christiane Taubira, Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice, to the newspaper Le Monde

Paris, 20 October 2015

Q. – Do you consider the French jihadists to be terrorists or fighters?

THE MINISTER – Wars of words are intrinsic to conflict situations and their psychological aspect, which, through communication, makes it possible to garner support or demoralize. Those who commit acts of terror – and how can the attacks, beheadings, torture, rape and the huge exodus of civilians be called otherwise? – are terrorists.

Q. – If they’re terrorists, are French strikes in Syria – which are based on the “self-defence” provided for in the United Nations Charter in the event of an “armed attack” – in keeping with international law?

THE MINISTER – The ideal is to bring the perpetrators of terrorist acts to justice. We’ve given ourselves the procedural means, under the act of 21 December 2012, to prosecute in French courts those who commit these acts abroad. Several proceedings are under way, particularly at the anti-terrorism section [of the Tribunal de Grande Instance] in Paris.

But individuals are scattered and attacks are being organized. Regarding “self-defence”, the United Nations Charter was geared, at the end of the Second World War, to the ultimate danger of one state declaring war on another. Today, we’re confronted by those who started off as hordes of terrorists. They have captured vast areas, taken control of resources, they possess solid logistical and financial assets and are posting on the Internet propaganda and indoctrination messages, a military strategy and targets for destruction. They proclaim countries, which they single out themselves, to be at risk; France is in the front line. There’s no doubt, under the terms of UN Resolution 2170 – adopted by the Security Council on 15 August 2014, it condemns the terrorist acts committed by al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – that France’s security is threatened.

Q. – France, it appears, decided to kill Salim Benghalem and people close to him on 8 October. Do radicalized French jihadists now come under the military sphere?

THE MINISTER – Were cooperation in criminal matters possible with the Syrian authorities, the leaders, senior figures and perpetrators of acts of terrorism could be extradited or subject to other judicial proceedings. It’s not a case of “deciding to kill so-and-so”, it’s not a case of letting our hands be tied by the possible presence of French nationals who have chosen to go to theatres of war and play an active role there. The law of war established by Europe then the United Nations concerns prisoners, combatants and refugees. This law provides for a system of sanctions and of imprescriptibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The courts don’t lose their rights and obligations, but the current response to this terrorism reflects a military necessity which can’t be ignored.

Q. – Is the anti-terrorism courts’ detailed knowledge about jihadists helpful in any way in carrying out the “deradicalization” [programme] established in detention centres?

THE MINISTER – The expertise of the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office is invaluable. The lessons drawn from the investigations and procedures and the information gathered by our administrations complement the knowledge accumulated by academics and practitioners. We’re making the best use of all these elements to monitor radicalized prisoners and prevent radicalization. We’re confronted with one of the most complex challenges for democracies committed to freedoms. At the end of April I organized in Paris the first international meeting of antiterrorist judges, where 50 countries were represented. On Monday, I took part in Brussels in the ministerial conference on the criminal justice response to, and prevention of, radicalization. We’re working a great deal with the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Belgium and third countries such as the United States and Turkey. And we’re comparing the results of methods of monitoring prisoners./.

Published on 29/10/2015

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