Minister outlines plan to combat France-Syria terror networks

Communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting (excerpts)

Paris, 23 April 2014

(…)

The plan to combat violent radicalization and terrorist networks

The Minister of the Interior made a statement regarding the plan to combat violent radicalization and terrorist networks.

Like the other European countries, France is today confronted with a serious threat linked to several hundred people becoming involved in radical violence, most often in connection with Syrian terrorist networks. For several months there has also been a sharp and worrying rise in departures for Syria. Out of a total of 740 people detected as belonging to these networks, nearly 300 are in Syria, 130 in transit and 130 back home after one or more visits. Twenty-five people have died in Syria in this context.

The emergence of a new generation of seasoned terrorists who could strike on French soil demands a determined, firm and effective reaction by the state. However, crackdowns alone will not suffice to curb the phenomenon. Preventive actions aimed at countering “preachers of hate” will also be carried out.

1. The plan aims, first of all, to prevent journeys by terrorists to or from Syria, by stepping up checks and decisions to withdraw travel documents. Parliament will examine a bill organizing a system to prevent adults involved in terrorist activities from leaving the country. Parents will be able to notify the authorities to prevent their children who are minors from leaving the country.

2. The active fight against jihadist networks will be intensified. The intelligence services’ detection and surveillance activity has been stepped up. Those services will conduct more systematic official interviews with people under suspicion and their families. Measures will be taken to remove foreign nationals implicated in the networks, and the freezing of the assets of the structures used by the networks will be developed. Opportunities to detect networks on the Internet will be increased by extending the investigation to all terrorist activities and all related communication breaches, using disguised identities. The tools and strategy for combating cyber terrorism will be beefed up. The major Internet operators, both in France and at European level, will be urged to ensure that illegal content and recruitment sites are subject to effective and swift elimination procedures.

3. International cooperation with other departure and transit countries will be stepped up. France is playing an active role in the network of European experts who specialize in preventing and curbing radicalization phenomena. Along with its partners, France will spur the EU and the international community into action to support an assistance plan for Syria’s liberated areas. While many people are sincerely moved by the living conditions and health situation of civilians in areas not controlled by the Syrian government, the exploitation of compassion by terrorist networks and the misappropriation of donations must be prevented. This is why it is necessary to give greater visibility to French and European humanitarian aid.

4. A series of preventive measures and campaigns aimed at countering “preachers of hate” will be implemented. The plan takes into account each person’s individual history and their families’ need for support. A national listening and guidance centre will also be created for families. In addition to the legal proceedings decided by the courts, a scheme will be trialled whereby individuals are rehabilitated, in conjunction with the local and regional authorities concerned. This aspect of the plan will enable families’ concerns to be addressed through awareness-raising, support and assistance, while improving the rehabilitation’s chances of success by involving families. Public employees in contact with the members of the public concerned will be given specialized training. Particular attention will be paid to the prison environment./.

Syria/jihadism – Excerpts from the interview given by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, to France Info

Paris, 23 April 2014

(…) We’ve decided to implement three types of provision.

First provision: preventing our citizens from leaving to commit these crimes in Syria.

How can we do that? For those who are minors, this involves ensuring that their parents are able to alert us. Any parent today who feels that their child may be subject to radicalization will be able to notify the Ministry of the Interior and we will immediately place an alert about this young person on the Schengen Information System in order to trigger all the measures linking the EU countries to prevent these young people from crossing the borders of the European Union to travel to Syria.

This isn’t a matter of reinstating [the requirement for] authorization to leave the country; it’s simply a matter of ensuring that we can immediately prevent these young people – when they have been reported by their parents – from leaving our national territory, through the measures that we’re proposing to take.

With respect to adults, if there are serious suspicions, threats to national security, we have the option of withdrawing their passports. This doesn’t involve withdrawing identification papers that allow travel within the Schengen Area; we can’t do that without judicial review proceedings.

Official interviews will also be carried out by our departments in order to make the families and the young people aware of the risks entailed in these departures [for Syria], including the legal risks.

Second provision: dismantling the jihadist networks.

In order to dismantle the jihadist networks, European cooperation is required. I had a meeting with my German counterpart and my Austrian counterpart and will be seeing my British, Italian and Spanish counterparts in order to launch intensive efforts to ensure that the major [Internet] operators no longer allow the broadcasting of videos, photos and messages that incite jihadist activities that are real propaganda and recruitment messages.

Furthermore, we will take action on the Internet in order to identify all high-risk behaviour and all these networks.

Third provision: prevention measures.

Each time a family comes forward to notify us of the situation of a young person or a family member who wants to leave [for Syria], we must be able to immediately implement a support mechanism that will mobilize all actors in various areas under the authority of the prefects.

Those who have left to go to Syria in order to commit atrocities, acts of torture, beheadings, and murders and then return to France will be immediately subject to legal proceedings: they have committed acts that amount to criminal conspiracy in association with a terrorist undertaking. The justice system must do its job and these persons must be prevented from being able to do any harm on our national territory./.

Published on 18/02/2016

top of the page