Macron’s controversial plan to counteract terrorism

Macron’s controversial plan to counter-act terrorism

The French president has presented his cabinet with draft legislation that would transpose the key powers of the country’s state of emergency into the ordinary law of France.

Flore Thomasset

The office of French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday unveiled a three-pronged counter-terrorism initiative.

The Elysée Palace announced the creation of a National Counter-Terrorism Center that will coordinate the work of various intelligence agencies. Macron is soon to name the director of this center as well as of the DGSI and DGSE, France’s domestic and foreign intelligence services.

And on June 21, the government will present a bill that prolongs the current state of emergency “until November 1 at the latest” and another that “strengthens and stabilizes the counter-terrorism legislative arsenal”.

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Reinforced security outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following the attack on police officers there on June 6. / Christophe Ena/AP

It is this last piece of legislation that is set to spark the most controversy.

“It is in no way a question of lowering our guard in relation to the state of emergency: we are going to revert to ordinary law while keeping the same level of security,” is all Macron’s office said on this, except to add that the bill was the subject of inter-ministerial discussions.

Officially, what’s on the cards is to create a way out of the state of emergency within ordinary law. In reality, it is about transposing the state of emergency’s measures into general legislation.

At any rate, this is what has emerged from the draft legislation seen by Le Monde.

The move entails the perpetuation of the power, on the order of the interior minister alone, to place under house arrest for three months “anyone against whom there is serious reason to believe their behavior constitutes a particularly serious threat to security and public order”.

This is a paradigm shift: under ordinary law such measures can only be effected under the authority of a judge and as an alternative to incarceration.  It now means these measures could in future be imposed on mere suspects and without the involvement of a judge, beyond the time frame of the state of emergency.

In the same vein, the interior minister would have the power – currently restricted to the judiciary – to make people wear electronic tags. Police chiefs would be allowed to ban certain people from going to specific locations during demonstrations or big public events.

During the state of emergency, human rights defenders have angrily noted that these prohibitions have been applied to activists who are against changes to labor laws, or who support migrants, or to environmentalists.

Yet the police are on board.

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