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Reinforcing internal security and the fight against terrorism

The Act to reinforce internal security and the fight against terrorism was promulgated by the President of the Republic on Monday 30 October 2017. Its provisions are aimed at preventing terrorist acts while preserving individual liberties.
 
WHAT DOES THIS INVOLVE?

The Act contains four key measures.
  
  1. Establish protection perimeters in order to ensure security at events or in particularly vulnerable places (such as sports and cultural events). The Prefect will be able to authorise visual bag inspections and security frisking by private security agents, under the supervision of police officers and gendarmes. Internal security forces will also be able to search vehicles with the consent of the driver. If any person does not submit to checks, he or she will be denied access or removed from the security perimeter.
     
  2. Allow the closure of places of worship when "words, writings, activities, ideas or theories" that incite or endorse terrorism, and incitement "to hatred and discrimination" are used there. In order to regulate the use of this power, a prior adversarial procedure is provided for as well as a time limit which shall be no less than 48 hours, allowing an interim order application to be lodged before an administrative judge.
     
  3. Allow the administrative authority to put in place administrative controls and individual monitoring measures against any person in respect of whom there is serious reason to believe their behaviour constitutes a “particularly serious” threat and who enters into regular contact with individuals or organisations with terrorist intent or who supports or adheres to views that incite terrorism. This measure is less restrictive than house arrest, but is sufficient to ensure effective monitoring. It may be accompanied by the obligation to report once a day to the police or gendarmerie units and may be renewed for three months if new or additional information is presented (within a limit of 12 months). The person may be exempted from this daily obligation to report if they agree to be placed under electronic surveillance. Anyone subject to these measures will be obliged to provide their email login details and subscriber numbers.
     
  4. Allow Prefects to order, only with the prior authorisation of the judge supervising releases and detention, the entry and search of any place if there is serious reason to believe it is being frequented by a person posing a terrorist threat or who is in contact with such persons.
In order to prevent the terrorist threat more effectively, there are two important additional measures.
  
  • The ability to carry out administrative investigations for civil servants in positions of authority and who pose a risk of radicalisation, and where necessary, to take appropriate action, either by transferring, suspending or removing the person(s) concerned.
     
  • The ability to carry out identity checks in border areas or within a 10km radius of airports and international stations. This provision will grant "the ability, when the risk is known to be real and imminent, to arrest individuals who are likely to commit attacks on French soil", said Gérard Collomb during the press conference of 30 October 2017.
The Act also provides for further measures.
 
  • Adapt French law to the Passenger Name Record (PNR). This record lists all air and sea passengers entering or leaving French space, so that the movement of individuals who pose a threat can be detected more easily (learn more by reading: "Adoption of the PNR").
  • Extending the duration and scope of control possibilities in border areas. The text allows for possible identity checks “around railway stations” (not just inside them as before) as well as “within a maximum radius of twenty kilometres around [the most sensitive international] ports and airports”. It also provides for the maximum duration of a check to be increased from six to twelve hours.
  • Introducing a new legal system for surveillance of wireless communications.
     
  • Extend the scope and duration for carrying out checks in border areas. Article 19 reinforces the current provision:
    - by extending the maximum duration of checks from 6 to 12 hours,
    - by allowing checks to be carried out around international stations,
    - by extending the ability to conduct such checks around certain border crossing points (ports and airports) chosen because of the large number of people travelling through them and their vulnerability within a boundary limit of 10 kilometres.
     
  • Establish a new legal regime for monitoring wireless communications. Articles 15 and 18 of the Act establish a legal framework for operations to monitor wireless communications.
     
  • The creation of a new criminal offence carrying a 15-year prison sentence and a fine of €225,000 for parents who incite their children to commit acts of terrorism or travel abroad for that purpose, is provided for in Article 10; this sentence may be accompanied by the loss of parental authority.
Opinion of the National Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques (CNCTR) on the surveillance of wireless communications.
Called on by the Prime Minister to give an opinion, the National Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques (CNCTR), meeting in a plenary session, examined two articles of a bill to reinforce the fight against terrorism and internal security, pertaining to the surveillance of wireless communications.

The CNCTR broadly agrees with the new legal regime, which consists of:
  • on the one hand, incorporating all surveillance measures relating to wireless communications that constitute an invasion of privacy in common law in respect of implementing intelligence techniques and,
  • on the other hand, giving residual application to any measures that can be taken without specific prior authorisation and which constitute a new “wireless exception” that is significantly more limited in scope than that set out in Article L. 811-5 of the French Internal Security Code.
 
1,900
this is the number of recruitments anticipated by 2021,
in addition to an increase in the number of DGSI (French Directorate General for Internal Security) staff (+1,100 agents) within three years, and territorial intelligence staff (+650 agents)
Regarding the treatment of "returnees" (French nationals who went away to fight for terrorist organisations but who have returned to the country), they are subject to legal proceedings on their return to the country, and if it is shown that they have committed acts of war, a sentence is handed down. If they are still in Iraq, the Baghdad authorities can legitimately try them as Daesh fighters. Their children can be repatriated on humanitarian grounds, always on a case-by-case basis. For those in Syria, treatment on a case-by-case basis is provided for and handled by the Quai d’Orsay (the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs).

 

WHY?


Declared on the night of 13 November 2015, the state of emergency has strengthened our protection against the terrorist threat. Having been extended since then, this procedure has, in particular, succeeded in preventing several attacks at the height of the election period, notably in Marseille and the Alpes-Maritimes prefecture.

Given that the threat level continues to be very high, the decision was taken, following the Defence Council of 24 May 2017, to ask Parliament to extend the state of emergency until the following 1 November.  This was the purpose of the first bill presented during the Council of Ministers on 22 June.

However, once the threat becomes sustained, the state of emergency can no longer be the solution.
  • It is designed as a prompt response to deal with exceptional circumstances.
  • It limits the exercise of certain civil liberties, such as freedom of association and demonstration.
  • It gives authorities extensive powers that derogate from common law and which do not solely concern the fight against terrorism.
It was therefore necessary to adapt the legal arsenal in order to equip ourselves with the means to fight terrorism effectively within the scope of common law and so exit the state of emergency on 1 November 2017.

This is the purpose of the Act to reinforce internal security and the fight against terrorism, promulgated by the President of the Republic on Monday 30 October 2017, published in the Journal Officiel (Official Journal) on 31 October 2017 and entering into force the same day.
 
ACTION TAKEN

1 November 2017: exit from the state of emergency.

30 October 2017: promulgation of the legislation by the President of the Republic. The legislation will apply from the end of the State of Emergency: on 1 November at midnight.

18 October 2017: the Senate definitively adopts the conclusions of the Joint Committee of the Two Chambers on the bill stepping up internal security and counterterrorist action. Its text has therefore been definitively adopted.

3 October 2017: adoption of the bill at first reading at the National Assembly

18 July 2017: First reading vote in the Senate

6 July 2017: First reading vote in the National Assembly for the bill extending the state of emergency

22 June 2017: presentation of the bill during the Council of Ministers