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Reinforcing internal security and the fight against terrorism

The bill designed to step up internal security and counterterrorism was definitively adopted by the Parliament on 18 October 2017. Its provisions are aimed at preventing terrorist acts while preserving individual liberties.
 
WHAT DOES THIS INVOLVE?

The bill 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 meetings). 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 refused access or will be removed from the security perimeter.
     
  2. Enabling places of worship to be closed when “statements, writings, activities, ideas or theories” that encourage or advocate terrorism or incitements “to hatred and discrimination” take place in them. In order to provide a framework for exercising this power, a preliminary contradictory procedure is provided for along with a waiting period of at least 48 hours prior to execution, enabling an emergency injunction to be filed with an administrative court.
     
  3. Enabling the administrative authority to set up administrative checks and individual surveillance measures regarding any individual whose behaviour there is good reason to believe constitutes a “particularly serious” threat and who has regular contacts with individuals or organisations with terrorist aims or who supports or ascribes to notions that encourage terrorism. This measure may be implemented alongside the obligation for such individuals to show up at police departments or gendarmerie units on a daily basis, and may be renewed for a further three months if new or complementary facts come to light (up to a maximum of twelve months). Individuals concerned may be exempted from the obligatory daily sign-in system if they agree to be placed under electronic surveillance. Individuals submitted to such measures will be obliged to communicate their email usernames and subscription numbers.
     
  4. Enabling Prefects, following authorisation by a Juge des Libertés et de la Détention (Judge of Liberties and Detention), to order a visit to any place which there is good reason to believe is frequented by an individual representing a terrorist threat or who is in contact with individuals representing a terrorist threat.
The bill also provides for other 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.
  • Creating a new crime punishable by fifteen years’ imprisonment and a 225,000-euro fine, with regard to parents who encourage their children to commit terrorist acts or to go abroad for such a purpose; such punishment may be accompanied by deprivation 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.
 

WHY?


Declared on the night of 13 November 2015, the state of emergency serves to strengthen our protection against the terrorist threat. Having been extended since then, this procedure has led to several attacks being thwarted.

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

However, this derogatory legal regime cannot continue indefinitely. For this reason, in confronting a threat that is now lasting in nature and before considering ending the state of emergency, the State needs to be provided, in advance, with new legal means under common law to better prevent the terrorist threat outside a state of emergency. This is the purpose of the second bill which aims, by 1st November, to provide the State with new, permanent tools for preventing and fighting terrorism, reserving states of emergency for exceptional circumstances.

The use of such common law measures is closely regulated by strict criteria concerning individuals who are likely to be subject to them. It is also conditional on respecting the sole purpose of preventing terrorist acts. Thus the conditions for implementing the proposed measures, the means for their control as well as their impact, differ from those provided for in the State of Emergency Act.
 
ACTION TAKEN

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