The French government presented its new anti-terrorism bill on Wednesday morning (28 April), a few days after a 36-year-old ‘radicalised’ Tunisian stabbed a police employee to death outside a police station in Rambouillet, southwest of Paris. EURACTIV France reports.
“Today, more than ever, our message is clear: the Republic intends to continue to give itself all the means to fight Islamic terrorism head-on,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said at the end of the Council of Ministers’ meeting.
The new bill “relating to the prevention of acts of terrorism and intelligence” is supposed to ratify several measures already tested on a temporary basis.
According to the minutes of the Council of Ministers’ meeting, “the first aim of the bill is to make permanent four counter-terrorism measures […] which parliament had […] authorised to be complemented until 31 July 2021.”
The four measures would include protective perimeters, the closure of places of worship, individual control and surveillance measures, as well as home visits.
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Most notably, the bill also plans to make it easier for the police to search homes of people suspected of posing a terrorist threat and to extend the surveillance of terrorists released from prison. On top of that, it would introduce the use of algorithms to detect signs of radicalisation – an experimental measure which already featured in the 2015 intelligence law.
“This text has a dual purpose: to adapt to new threats that are less easy to detect and to take advantage of new tools linked to new technologies,” said Castex.
In response to freedom organisations accusing the government of wanting to perpetuate mass surveillance, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told the French weekly Journal du Dimanche in an interview that “all major companies use algorithms. And it would only be the state that couldn’t use them?”
Technique des algorithmes – @GDarmanin : "Aujourd’hui, si une personne se connecte et regarde plusieurs fois des vidéos de décapitation sur Internet, nous ne le savons pas. Avec la nouvelle loi, nous connaîtrons ces connexions" #antiterrorisme #le79Inter pic.twitter.com/1vaEKLBRhI
— France Inter (@franceinter) April 28, 2021
Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer of the Human Rights League of France, told France Info, however, that “it is not by monitoring the entire population that you will succeed in preventing this type of radicalisation”.
“We are in the process of constructing today, with full knowledge of the facts, the tools for our enslavement tomorrow,” he added.
The bill also aims to “fluidify” the exchange of information between the intelligence and administrative authorities.
The issue of automated data processing is all the more sensitive after the Council of State – France’s highest legal entity – ruled on 21 April that “the retention of data for purposes other than those of national security is illegal”.
“The government also plans to present an amendment letter to the upcoming Council of Ministers to complete the provisions,” minutes of the Council of Ministers stated.
This new bill is in line with the law “reinforcing respect for the principles of the Republic and the fight against separatism”, adopted on first reading by the Senate a couple of weeks ago. The new so-called “separatism bill’ aims to combat online hate speech and extend the bans imposed on people convicted of terrorism.
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