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French press review 28 July 2016

4 min

How are the French authorities to react to the latest in a series of appalling terrorist attacks? The right wing is calling for more legislation, the left and centre suggest that we may already have passed some dangerous legal limit.


The main story in right-wing Le Figaro says French justice is powerless in the face of the recent wave of attacks by those claiming allegiance to the Islamic Sate armed group.

Despite calls from judges, lawyers and political figures for a "judicial revolutiuon," the authorities refuse all talk of fundamental change.

In the wake of the tragedies in Nice and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, former president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a legal overhaul which would change the scale, the style and the strategy of the judicial response to terrorist-related crimes, starting with the automatic detention of all those who attempt to return to France after a stay in Syria. Current president, François Hollande, has said there'll be no revision of the constitution (a neccessity if the idea of detention for those who have not committed any crime was to become law), no retreat from the position of a state based on law.

Exceptional conditions require exceptional measures

Le Figaro quotes senior legal figures as suggesting that the current exceptional conditions call for exceptional measures, and that the idea of a state based on law is a pointless piety. The constitution must be changed, says the right-wing daily, if only because the French judicial system is basically 200 years old. Why, wonders the paper, does it make sense to increase the investigative powers of the police (as has been done under the state of emergency legislation), but not to increase their powers of protection?

Le Figaro says it is political incompetence which has led to a situation in which justice is powerless.

The law has already been stretched to a dangerous limit

Left-leaning Libération worries at the calls for yet another legislative reaction to a terrorist act, saying that the current legal situation has already reached an unacceptable limit for some commentators, and that the fact that the right is calling for more is frightening.

Change the relationship between Islam and the French state

On the same topic, La Croix wonders what more can be done. The Catholic daily agrees that security adjustments will have to be made, notably in the way in which suspects are supervised. Crucially, says La Croix, France needs to re-examine the laws which determine the relationship beween Islam and the state. The French Islamic Council must be overhauled, says La Croix, on the basis of a clear affirmation of independence from foreign countries, and a committment to republican ideals. But to make that work, adds the Catholic paper, the authorities are going to have to help the French muslim community to build mosques and social centres, rather than hiding behind the principle of independence of church and state.

Promote justice, not judicial weaponry

Communist L'Humanité offers four broad suggestions to improve efforts against terrorists.

The French, says the communist daily, must avoid all talk or thought of a "clash of civilisations" or a religious war.

They must facilitate justice, not add new statutes to the judicial weaponry.

France must work seriously towards a peace settlement in the Near and Middle East.

And more money and effort has to be expended to give real meaning to the pious idea of "social cohesion".

Will Brexit break Ireland in two?

On inside pages, Le Monde looks at the impact of the Brexit vote on the island of Ireland, divided between the Irish Republic, resolutely pro-European, and Northern Ireland, forced out of the European Community by last month's referendum. The crucial question concerns the re-establishment of a border between these two entities.

The new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is against any return to the days of a physical division of Ireland. But Le Monde points out that an open-door policy between an EU-country and a non-EU neighbour is simply going to offer a gold mine to smugglers of all descriptions.

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