France - Terrorism

French PM defends new anti-terrorism measures after Rambouillet attack

French Prime Minister Jean Castex and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (L) talk to the press in Rambouillet, on April 23, 2021.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (L) talk to the press in Rambouillet, on April 23, 2021. AFP - BERTRAND GUAY

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has on Wednesday defended a new bill aimed at combating terrorism, which he believes necessary to adapt to new threats that are harder to detect.

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Speaking this Wednesday following a cabinet meeting, Castex said the new legislation "reconciles two requirements: giving our services the means to be more efficient while also fully respecting our fundamental principles," working within a strict framework of procedures which will govern implementation of the measures.  

Coming less than a week after a fatal attack on a police official in the town of Rambouillet, the Prime Minister insisted that "the Republic intends to continue to give itself all the means to combat Islamist terrorism."

French police killed a Tunisian suspect following the stabbing of an unarmed administrative employee at the police station last Friday in the town southwest of Paris.

French prosecutors subsequently ascertained the attacker had watched religious videos glorifying acts of jihad just prior to the attack. It was also reported that he came to France without legal paperwork in 2009.

However, Castex refused to make a link between terrorism and illegal immigration, insisting that these issues must be dealt separately on a political and legal level. 

Younger, isolated people being radicalised

"The attack on Rambouillet, the assassination of the professor [Samuel Paty] or the heinous terrorist attack in Nice in November," Castex argued "were the act of isolated individuals, increasingly younger, most often unknown to the intelligence services who have been drawn to unhinged radicalisation without having any established links with terrorist networks."

The Prime Minister also underlined that France is facing threats that are increasingly difficult to identify.

As such, the French State and Justice department must be equipped with robust means to detect, monitor and act against potential threats - including through the increased monitoring of social networks, he said.

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin outlined the new elements contained in the bill, some of which have been criticised by rights groups:

  • French intelligence services will use algorithms to track down extremists online, a method already being trialed since 2015 to monitor messaging apps.
  • Authorities would have greater power to strictly limit the movements of people convicted of terrorism for up to two years after they get out of prison.
  • Warrants to search homes of people suspected of terrorist activities would be made easier to obtain.
  • Police will have the power to close buildings belonging to religious groups, similar to the example of the Pantin mosque outside of Paris following the Paty murder.
  • Access to databases containing personal information would be easier to access.

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