We must counter force with law and justice (02/10/2015) [fr]
“The Importance of the Rule of Law in Countering the Current Terrorist Threat”
Speech by Ms. Christiane Taubira, Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice in front of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee - 10 February 2015
Thank you Madam Chairperson,
Thank you Executive Director,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Madam Chairperson, thank you very much for your words of welcome and for expressing your support and solidarity for France. Executive Director, thank you for outlining the challenges that we face in such a clear yet concise manner.
“Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself.” Albert Camus was already talking in this way in 1957, on December 10 in Stockholm, where he delivered his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Isn’t our primary task to prevent the world from destroying itself? We are meeting here to try and understand and analyze the devastating power of terrorism in order to neutralize and eliminate it. In the face of this threat which is destabilizing countries, which is manipulating regional balances, which is trampling on the hopes for an international order, I believe that our multilateral conceptual and operational capacities are being challenged.
We are united by determination but we are also united because we don’t have a choice: the diversity and seriousness of the terrorist threat which has no regard for borders, languages, cultures, integration, or the future, jeopardize our common security. And our security depends on the ability of a country, a region - under constant collective vigilance - to anticipate and contain this threat, in its previous, its new and its ever-changing forms. We have to be able to grasp, understand and assess the situation.
10,000 terrorist attacks were reported last year; 10,000 new attacks which killed 18,000 people. As outlined by the Global Terrorism Index, as set out in the report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the number of attacks increased by 61% between 2012 and 2013 and the number of victims increased by 44%. Five countries account for 85% of the victims: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Fanaticism, which forms the basis of the terrorism we’re now facing, goes beyond propaganda: It provides real methods of indoctrination based on separation from family and society and religion-based recruitment. It’s couched in old ideas, including conspiracy theory, greatly magnified by Internet and social network capabilities. But new ideas are gaining ground, especially the notion of absolute truth which must be imposed on everyone. And above all, it changes its methods, its operational methods; it expands its areas, its targets and embraces new media platforms, video games, as well as religious, cultural, superstitious and film references. And that’s how it manages to inspire young people in search of meaning, in search of a new cause, in search of opportunities to push their limits or to transcend their daily routines.
We need to examine - at least as far as France is concerned - the percentage of recently converted people among those who have been recruited. Their lack of religious knowledge should raise questions. 25% is a lot. And we should therefore examine the process whereby the search for a noble cause becomes a fateful mission to cause and desire death. This violence is of course beyond our comprehension and we have to ask ourselves if it’s even remotely rational. But if we are not to be defeated, we must have the courage to ask questions, to question this fascination for crime, for death and what it can tell us about the search and need for utopia, for ideals, and future prospects. The great philosopher Simone Veil said, “It is the void which makes men capable of sin. All sins are attempts to fill voids.” She was no doubt also thinking of crime.
The question we’re facing is how to respond to this situation. France has chosen to respond in a number of ways, and they fall into four major categories.
— The first consists of an arsenal of criminal and legislative measures that was revamped in December 2012 and November 2014, introducing new tools for investigators and judges, and criminalizing new practices, including the ability to spread and conceal information via the Internet and social media. We are also stepping up procedures for fighting racism and anti-Semitism, and for protecting victims and witnesses. We are fine-tuning the system for protecting reformed offenders, and we are creating a file to help us track individuals convicted of terrorism.
— The second is a government action plan designed to dismantle networks (more than 15 to date) and prevent the movement of certain individuals, keeping them from leaving or entering the country. It incorporates a national telephone and Web system that allows us not only to receive alerts but also to support families that have been thrown into disarray by the process of violent radicalization. This plan also aims to limit and prevent the spread of illegal content on social networks and to bolster the effectiveness of international cooperation.
— The third part establishes an array of government responses: in the areas of security and justice, but also education, urban policy and job programs. These public policies are coupled with a major increase in jobs and technical means. As far as justice is concerned, that means the establishment of a nationwide network of referring magistrates, the creation of a network of secularism/citizenship counselors to mentor young people in the juvenile justice system, a massive training plan for all legal personnel, and the hiring of prison chaplains. But also boosting the security of prisons, courts, and high-tech equipment, establishing an Internet monitoring unit, and hiring interpreters.
— The fourth part of our response consists of rigorously analyzing the processes and phenomena of indoctrination, understanding them, establishing indicators to detect violent radicalization processes, and instituting deprogramming sessions. For that purpose, we have designed partnerships with universities and research entities, conducted research/action programs in several prisons over the past six months, and are closely studying experiments being conducted elsewhere.
Obviously, national responses are both crucial and insufficient. That is why we want France’s efforts to be part of a broader multilateral endeavor and are making every effort to act at both the regional and international level.
At the regional, European level, we are working to strengthen the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). We are also striving to update directives and framework decisions with respect to the definition of offenses – as the methods being used and the forms they take are often new – and on gaining expertise with respect to the content of Internet platforms. By the same token, we are strengthening Eurojust, which is our legal framework and which supports national legal systems. We are also strengthening our relationships with third countries, particularly with respect to the exchange of information on criminal records.
At the multilateral level, you are already aware of France’s commitment, as President Hollande attended the Security Council summit chaired by President Obama that led to the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2178 on the definition of criminal offenses and halting terrorist travel.
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, is also deeply involved with this issue, as reflected by France’s participation in the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel last December and in the Global Counter Terrorism Forum in Marrakech, also in December. We know that work must be done on the international level, and we know that by joining forces we will be able to improve our legal and institutional capabilities and thereby create true unity.
Obviously, we must consider the political, economic and social context. Extreme disparity, the very serious nature of the terrorist acts, and the way in which certain countries are more exposed to it and more affected by it, suggest that other factors – economic, political, cultural, social - must be taken into account. Terrorism is not elsewhere, it is everywhere. It is fueled by poverty, humiliation, insecurity, dislocation, economic and social imbalances. It feeds on distress and on the conviction, the feeling, that there’s no future. There it prospers, spreading its poison in increasingly fragmented societies where economic and social factors result in a growing number of people experiencing poverty and exclusion, facing misfortune, unexpected vulnerability, smug indifference, isolation, marginalization, and social disconnection.
We must provide a response to this. Well, what do we know about the state of the world? What we know is that there’s still a spectacular difference in income and living conditions between the richest people and the poorest people. The World Bank says more than a billion people live on less than €38 a month. And this gulf between the richest and the poorest is still a North-South divide, because half of the poorest people are in sub-Saharan Africa and a quarter in South Asia.
But this gulf is also opening up in the North; it’s also deepening in the South. We must address it, and the international community isn’t being inactive, because the Human Development Index that we’ve been able to measure for a quarter of a century shows us that considerable progress has been made in education and health. And this progress is important, because when abject poverty and inequality are reduced, those conditions improve peace and contribute to the Millennium Development Goals.
Those are the conditions that enable us to combat terrorism, because if, by improving living conditions, we manage to ensure that hope for the future is rekindled and that people once again believe in political will, through justice, we will have helped dry up the breeding grounds where terrorists are recruited. This means the pre-eminence of the law, it means respect for treaties, and it also means active solidarity. It’s important to note that not everyone who suffers exclusion succumbs to the temptation of destructive violence, and that most people continue to respect the rules and continue their daily struggles. We know there are links between organized crime and terrorism. So we must step up international cooperation in the fight against all forms of trafficking: of drugs, weapons and human beings, and also trafficking that exploits abject poverty and climate migration. We’re capable of doing this; we must provide the necessary structural solidarity to those countries most exposed to it.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must build peace, and build peace through the law – build peace through the law because recent situations in several countries have taught us that in order to build peace and ensure peace lasts, it’s not enough to win the war, it’s not enough to note the end of confrontation and sign treaties. You have to assert peace, prevent a resumption of hostilities. We must ensure that even when we see military intervention is useful, we really see it can lead to shifts in the balance of power and new allies. So we must know that, in order to build lasting peace, it’s not enough to wage war on terrorism. And also, declaring war may be a semantic trap, both legally and ethically, insofar as it may suggest a symmetry of objectives and goals. So we must build lasting peace. And we must start doing so without giving up the rule of law, our values, those very individual, collective and public freedoms which the terrorists detest, particularly when those individual and public freedoms concern women.
So we most likely haven’t yet found all the – right – words, in all languages, to give a name to this phenomenon of devastation and violence which is incomprehensible to us. But we’re going to continue our efforts to give [it] a name – because in this forum in particular, we can’t accept the surrender of thought and we know that we must counter force with the law and with justice. Countries have been capable of this, countries inspired by the thinking of John Rawls, who said that justice is the first virtue of social institutions, just as truth is the first virtue of systems of thought. The law must be able to respond to force in no uncertain terms. Certain countries have been capable of this. The most symbolic is probably the South Africa of Nelson Mandela; the most recent, perhaps, Tunisia. But many countries in the world know that in paroxysmal situations it is necessary for the law and justice to respond to force in no uncertain terms. So we must restore the goal of ensuring the emancipation of everyone, in each of our countries. The emancipation of individuals, rescuing them from all forms of alienation – on economic, social, cultural or superstitious grounds, all forms of alienation – and ensure that through education, through culture, through employment, but also through social ties, through involvement in the life of a society, they can dream about and map out their personal destiny. We’re going to do this because it is essential for bringing calm to our societies. And so, just as there are nation-states, so there will be nation-relations. Just as there are distinguishable borders which separate, so there will be distinguishable borders which provide a link, and which will be distinguishable in providing a link. This is what Edouard Glissant spoke about in L’intraitable beauté du monde [the uncompromising beauty of the world].