This week will be the national tribute to Samuel Paty. It will also be that of the response that the executive wants to oppose to the fear aroused by the savage assassination of this teacher, victim of having taught freedom of expression to his students. This response to the attack on Friday in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Yvelines), Emmanuel Macron wants it strong – “Fear will change sides”, he thundered Sunday in the closed session of the Defense Council. A sign that he wants to put something concrete on the table without delay, measures are expected from the Council of Ministers on Wednesday. The stakes are high, as the opposition increases the pressure.
At the end of a weekend during which he worked on new measures, in particular around the lifting of anonymity on social networks or the way to better protect freedom of expression, Eric Dupond- Moretti looks dark. “Barbarism is at our doors, at those of our schools,” he said gravely, pressing each word.
The Minister of Justice had not spoken until then. With the Parisian-Today in France, he subscribes, without blinking, to the need to act, to strike hard. But at a time when The Republicans and the National Rally are storming proposals, he retorts that “the bidding is populism and demagoguery”. Solemn, he recalls: “I am Keeper of the Seals and of the Constitution”. And intends to pose as such.
How did you feel after the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine attack?
ERIC DUPOND-MORETTI. Much emotion, sadness, but also anger and revolt, because a man died in atrocious conditions. Barbarism is at our doors, at those of our schools. The hatred of Islamist terrorists – against Jews, the military and all our values - is unquenchable. There, a professor is cowardly murdered just for doing his job: teaching aspiring citizens that freedom of expression is essential.
What can the Minister of Justice do in the face of this tragedy?
My role is to say that beyond emotion, we can only resolve the question that arises with respect for the rule of law. I am the Keeper of the Seals of the Constitution. What distinguishes us from terrorists is that they have no rules. What distinguishes civilization from barbarism is the rule of law. All the answers we can bring to this heinous act will be done within this imperious framework. To free oneself from it, under the influence of emotion, would mean that the terrorists won. There is currently a major law in the works on separatism and, given this event, we will strengthen it further. Not to do so would be blindness. But it should be remembered that, under the mandate of Emmanuel Macron, fifteen places of worship and 212 drinking establishments were closed, thirteen associations suppressed and plans to fight against radicalization are carried out in fifteen low-noise neighborhoods. The intelligence services thwarted 32 attacks. And since the speech of the President of the Republic at Les Mureaux, the enemy has been clearly identified.
Are we at war?
I do not know whether to enter into a semantic escalation, but the war the Minister of Justice wants to wage is part of the law.
Do you intend to act on the regulation of social networks?
Yes. It is already necessary to act at European level. The current legislation is based on a 2000 directive on electronic commerce. Back then, social media was not what it is today. The European Parliament must quickly adopt a text currently under discussion on the removal of terrorist content online and I also wish to bring together the various Ministers of Justice to supervise social networks when they allow the expression of hatred. Nationally, we will step up repression. Modalities are under study. The distribution of illegal videos is currently punished by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros. The Home Office wants to strengthen the Pharos online reporting platform and I share their ambition.
Is the lifting of anonymity one of the avenues you are working on?
Yes of course. But the crest path to be found with the guarantee of freedom of expression is tenuous. So all of this is infinitely complex. It is not about moving towards something that would resemble censorship, even as terrorists seek precisely to attack our freedom of expression.
You suffered, in a personal capacity, when you were Abdelkader Merah’s lawyer, online threats …
I have always said that social networks are both a magnificent instrument of participatory democracy, allowing debate, but also an open-air trash can. As soon as it is the bearer of hatred, of separatism, we must intervene.
How to combine this regulation with respect for individual freedoms?
The Constitutional Council, in its great vigilance, recently reminded us of certain rules, by partly censoring the Avia bill on online hatred or the Braun-Pivet bill on the monitoring of terrorist detainees after their release. We have to find the right balance. Moreover, we are working in parallel on how to better protect freedom of expression. On all this, we will make specific proposals by the end of the week.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin spoke of a “fatwa” when referring to the video of the father of a student who attacks the teacher killed. Do you subscribe to this term?
It is not a legal term, but when we unfortunately know the result of this fatwa, the death of an innocent person, yes, of course. However, this poses a certain number of problems of criminal qualification, and it is on this that the services are working.
The term “fatwa” refers to Salman Rushdie and a call for murder. However, this is a dimension that does not expressly appear in this video …
This is the whole difficulty. The words must have a legal translation. It’s my job. For the moment, we have the qualification of public insults. The job is to know if we can consider something else.
Samuel Paty’s killer was reported in the summer after posting a photo of beheading on Twitter …
The perpetrator was not known to the services. I don’t mind rewriting the whole story, but it wasn’t tracked or filed.
At no time has national unity united the political class …
After the Toulouse attacks in 2012, there was even a truce in the presidential campaign. Since Friday, part of the political class seems to have lost its temper. No sooner was the tragedy public than politicians were already cynically using it for electoral purposes. It disgusts me. It is a great indecency.
The right is building up the pressure. Is there not a risk that the executive will engage in a form of overbidding?
No. My point is, on the contrary, to tell you: we have to work before presenting anything. I could tell you 50 measures. But that’s not what we want to do at all. We can’t lie. It’s easy, the bidding. The bidding is populism and demagoguery. We will leave it to others.
Gérald Darmanin wanted to put on the table a round of screws on the issue of refugee status. Is this an option?
There are a number of rules. I am not closed to anything insofar as our right of asylum is preserved. We do not return to France as we enter a mill, just as we obviously do not only welcome terrorists! In the light of a drama like this, it may be legitimate to have a frightened look at the situation. But Ofpra (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) is doing its job. That we work and that we evoke a certain number of proposals, yes. But they must be done with the law and the protection it provides as a guideline. I have also heard things about the Chechen community, which I find worrying …
Does the conflict between you and the magistrates complicate your mission?
I had a very good meeting (Editor’s note: Monday morning) with the attorneys general, the situation is dramatic enough not to get lost in these stories. I go ahead, work with everyone. I spent my weekend working, that’s what is expected of me.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr