How the French treat terror suspects


The French, so quick to denounce America as a savage abuser of human rights, does not exactly coddle their own terror suspects. The Pittsburgh Tribune—Review outlines the treatment received by French detainees formerly held at Guantanamo Bay and subsequently transferred to France.

Two hallmarks of the U.S. judicial system —— the right to have one's lawyer present during questioning and the right to a speedy trial —— do not apply in France. A French citizen or legal resident suspected of links to terrorism can be interrogated for up to four days without an attorney and be imprisoned for four years before going to trial.

Of course, at Gitmo they have no right of counsel, either. But this has infuriated the ACLU and other leftist groups. In France, you don't even have to be an iullegalk combatant to qualify for this treatment.

French courts also admit evidence that other European countries would find too controversial. ...

The public supports the system's broad investigative powers, said Olivier Roy, a French scholar and author researching the radical Muslim movement in Europe.

"It's an issue among human—rights activists, defense lawyers and some intellectuals, but it's not an issue in public opinion. We are used to having strong police and a not—very—independent legal system. It's part of the tradition of a strong state," Roy said.

All terrorism cases are overseen by a small number of Paris—based investigative judges who handle no other kind of case. Their role is solely building cases, which then are handed over to independent judges for trial. Investigative judges can order surveillance and arrests, and they often are assisted by French intelligence, which has a special section for the judiciary.

For all their posturing over the United States, the French have evolved a fairly effective system for dealing with terrorists. They have much longer experience in dealing with terror, dating back at least to the independence movement in Algeria, one of many former colonial appendages that had to fight for their independence.

Further study of what the French do, as opposed to what they say, is warranted.

Ed Lasky and Thomas Lifson   5 31 05