As for the killings committed by Mohamed Merah in 2012 in Toulouse and Montauban, as for the assassination of Father Hamel in 2016 in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray (Seine-Maritime) or that of the prefect Erignac in 1998 in Ajaccio, it The trial for the Nice attack will take place in Paris, which opens on Monday, September 5. Inside the old courthouse in the capital, on the Ile de la Cité, in the ephemeral hall of the great trials where the November 13 attacks ended at the end of June.
If common law offenses are judged according to the place where they are committed, terrorist offenses are judged in Paris, regardless of where the facts took place, as permitted by article 706-17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides that “for the judgment of offenses [qui constituent des actes de terrorisme]the Criminal Court and the Court of Assizes of Paris exercise jurisdiction concurrent with that [du lieu où a été commise l’infraction] “. “It is a concurrent jurisdiction in law, but an exclusive jurisdiction in fact”we explain to the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (PNAT).
This situation results from the law of September 9, 1986, which aimed to centralize in Paris the investigation of terrorist cases, which until then had been scattered, at a time when France was affected by an unprecedented series of attacks throughout the country, terrorism both domestic – Direct Action, in particular – and international – Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Fractions (FARL), for example.
Four attacks committed in the jurisdictions of four different jurisdictions by the FARL had thus given rise to the opening of four investigations into the same organization, led in parallel by four investigating judges – in Lyon, Paris, Nanterre and Strasbourg. With the law of September 9, 1986, a single service of the Paris public prosecutor’s office (the central service for the fight against terrorism, ancestor of the PNAT) and a single center of instruction would monitor major terrorist cases, and it is in Paris that the crimes would be judged by professional magistrates, and not jurors drawn by lot – some, on the left, saw in it the return of the State Security Court, abolished in 1981.
A debate on relocation
“A single trial court makes it possible to have judges with real knowledge of the subject”, argues the PNAT. Example: two assessors of the trial of the attacks of November 13 will be again for that of the attack of Nice. Resulting “a homogeneous penal response, a form of logic and consistency in decisions”. Moreover, expatriating in Paris certain trials linked to Basque and (especially) Corsican terrorism made it possible, at the time, to dispense justice far from the pressures to which magistrates and jurors could be subject in Pau or Bastia.
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