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François Hollande Wants to Reform the French Constitution to Fight 'Army of Jihadis'

"France is at war," Hollande declared at the Palace of Versailles as he addressed the French Parliament and Congress. It was the only the second time a French president has addressed the government in this way.

by Rachel Browne
Nov 16 2015, 6:30pm

Imagen por Philippe Wojazer/pool vía AP

French President Francois Hollande proposed on Monday a host of sweeping legal reforms to combat terrorism at home and vowed to destroy the Islamic State (IS) abroad in his most hard-hitting response to date to the massacres in Paris.

"France is at war," Hollande declared at the Palace of Versailles as he addressed the French Parliament and Congress. "These acts were created by an army of jihadis who are fighting France because it is a country of freedom."

It was the only the second time a French president has addressed the government in this way.

Hollande pledged to continue airstrikes against Raqqa, IS' self-proclaimed capital city in Syria, which Hollande said had become "the biggest manufacturer of terrorists in the world."

Over the weekend, Hollande ordered fighter jets to bomb targets in Raqqa. It has been reported that a command post and training camp were hit.

"This war of another type, faced with a new kind of adversary, asks for a different kind of constitutional regime that will allow us to manage this state of crisis," Hollande said.

Hollande said he would like to see more "coordinated and systematic controls" of borders across the European Union and that France's state of emergency should be extended for three months. French citizens who also hold citizenship in another country should not be allowed back into the country if it's believed they are connected to terrorism, he said. Further, if a French dual citizen is found guilty of terrorist acts, they ought to have their French citizenship revoked, a proposal that seems to be supported by French politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.

Hollande addressing the French Parliament and Congress at the Palace of Versailles. Philippe Wojazer/pool via AP

One of the assailants who carried out the attacks reportedly came to Europe through Greece as a migrant earlier this year. Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far right nationalist party, used that information to demand France cease accepting new migrants as a "precaution."

For Francois Gemenne, a researcher in migration studies at Sciences Po, a Paris-based university, Hollande's military efforts are appropriate, but it will be important for the French government to make sure that any domestic measures that impact civil liberties are balanced properly against concerns about national security.

And any measures taken to close or stop the flow of refugees into Europe should only be exceptional and not permanent. "This is something that the terrorists want to see happen, and we should not give into them," Gemenne said. "Refugees are fleeing the same sorts of terrorist attacks that happened in Paris. ISIS is a similar threat to refugees and any civilized peoples. What the terrorists are trying to achieve is a division in our societies among immigrants, refugees, and nationals."

Related: 'I Knew to Get Up and Run': The Haunting Remnants of the Attacks in Paris

Gemenne said he hopes France goes beyond strong military and law enforcement efforts to combat radicalization. "We cannot win the war against ISIS with only a military response. It needs to be part of it. And most importantly, we should be cautious about calling this a war, because by doing so, we are recognizing ISIS as a legitimate state and their militants as valid combatants."

Over the last day, France has already significantly ramped up its counterterrorism efforts at home.

Police officers carried out 168 raids overnight across the country, which has been under a state of emergency since the attacks on Friday. This gives law enforcement the power to carry out raids without warrants.

Earlier on Monday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the threat of more terrorist attacks remains high. So far, 23 people have been arrested and dozens of weapons have been confiscated. Cazeneuve added that more than 100 people are now under house arrest.

Related: 'I Knew to Get Up and Run': The Haunting Remnants of the Attacks in Paris

Cazaneuve said on Sunday he would like to see the dismantling of "mosques where hate is preached." Earlier this year, France boosted its surveillance of religious and cultural centers.

For that reason, Wassim Nasr, a journalist for France 24 who specializes in jihadist movements, says that would be a waste of time.

"People are not radicalized in the mosques," he said. "Jihadists trying to commit a terror attack do not meet at the mosque to discuss about it — because those places are obviously under massive scrutiny. It would be stupid to even try to plan anything there."

The government's latest proposals and threats are "for PR," he says. "They need to show they are doing something about the attacks to reassure people — which is understandable."

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne