French anti-terrorism law not anti-constitutional
The French constitutional council judged on 19 January 2006, that the new national anti-terrorism law, submitted by the French Senators, was not anti-constitutional.
The Senators were particularly concerned with two provisions of this law. The first one was the provision allowing the police to obtain communication data without any judicial order, in order to "prevent and punish" acts of terrorism (article 6). The constitutional council only found necessary to remove the word "punish" from the article, otherwise considering the article in compliance with constitution, arguing that prevention is indeed the role of police forces, and finding that enough safeguards were already provided by this article.
The second one was the provision allowing the police to automatically monitor cars on French roads and highways, taking picture of licence plates and people in the cars, with various purposes ranging from the fight against terrorism to the identification of stolen cars (article 8). The same article also provides for the monitoring of street people gathering during "big events". Again, the constitutional council has not found any constitutional problem with this provision.
This new French anti-terrorism law also provides, in its article 7, that the ministry of interior may process PNR (passenger name record) data collected on any travel by air, sea or rail to or from non-EU countries. The constitutionality of this provision has not been challenged. This article has the claimed objective "to improve border controls and to fight against illegal immigration". With this anti-terror law, and under the alibi of the fight against terrorism, France is then directly targeting immigrants and even foreigner residents, especially those from North Africa, since they regularly travel by sea to spend holidays at home. France is now the first EU country to follow the example of the US unilateral decision imposing the transfer of PNR data to US customs and border control authorities, as analysed by French EDRI member IRIS.
French constitutional council decision (only French, 19.01.2006)
IRIS press release (only French, 05.12.2006)
EDRI-gram 4.1: France adopts anti-terrorism law (18.01.2006)
(Contribution by Meryem Marzouki, EDRI-member IRIS - France)