An interesting web-exclusive piece from Foreign Policy
on internal French policy toward terrorism
. While a judicial rather than military policy in nature - French anti-terror magistrates have been granted a set of extraordinairy powers that differ from the common Anglo-American understanding of the descriptor " judicial":" France was caught largely unprepared when a series of deadly attacks shook Paris in the mid-1980s. The new terror wave, allegedly ordered by Iran and Syria, involved a geopolitical dimension that the antiquated French police and justice systems were in no position to counter. That prompted the adoption in 1986 of a comprehensive antiterrorism law, which set up a centralized unit of investigating magistrates in Paris—led by Marsaud and later by judge Jean-Louis Bruguière—with jurisdiction over all terrorism cases. Unlike normal French criminal proceedings, terrorist trials in France are judged only by panels of professional magistrates, without the participation of juries.In the French system, an investigating judge is the equivalent of an empowered U.S. prosecutor. The judge is in charge of a secret probe, through which he or she can file charges, order wiretaps, and issue warrants and subpoenas. The conclusions of the judge are then transmitted to the prosecutor’s office, which decides whether to send the case to trial. The antiterrorist magistrates have even broader powers than their peers. For instance, they can request the assistance of the police and intelligence services, order the preventive detention of suspects for six days without charge, and justify keeping someone behind bars for several years pending an investigation. In addition, they have an international mandate when a French national is involved in a terrorist act, be it as a perpetrator or as a victim. As a result, France today has a pool of specialized judges and investigators adept at dismantling and prosecuting terrorist networks."