France's Macron calls for change in law following Sarah Halimi ruling

CRIF Jewish umbrella group seeks to raise awareness about Halimi in civil society, support efforts to change law.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits Lebanon, September 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/GONZALO FUENTES/POOL)
French President Emmanuel Macron visits Lebanon, September 2020
French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a change in the law after the highest French court of appeals last week ruled the murderer of Sarah Halimi could not be held criminally accountable for his actions since he took cannabis before he committed the crime.
“Deciding to take drugs and then ‘becoming mad’ should not in my eyes remove your criminal responsibility,” Macron told Le Figaro in an interview published Sunday.
“On this topic, I would like the minister of justice to submit a change to the law as soon as possible,” he said.
“It is not for me to comment on a court decision, but I would like to tell the family, relatives of the victim and all fellow citizens of the Jewish faith who were awaiting this trial of my warm support and the determination of the Republic to protect them,” Macron said.
The French Jewish community was angered by the Court of Cassation’s ruling.
In April 2017, Kobili Traoré, a 27-year-old Muslim man, beat Halimi, his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, while screaming “Allahu Akhbar” and antisemitic slogans before throwing her out of the window of her third-floor apartment.
A lower court ruled in December 2019 that Traore was not criminally responsible for his actions since his heavy intake of cannabis had compromised his “discernment,” or consciousness.
The Court of Cassation upheld the ruling last week.
Macron’s comments followed outrage in the French Jewish community over the court’s ruling and statements by Jewish leaders that they intend to lobby for a change in the law.
Several Jewish organizations plan to protest the ruling next Sunday at Paris’s Place Du Trocadero.
Yonthan Arfi, vice president of CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), condemned the ruling, saying it left a gaping hole in the ability of the state to combat hate crimes.
There would be no further possibility of having Traore convicted and punished, but CRIF will be fighting on two fronts to redress the problem more broadly, he said.
CRIF would conduct an awareness campaign about Halimi’s murder and ensure that the general public knows her story, Arfi said.
The organization would seek a change in the law so that individuals are still criminally responsible for their actions even if they have taken drugs, he said.
“We are starting to build a consensus on this idea,” he added. “Many people in France consider it natural that if you drink wine and get in a car crash you are responsible for losing control of your car.”
Such a bill has not yet been submitted to the French parliament, but numerous members of parliament have expressed support for such an amendment, Arfi said.
“This crime was symbolic of the new antisemitism,” he said. “The perpetrator was a Muslim. He was praying to Allah while murdering her. He was radicalized with a radical Islamist vision, and he knew she was Jewish, so we cannot accept that the antisemitic part of this crime will be erased from the collective memory of Sarah Halimi in French society.”