William Molinié // Photo credits: Valery HACHE / AFP 06:22, December 01, 2023

On 12 October, the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor's Office opened a preliminary investigation, as is always the case when French people are victims of attacks abroad. But what is the French justice system doing to support and inform the families of the French victims of October 7?

40 Frenchmen killed by Hamas terrorists. This is the heaviest death toll for French citizens since the attack in Nice in July 2016. 56 days later, they have to make do with a simple press release and a promise to meet in the coming weeks at the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office. If the French justice system is advancing, it is possible to say that it is also Israel's fault. "Israel is a sovereign country, its justice system is not deficient," a judicial source in the anti-terrorism prosecutor's office told Europe 1. Israel intends to keep the upper hand, but the legal issue has clashed with diplomatic interests.

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Quite little room for manoeuvre

To avoid any wrongdoing, Jean-François Ricard, the head of the anti-terrorism prosecutor's office, went to Tel Aviv two weeks ago to meet his Israeli counterpart. But its room for manoeuvre is very limited, if not almost non-existent. As far as the Israeli investigation is concerned, it is not progressing ideally. Two weeks ago, the IDF called on archaeologists to identify the bodies of the victims burned to the ground. They searched for hours for bits of teeth and bones in ashes with sieves and scrapers. Unfortunately, crime scenes are not protected, and this is a far cry from the criminal identification techniques of the 21st century.

However, in Bucha, Ukraine, the mobile laboratory of the French gendarmerie had been deployed. An ultra-modern know-how that could most certainly have accelerated the identification process and above all allowed the victims' relatives to have much faster answers. So far, no international arrest warrant has been issued, but it is not an international arrest warrant that will push a Hamas terrorist hiding in the basement of the Gaza Strip to surrender. Or even that will allow him to be judged one day. Some families apply for these warrants, but they are denied.

"The time for justice is not the time for our expectations"

"I know very well that the time for justice is not the time of our expectations, our impatience and especially that of the families for whom every second is an eternity. France and the international community have set themselves the goal of combating impunity for the most serious crimes. And it's true that there is something very shocking about seeing Hamas leaders still free today, at least not prosecuted, by the courts," said Zimeray, a former diplomat and honorary president of the October 7 victims' association.

This is also the role of justice, to use its tools, even if they are rusty, for the benefit of victims, even if society as a whole may not sufficiently take the measure of this need for justice.