Sheldon Kirshner
Sheldon Kirshner

A disappointing court decision In France

It would appear that the perpetrator of a racially-motivated hate crime in France can conveniently exonerate himself simply by claiming he is under the influence of a psychic disorder.

On April 17, the Court of Cassation, the supreme court in France, ruled that a man who murdered a Jewish woman four years ago cannot stand trial because his consumption of cannabis rendered him mentally delirious.

The significance of this disappointing verdict is disturbingly clear. A person who intends to commit a crime can theoretically escape justice by consuming drugs or getting drunk.

As Francis Kalifat, the president of the Representative Councillor Jewish Institutions in France, said, “From now on in our country, we can torture and kill Jews with complete impunity.”

The current law permits a criminal to avoid a trial if he or she was in a marijuana-induced psychotic state during the commission of the crime. This law obviously needs to be revised, as President Emmanuel Macron recently observed. “Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should, not in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” Macron said in a newspaper interview. “I would like the justice minister to present a change in the law as soon as possible.”

Macron was referring to the notorious Traore case. In 2017, a 27-year-old drug dealer named Kobili Traore, a Muslim immigrant from Mali, viciously beat his Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi, a retired 65-year-old physician and mother of three. He then pushed her out of a window from her third-floor apartment in the Belleville district of Paris. According to one psychiatric report, Traore’s “frantic outburst of hate” was precipitated by the mezuza on the side of Halimi’s door.

One can only conclude that unrestrained anti-Jewish animus induced Traore to kill Halimi, yet prosecutors initially were loathed to call it what it most certainly was — an antisemitic hate crime.

Nearly a year after Halimi’s tragic death, Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was stabbed to death in her apartment in Paris. In this instance, the authorities almost immediately recognized that the cause of her murder was rooted in the venom of antisemitism.

In the past decade, French Jews have been targeted at least twice by Muslims of the jihadist persuasion. Three children and a teacher in a Jewish school in Toulouse were fatally shot by Mohammed Merah in 2011. Four years later, Amedy Coulibaly killed four shoppers in a kosher supermarket in Paris.

It is not clear whether Traore was also a jihadist, but it is obvious that he chose his victim on the basis of her religion. Currently confined to a psychiatric institution, Traore should stand trial because he knowingly committed a hate crime, regardless of his mental state during his murderous rampage.

As one of the Halimi family’s lawyers says, “the use of narcotics cannot be the basis for arguing penal irresponsibility.”

On a brighter note, France has deported a 19-year-old courier from Algeria who was imprisoned after refusing to deliver food from a kosher restaurant in Strasbourg. Identified as Dhia Edine D, he was employed by the Diliveroo delivery company. After he was arrested on charges of discrimination, he was found to have been living illegally in France.

Announcing his deportation, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter, “Antisemitic hatred has no place in France.” One that only hope that Darmanin’s emphatic words will have a deterrent effect on malcontents like Dhia Edine D.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com
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