Procedure : 2016/2295(IMM)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0047/2017

Texts tabled :

A8-0047/2017

Debates :

Votes :

PV 02/03/2017 - 6.1

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2017)0056

REPORT     
PDF 379kWORD 58k
28.2.2017
PE 595.654v02-00 A8-0047/2017

on the request for waiver of the immunity of Marine Le Pen

(2016/2295(IMM))

Committee on Legal Affairs

Rapporteur: Laura Ferrara

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTEIN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION

on the request for waiver of the immunity of Marine Le Pen

(2016/2295(IMM))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request for waiver of the immunity of Marine Le Pen forwarded on 5 October 2016 by Jean-Jacques Urvoas, French Minister of Justice, in connection with an investigation being conducted by the Nanterre Regional Court into the posting by Ms Le Pen of violent Islamist images on her Twitter account,

  having heard Jean-François Jalkh, representing Marine Le Pen, in accordance with Rule 9(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union and to Article 6(2) of the Act of 20 September 1976 concerning the election of the Members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage,

–  having regard to the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 12 May 1964, 10 July 1986, 15 and 21 October 2008, 19 March 2010, 6 September 2011 and 17 January 2013(1),

–  having regard to Article 26 of the French Constitution,

–  having regard to Rule 5(2), Rule 6(1) and Rule 9 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0047/2017),

A. whereas the French judicial authorities have requested that the immunity of Marine Le Pen, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Front National (FN) party, should be waived in connection with proceedings relating to the posting on her Twitter account, on 16 December 2015, of violent images showing the murder of three hostages by the terrorist group Daesh, together with the comment ‘This is Daesh’, following an interview broadcast on RMC in which a comparison was drawn between the rise of the FN and the activities of Daesh;

B.  whereas it is the established legal practice of the European Parliament that immunity may be waived where oral or written statements and/or images that are the subject of legal action have no clear or direct connection with the performance of parliamentary duties by the Member of the European Parliament against whom proceedings are being brought and do not constitute opinions expressed or votes cast in the performance of those duties, within the meaning of Article 8 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union and Article 26 of the French Constitution;

C.  whereas, furthermore, Article 9 of that Protocol stipulates that Members of the European Parliament ‘shall enjoy, in the territory of their own State, the immunities accorded to members of their parliament’;

D.  whereas the dissemination of violent images likely to undermine human dignity is an offence covered by Articles 227-24, 227-29 and 227-31 of the French Criminal Code;

E.  whereas Article 6-1 of French Law No 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 on confidence in the digital economy, transposing Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the internal market ('Directive on electronic commerce'), covers the activities of information society service providers, not individuals;

F.  whereas, although the images posted by Ms Le Pen can be accessed by anyone via Google and have been widely reposted on the internet since they appeared on her Twitter account, this does not alter the fact that their violent nature is likely to undermine human dignity;

G.  whereas the family of the hostage James Foley asked for the three photographs to be removed on 17 December 2015, i.e. following the opening of the investigation by the French judicial authorities, and whereas, in response to that request, Marine Le Pen removed only the photograph of James Foley;

H.  whereas the speed at which legal proceedings have been taken against Marine Le Pen is comparable to the pace of other proceedings in matters relating to the press and other media, and whereas there therefore is no reason to suspect that this may be a case of ‘fumus persecutionis’, i.e. a situation in which there are signs or evidence of an intent to persecute an individual;

I.  whereas Article 26 of the French Constitution stipulates that no member of parliament may be arrested for a crime or be the subject of any other custodial or semi-custodial measure without the authorisation of the parliament;

J.  whereas it is not for the European Parliament to take a stance on the guilt or otherwise of the Member or whether the acts attributed to her warrant the opening of criminal proceedings;

1.  Decides to waive the immunity of Marine Le Pen;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the report of its committee responsible immediately to the competent authority of the French Republic and to Marine Le Pen.

(1)

Judgment of the Court of Justice of 12 May 1964, Wagner v Fohrmann and Krier, 101/63, ECLI:EU:C:1964:28; judgment of the Court of Justice of 10 July 1986, Wybot v Faure and others, 149/85, ECLI:EU:C:1986:310; judgment of the General Court of 15 October 2008, Mote v Parliament, T-345/05, ECLI:EU:T:2008:440; judgment of the Court of Justice of 21 October 2008, Marra v De Gregorio and Clemente, C-200/07 and C-201/07, ECLI:EU:C:2008:579; judgment of the General Court of 19 March 2010, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-42/06, ECLI:EU:T:2010:102; judgment of the Court of Justice of 6 September 2011, Patriciello, C-163/10, ECLI: EU:C:2011:543; judgment of the General Court of 17 January 2013, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-346/11 and T-347/11, ECLI:EU:T:2013:23.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

I.  FACTS

At the sitting of 24 October 2016, the President announced, pursuant to Rule 9(1) of the Rules of Procedure, that on 5 October 2016 he had received a letter from the French Minister of Justice, Jean-Jacques Urvoas, requesting the waiver of the immunity of Marine Le Pen. The President referred the request to the Committee on Legal Affairs under Rule 9(1).

An investigation into Ms Le Pen was opened by the French judicial authorities following the posting on her Twitter account of three violent images that were likely to undermine human dignity and showed the murder of three hostages by the terrorist group Daesh on 16 December 2015. The three photographs, which were not blurred, showed US hostage James Foley being beheaded, Moaz Al-Kazabeh, a Jordanian pilot, being burned alive in a cage and Fadi Ammar Zidan, a Syrian soldier, being crushed alive under the tracks of a tank. The images were accompanied by the following comment by Marine Le Pen: ‘This is Daesh!’. Their publication followed on from an interview, conducted by Jean-Jacques Bourdin with the political scientist Gilles Kepel and broadcast the same day on RMC, in which a comparison was drawn between the rise of the FN and the activities of Daesh. Before publishing the images in question, Marine Le Pen tweeted the following comments: ‘The parallel drawn this morning by Jean-Jacques Bourdin between Daesh and the Front National is unacceptable. He must withdraw these disgusting remarks’.

Informed of these facts, the Nanterre Public Prosecutor asked the Central Office for Combating Crime Linked to Information and Communication Technologies (OCLCTIC) to close its investigation and forward all the evidence in its possession so that the matter could be referred to the Crimes Against Persons Unit (BRDP) in Paris.

The following day, 17 December 2015, the family of the hostage James Foley called for the removal of the three images. Ms Le Pen removed only the image of James Foley, stating ‘I did not know that it was a photo of James Foley. It can be obtained by anyone via Google. I learnt this morning that his family was asking me to remove it. I of course removed it immediately’.

Marine Le Pen was summoned to appear before the (BRDP) for questioning on 5 January 2016. On 4 January 2016, David Dassa-Le Deist, Ms Le Pen’s counsel, informed the investigators that his client would not attend the interview and that she was only prepared to ‘answer, if necessary, to a judge’.

On 21 January 2016, the Public Prosecutor, Catherine Denis, opened a judicial investigation into the dissemination of violent images likely to undermine human dignity, an offence covered by Articles 227-24, 227-29 and 227-31 of the French Criminal Code.

On 31 March 2016, Ms Le Pen was summoned to appear for initial questioning at 10.30 on 29 April 2016. By letter of 28 April 2016, David Dassa-Le Deist informed the court that Ms Le Pen would not appear for questioning the following day, arguing that as a Member of the European Parliament she enjoyed immunity against proceedings concerning her freedom of expression. He added: ‘Please understand that we are not challenging your authority, but rather the purpose of the proceedings brought by the public prosecutor’s office, which, on a matter as fundamental as this, is seeking to restrict the freedom of expression of a French parliamentarian’.

On 30 August 2016, the Vice-President and examining magistrate, Carole Bochter, forwarded to the Public Prosecutor at the Versailles Court of Appeal, via the Public Prosecutor at the Nanterre Regional Court, a request for the waiver of the immunity of Marine Le Pen.

On 7 September 2016, the Public Prosecutor at the Versailles Court of Appeal, Marc Robert, forwarded the original of the request for the waiver of the parliamentary immunity of Ms Le Pen to the French Minister of Justice, Jean-Jacques Urvoas.

On 5 September 2016, Mr Urvoas forwarded to the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the request submitted by the Public Prosecutor at the Versailles Court of Appeal for Ms Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity to be waived so that she might be questioned in connection with the charges brought against her.

II.  THE LAW

a)  European law

Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

‘Article 8

Members of the European Parliament shall not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties.

Article 9

During the sessions of the European Parliament, its Members shall enjoy:

a) in the territory of their own State, the immunities accorded to members of their parliament;

b) in the territory of any other Member State, immunity from any measure of detention and from legal proceedings.

Immunity shall likewise apply to Members while they are travelling to and from the place of meeting of the European Parliament.

Immunity cannot be claimed when a member is found in the act of committing an offence and shall not prevent the European Parliament from exercising its right to waive the immunity of one of its Members.’

Act of 20 September 1976 concerning the election of the Members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage

Article 6(2)

Members of the European Parliament shall enjoy the privileges and immunities applicable to them by virtue of the Protocol of 8 April 1965 on the privileges and immunities of the European Communities.’

Judgment of the Court of Justice of 6 September 2011, Patriciello, Case C-163/10

‘Article 8 of the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, annexed to the EU, FEU and EAEC Treaties, must be interpreted to the effect that a statement made by a Member of the European Parliament beyond the precincts of that institution and giving rise to prosecution in his Member State of origin for the offence of making false accusations does not constitute an opinion expressed in the performance of his parliamentary duties covered by the immunity afforded by that provision unless that statement amounts to a subjective appraisal having a direct, obvious connection with the performance of those duties. It is for the court making the reference to determine whether those conditions have been satisfied in the case in the main proceedings.’

b)  French law

French Constitution

‘Article 26

No Member of Parliament shall be prosecuted, investigated, arrested, detained or tried in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast in the performance of his official duties.

No Member of Parliament shall be arrested for a serious crime or other major offence, nor shall he be subjected to any other custodial or semi-custodial measure, without the authorisation of the Bureau of the House of which he is a member. Such authorisation shall not be required in the case of a serious crime or other major offence committed flagrante delicto or when a conviction has become final.

The detention, subjection to custodial or semi-custodial measures or prosecution of a Member of Parliament shall be suspended for the duration of the session if the House of which he is a member so requires.

The Assembly concerned shall meet automatically for additional sittings to enable, where appropriate, the provisions of the preceding paragraph to be applied.’

French Criminal Code

‘Article 227-24

The manufacture, transport, distribution by whatever means and however supported, of a message bearing a pornographic or violent character or a character seriously violating human dignity or constituting an incitement to terrorism or inciting minors to engage in games that place them in physical danger, or the trafficking in such a message, is punished by three years’ imprisonment and a fine of €75 000, where the message may be seen or perceived by a minor.

Where the offences under the present article are committed through the press or by broadcasting or by means of online public communication, the specific legal provisions governing those matters are applicable to define the persons who are responsible.’

‘Article 227-29

Natural persons convicted of the offences provided for under the present chapter also incur the following additional penalties:

1. forfeiture of civic, civil and family rights, in accordance with the conditions laid down under Article 131-26;

2. suspension of the driving licence for a maximum period of five years; this suspension may be limited to driving other than in the course of professional activity;

3. cancellation of the driving licence together with the prohibition, for a maximum period of five years, to apply for the issue of a new one;

4. prohibition, for a maximum period of five years, to leave the territory of the French Republic;

5. confiscation of the object which was used or intended to commit the offence or the object which is the product of it;

6. prohibition, for a period of up to ten years or permanently, to undertake any professional or charitable activity involving regular contact with minors;

7. the obligation to attend a parental responsibility course in accordance with the conditions laid down under Article 131-35-1;

8. In respect of crimes referred to in Articles 227-2 and 227-16, prohibition, in accordance with the procedures laid down in Article 131-27, either to hold public office or engage in the occupation or social activity during the course of which the offence was committed or to engage in a commercial or industrial occupation or to manage or run or have any form of control, whether directly or indirectly and either on their own behalf or on behalf of others, of a commercial or industrial undertaking or a commercial business. Such prohibitions may run concurrently.’

‘Article 227-31

Persons guilty of the offences under Articles 227-22 to 227-27 may in addition be sentenced to social and judicial supervision in the manner prescribed by Articles 131-36-1 to 131‑36‑13.’

Law No 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 concerning confidence in the digital economy

‘Article 1(IV)

As stipulated in Article 1 of Law No 86-1067 of 30 September 1986 on freedom of communication, public communication by electronic means may be engaged in without let or hindrance.

The exercise of this freedom may be restricted only to the extent required in order to ensure that proper respect is shown for human dignity and the freedom and property of others and for freedom of thought and opinion and to maintain public order, meet national defence and public service needs, and by the technical limitations of the various means of communication and the need for audiovisual services to produce audiovisual content.

Public communication by electronic means shall be taken to mean the provision, through the use of an electronic communication process, of signs, signals, written texts, images, sounds or messages of any kind that do not constitute private correspondence, to the general public as a whole or to sections thereof.

Online public communication shall be taken to mean the transmission, on individual request, of digital data that do not constitute private correspondence, by means of an electronic communication process allowing information to be exchanged reciprocally between the sender and the recipient.

Electronic mail shall be taken to mean any text, voice, sound or image message sent over a public electronic communications network which can be stored on a network server or in the recipient’s terminal equipment until it is collected by the recipient.’

‘Article 6-1

Where warranted by the need to take action in response to incitement to acts of terrorism or attempts to justify such acts, as provided for in Article 421-2-5 of the Criminal Code, or to the dissemination of pictures or representations of minors, as provided for in Article 227-23 of that code, the administrative authority may request any person referred to in Article 6(III) of this law or any person referred to in Article 6(I)(2) hereof to remove content that infringes the aforementioned Articles 421-2-5 and 227-23. When doing so, it shall notify the persons referred to in Article 6(I)(1) of this law.

If that content is not removed within twenty-four hours, the administrative authority may notify to the persons referred to in Article 6(I)(1) a list of the electronic addresses of the online public communication services that are in breach of Articles 421-2-5 and 227-23. Those persons shall block access to those addresses without delay. However, should the person referred to in Article 6(III) fail to provide the information referred to therein, the administrative authority may perform the notification referred to in the first sentence of this subparagraph without first having requested the withdrawal of the content in accordance with the first sentence of the first subparagraph of this article.

The administrative authority shall forward the requests and the list referred to in the first and second subparagraphs respectively to a qualified person appointed from among its members by the National Commission on Information Technology and Freedom for the duration of his or her term of office within that commission. That person may not be appointed from among those referred to in Article 13(I)(1) of Law No 78-17 of 6 January 1978 on information technology, data files and freedoms. The qualified person shall ascertain whether the removal requests and the conditions for the drawing up, updating, forwarding and use of the list are in order. If any irregularities are found, he or she may at any time recommend that the administrative authority should bring the procedure to a close. If the administrative authority does not follow that recommendation, the qualified person may apply to the relevant administrative court, in summary proceedings or on petition.

The administrative authority may also notify the electronic addresses of sites at which content in breach of Articles 421-2-5 and 227-23 of the Criminal Code is to be found to web search engine and directory operators, who shall take all steps necessary in order to delist the online pubic communication service. The procedure provided for in the third subparagraph of this article shall apply.

The qualified person referred to in that third subparagraph shall publish each year a report on his or her activities and the outcome thereof, including details of the number of removal requests made, the number of times content has been removed, the reasons for its removal and the number of recommendations made to the administrative authority. That report shall be submitted to the government and to parliament.

Provisions implementing this article shall be adopted by decree and shall cover matters including compensation for any additional costs borne by operators as a result of the requirements laid down herein.

The penalties provided for in Article 6(VI)(1) of this law shall apply in the event of failure to meet the requirements laid down in this article.’

III.  OBSERVATIONS/GROUNDS

In accordance with Articles 227-24, 227-29 and 227-31 of the French Criminal Code, under which it is an offence to disseminate violent images likely to undermine human dignity, the French judicial authorities have requested the waiver of the immunity of Marine Le Pen, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the FN party, in connection with the posting on her Twitter account, on 16 December 2015, of violent images showing the murder of three hostages by the terrorist group Daesh, together with the comment ‘This is Daesh’, following an interview broadcast on RMC in which a comparison was drawn between the rise of the FN and the activities of Daesh.

Firstly, although the images posted by Ms Le Pen can be accessed by anyone via Google and have been widely reposted on the internet since they appeared on her Twitter account, it is beyond question that their violent nature is likely to undermine human dignity. Their publication therefore warrants the opening of criminal proceedings.

What is more, Article 6-1 of French Law No 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 concerning confidence in the digital economy, which stipulates that criminal proceedings may not be brought against information society service providers if violent images are removed within twenty-four hours from the time of notification by the competent authority of the need to do so, covers only the activities of information society service providers and not private/individual activities, which is what we are dealing with here. In this connection, it should be emphasised that Ms Le Pen removed only the photograph of the murder of the hostage James Foley, and not the other two images.

Lastly, given that the speed of the legal proceedings taken against Marine Le Pen is comparable to the pace of other proceedings in matters relating to the press and other media, there is no reason to suspect that this may be a case of ‘fumus persecutionis’, i.e. a situation in which there are signs or evidence of an intent to persecute an individual.

IV.  CONCLUSIONS

On the above basis and in accordance with Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure, after having considered the arguments for and against doing so, the Committee on Legal Affairs recommends that Parliament should waive the immunity of Marine Le Pen.


RESULT OF FINAL VOTEIN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Date adopted

28.2.2017

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

18

3

0

Members present for the final vote

Joëlle Bergeron, Marie-Christine Boutonnet, Jean-Marie Cavada, Kostas Chrysogonos, Therese Comodini Cachia, Mady Delvaux, Laura Ferrara, Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, Gilles Lebreton, António Marinho e Pinto, Jiří Maštálka, Emil Radev, Evelyn Regner, Pavel Svoboda, Axel Voss, Tadeusz Zwiefka

Substitutes present for the final vote

Pascal Durand, Evelyne Gebhardt, Heidi Hautala, Virginie Rozière, Tiemo Wölken

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