France unveils experimental deradicalisation programme

Loic Venance, AFP | French justice minister Nicole Belloubet in Nantes on October 6, 2017.

The French justice minister, Nicole Belloubet, unveiled on Thursday an experimental programme to fight radicalisation, titled Rive, put into place in France a year ago.


The programme (Research and Intervention in extremist violence) targets people already sentenced or awaiting sentencing for a terrorism-related offence or reported for being radicalised who will, at a judge’s request, undergo mentoring. An association called Apcars (Association of Applied Criminal Policy and Social Reinsertion), which specialises in social and judicial supervision, is in charge of the programme.

A total of 14 people – eight men and six women – are currently being mentored for at least a year by a team of coaches, a psychologist, a religious adviser and a psychiatrist. The mentoring is done on an individual basis with at least six hours per week the first few months. Contact is established with the person’s family and the individual receives help to become independent administratively.

The programme is the exact opposite of previous ones put in place in France, which consisted of gathering inmates reported in terrorism cases, either to evaluate them or to isolate them within a dedicated area.

Diverse profiles, targeted offers

Ten of the people being monitored by Rive have been sentenced or prosecuted for criminal association in relation to a terrorist undertaking. Yet the profiles are diverse, ranging from a returnee from Syria to someone prosecuted for being a terrorism apologist. One is under house arrest, while another wears an electronic bracelet.

“The aim is to help them give up extremist violence,” said Samantha Enderlin, Rive’s director. “With this in mind, we favour coaching, a tailor-made approach based on a trusting relationship, alongside the activities of the probation and rehabilitation services.”

Under this tailor-made approach, one person might do volunteer work in order to improve their self-esteem; another might visit the memorial in Verdun, northeastern France, to Muslims who fought for France in the First World War; a third might have a meeting with an expert on Islam.

France, which has faced waves of terrorist attacks since 2015, is trying to contain the phenomenon of jihadist radicalisation.

In French prisons, “they are around 500 very radicalised inmates,” said Belloubet, adding, “So we have to act.”

The country’s only deradicalisation centre, which opened last September near the Loire valley, was shut down in July due to a lack of positive results.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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