In a democracy worthy of the name, the mentally invalid are not judged. But in a true democracy, one is criminally irresponsible if they, by their own actions — and by a heavy consumption of drugs — knowingly undertake to murder an innocent woman.

How can a democratic society accept that a perfectly rational perpetrator of an antisemitic crime can escape responsibility simply by claiming he used drugs?

How is cannabis an excusing factor for antisemitic murder, when it is only an aggravating factor for all other crimes?

If the killer’s mental state at the time of the crime exacerbated his antisemitism — as all reports seem to indicate — why refuse to see that there was antisemitism indeed prior to the use of drugs?

By saying that Sarah Halimi’s willful, hate-filled murderer is not responsible for his crimes, the Cour de Cassation has definitively deprived Sarah’s family of a trial essential to their mourning, but also the People of France of a necessary trial of antisemitism.

To put it simply, murdering Jews is no longer a criminal act in France if the killer can make a certain case to the court system.

By basing its decision on Article 122-1, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Code — which does not make a distinction according to the origin of the mental disorder used as an excuse — the Cour de Cassation has used the law to deprive the French people of justice.

The magistrates of the Cour de Cassation lacked courage and showed cowardice. Rather than take the courageous responsibility of a landmark decision, they passed that task to the legislators.

In addition, expert psychiatrists disagreed about the killer’s mental state, and if he should have escaped accountability. Without unanimity between the different experts, the doubt should have benefited the victim, not the accused.

The verdict, whatever it would have been, would at least have been delivered in the name of the French people. Montesquieu tells us that, “A thing is not right because it is law, but it must be law because it is just.”

The French people have been denied justice at the expense of “the law.”

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Francis Kalifat

Francis Kalifat has been president of CRIF, the Councel Representative of Jewish Institutions of France, since 2016.

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