Le Silence des Agneaux: France’s War Against ‘Jihadist Groups’ and Associated Legal Rationale

Rebecca Mignot-Mahdavi 15 May 2020

Silence is deceitful. While France has not publicly articulated a legal framework for its war on terror, its silence should not be taken for the absence of a well-defined military strategy and corresponding legal rationale. While the geographical and temporal scope of the United States’ war on terror has been highly debated from a legal point of view and led the US to develop extensive interpretations of the laws regulating the use of force, France’s military strategy remains largely underexplored by lawyers. This contribution brings to light that France frames its involvement in foreign territories as part of a unique war against jihadist groups, going a step further to the US’ war against “Al-Qaeda and associated forces”. Because France claims to fight against terrorism in the respect of international law, but without providing its interpretation of it in detail, identifying its military strategy allows me to determine what legal interpretations such strategy implies to embrace. These interpretations are much closer to the US’ than anyone would admit. The paper outlines the relevant legal standards applicable to the situations of use of force against terrorist groups and focuses on France, in an attempt to force the conversation on what it has been doing in the Sahel region, and following which legal interpretations of the norms regulating the use of force.

* The ISSN number that is in the PDF is incorrect. The correct ISSN number is 2468-0664. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.