|Ministre Jean-Yves Le Drian|
In legal terms, are soldiers treated like any citizen? Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defense minister, said that "military justice no longer exists" in France. It's true.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that there was "no more military justice" in France after a question was asked about the French soldiers who are suspected of the rape of minors in the Central African Republic. If there is a trial, they will be tried like any other citizen.
A long process that lasted 30 years
Until 1982, soldiers were tried by special courts regardless of whether the offense was committed abroad or in France. At that time, it was decided to abolish those courts and create specialized chambers within the high courts, the goal being to subject soldiers bit by bit to the normal rules of criminal law.
In 1999, as the Army professionalized, the Tribunal of the Armies of Paris (TAP) was established. It tried offenses committed outside France. It was dissolved three years ago, in 2012. For example, it considered cases concerning the culpability of the French Army in the Rwandan genocide and the murder of French soldiers in Bouaké in the Ivory Coast in 2006.
Military justice disappeared partly because it was suspected of bias. The Tribunal of the Armies of Paris had a mysterious way of operating. For instance, no prosecution could be initiated without the approval of the Minister of Defense. Victims could not directly cite the accused in court. It was a soldier's justice "that judged between them" and was increasingly denounced by civilian victims.
Now soldiers are tried in the high courts according to the usual procedure. In some high courts there are specialized sections in military affairs but these are presided over by civilian magistrates.