At the specially composed Court of Assizes of Paris,
Just reading these numbers makes you dizzy. 131 dead, more than 450 injured and 2,500 civil parties formed. Since its opening on the Ile de la Cité nine months ago, the trial of the November 13 attacks has become one of superlatives. Never, it is true, had an assize trial left so much room for the missing victims, their entourage or the survivors. For weeks, hundreds of them were able to testify before the magistrates of the special assize court, thus giving the actors of the trial the feeling of glimpsing a broad overview of the horror experienced that November night.
And yet. No matter how much we read and reread this series of figures, the certainty remained in mind that this trial only wrote part of their collective history. “What we have heard here is only the tip of the iceberg”, recalled with force Karine Shebabo, lawyer for civil parties. Sign of the singularity of this hearing, a hundred lawyers of the civil parties – they are more than 300 in all – have chosen to plead in a common way. On the last day of this atypical exercise, several of them insisted on making the voices of these “forgotten”, “absent” or “silent” heard. All those who did not come, out of shame, fear and who did not express themselves, out of guilt.
“Avoidance” to “survive”
Faced with a practically empty box – only two of the eleven defendants detained chose to attend the hearing on Tuesday – the counsel for the victims of the attacks wanted to give body and life to these anonymous people who have lived for seven years with the trauma of the ‘offensive. Remained “in the shadows”, their voices did not resonate in the judicial precincts.
“Why don’t you come to your criminal trial when you are a civil party? “Questioned Me Alexandra Prassoloff. First there is the physical and psychological barrier. Two of his clients tried to come but finally turned back at the last moment. “The emotion was too strong, they never came back,” she explained. Confronting the “decorum of justice”, “the gulf between their suffering and the rational presentation of what happened” or the very idea of sharing a common space with the accused have sometimes got the better of their desire to attend the debates.
Others have opted for absolute “avoidance”. For nine months, they read nothing, heard nothing of the debates that took place in the courtroom. This is the case of a man of Israeli origin living in France and victim of the attack at Bataclan. “You won’t see him, he didn’t come to the trial and he went back to live in Israel. He keeps his distance and it’s his only way to survive. Like him, many of them are unable to approach this trial, ”said Karine Shebabo. Quoting them one last time in their argument, their lawyers asked the court to “weigh the weight of their absence” when delivering its verdict at the end of June.
“Illegitimacy” and “guilt”
Impossible, however, to summarize in a few words “the infinity” of these courses, recognized the lawyer Alexandra Prassoloff. But the feelings of “illegitimacy” and “guilt” often returned in the pleadings on Tuesday. This is the case of many “relatives of victims still alive”, illustrated Me Prassoloff: “Yet their existence was also upset by the events of that night”. For more than five years, Carole has been the attentive ear of Sylvain, her companion victim of the attacks. “She listened to it for hours. It is only in 2020 that he will consult a psychiatrist, ”detailed the lawyer. But Carole said nothing to the court about these “unseen scars”.
This “silence” for which the defendants were so reproached during their interrogations was also found on the side of the civil parties. “Among the reasons for this silence, there was the fear of being drowned in the crowd, of not being heard (…) the fear that their testimony would not arouse any questions, no interest, they wanted to avoid this failure”, justified the lawyer Cosima Ouhioun. Mutism has also turned into self-censorship for others: “Some would have liked to come, shout, agonize with insults at the accused, they do not want to hear about the injunction to resilience”, added the criminal lawyer.
Intervened a few hours before his colleagues, the lawyer of several police officers of the BAC75N of Paris, Me Hector Bernadini, praised the work of the newspaper The world which had published last September the course of this night experienced by its customers. Intervened at the Bataclan from the start of the attack, their words had so far been erased from the “national narrative”. Anxious to restore all their place to these “heroes” erased, the lawyer thus concluded: “It was enough to name the forgotten so that they are no longer”.