States of emergency in France
States of emergency in France (
There are distinctions between article 16, article 36 and the 1955 Act, which concerns mainly the distribution of powers. These dispositions have been used at various times, in 1955, 1958, 1961, 1988, 2005, and 2015-2017.
The French Constitution, adopted in October 1958, was drafted with both the experience of the difficulties experienced by the executive in 1940 during the
Article 16 of the Constitution gives the President "extraordinary powers" in exceptional cases, leading to an effective "state of exception":
When the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the nation, the integrity of its territory, or the fulfillment of its international commitments are under grave and immediate threat and when the proper functioning of the constitutional governmental authorities is interrupted, the President of the Republic shall take the measures demanded by these circumstances after official consultation with the
Prime Minister, the presidents of the Assemblies, and the Constitutional Council.
He shall inform the nation of these measures by a message.
These measures must be prompted by a will to ensure within the shortest possible time that the constitutional governmental authorities have the means of fulfilling their duties. The Constitutional Council shall be consulted with regard to such measures.
Parliament shall meet
National Assemblymay not be dissolved during the exercise of emergency powers.
After thirty days of exercise of the exceptional powers, the Constitutional Council can be referred to by the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, sixty députés or sénateurs (members of each
chamber), to determine if the conditions provided in the first paragraph are still met. The Council shall rule in the shortest time possible by a public ruling. The Council rules ipso jureand rules in the same conditions after sixty days of exercise of the exceptional powers and at any moment beyond this period.
The conditions are both that the state is confronted to exceptional circumstances and that the regular institutions are disrupted and cannot effectively govern. This amendment to the Constitution of the
In the judgment Rubin de Servens of 2 March 1962, the
In 1972, the Common Programme of the Left (issued from an alliance between the
The Socialist government of
On 23 July 2008, a constitutional act was passed which, among other amendments, added a paragraph to Article 16 of the Constitution which stated that after 30 days the
Article 36 of the Constitution is concerned with the state of siege (in French), which can be decreed by the President in the Council of Ministers for a period of twelve days which can only be extended with the approval of the Parliament. A state of siege may be declared in case of an "imminent peril resulting from a foreign war [guerre étrangère, or simply "war"] or an armed
Military authorities may take police powers if they judge it necessary. Fundamental liberties may be restricted, such as the right of association, legalization of searches in private places day and night, the power to expel people who have been condemned for common law matters or people who do not have the right of residence in the territory, etc.
The state of emergency in France is framed by the Law n°55-385 of 3 April 1955 (pre-dating the Constitution of the Fifth Republic) and modeled on the "état de siège". It was created in the context of the Algerian war, to allow the authorities to manage crisis without having to declare the "état de siège", which allows the military to take over a large part of the civilian authorities and which was conceived for wartime.
The 1955 statute states that the state of emergency can be decreed by the
Proclaiming the state of emergency gives exceptional powers to the
The Minister and the prefects can, for the part of the territory concerned by the state of emergency, order places of gathering to be closed. Authorities can also order that legally-detained weapons be relinquished to them. There is no need for the administration to motivate its decisions: house arrests or decisions forbidding someone to enter a defined area can be appealed.
All of those powers are not enacted by the simple proclamation of the state of emergency, but may be decided by the authorities if the need arise.
If the decree, or later, the law, says so, the authorities can:
Article 12 of the 1955 law allows to transfer, if a decree specifically provides it, the transfer of some crimes from the judiciary to military justice.
This law is modeled after the society of the time, to deal with a specific crisis, and its objective was to prevent a civil war or very severe unrest emanating from a part of the population. Some parts have since become obsolete: