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Constitutionalizing Emergency Power in a Time of Jihadist Terrorism: France 2016 as a Case of Misunderstanding and Failure

  • Pasquale Pasquino

Abstract

In this article, I present some aspects of the debate on the state of emergency that ensued in France after the terrorist attack at the Bataclan on November 13, 2015. The proposal by President Hollande to constitutionalize emergency provisions triggered the debate. I will also discuss why that attempt failed. In agreement with what Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde wrote in his article “The Repressed State of Emergency: The Exercise of State Authority in Extraordinary Circumstances,” I intend to show that constitutionalizing emergency measures—rather than presenting a threat to the Rechtsstaat—may be the best way to protect it. In the absence of a constitutionalized definition of competence and limits of such an exceptional power, the government can act without limits as to the exceptional measures that it may want to take.

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References

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1 Schumpeter, Joseph A., Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy 296 (3d ed. 2008).

2 Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, Der Verdrängte Ausnahmezustand. Zum Handeln der Staatsgewalt in Auβergewöhnlichen Lagen, 31 Neue Juristische Wochenschrift [NJW] 1881 (1978), translated in Ernst-Wolfgang Böcken förde, The Repressed State of Emergency: The Exercise of State Authority in Extraordinary Circumstances, in 1 Constitutional and Political Theory: Selected Writings 118, 125 (Mirjam Künkler & Tine Stein eds., 2017).

3 Mirjam Künkler & Tine Stein, Böckenförde's Political Theory of the State, in Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, 1 Constitutional and Political Theory: Selected Writings 38 (Mirjam Künkler & Tine Stein eds., 2017).

4 See Böckenförde, Ernst-Wolfgang, Rechtsstaatliche Politische Selbstverteidigung als Problem, in Extremisten und öffentlicher Dienst. Studie der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 9 (1981); Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, Verhaltensgewähr oder Gesinnungstreue? Sicherung der Freiheitlichen Demokratie in den Formen des Rechtsstaats, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Dec. 8, 1978, at 9.

5 See Böckenförde, Ernst-Wolfgang, Ausnahmerecht und Demokratischer Rechtsstaat, in Die Freiheit des Anderen: Festschrift für Martin Hirsch 259 (Hans-Jochen Vogel, Helmut Simon & Adalbert Podlech eds., 1981). Despite Böckenförde's conception of a constitutionally embedded state of emergency here, the Basic Law was not amended in this regard and until today does not make provisions for an internally necessitated situation of exception.

6 I prefer to use the German term—and more exactly the expression—“Verfassungsmäβger Rechtsstaat,” rather than the vague English concept of rule of law because, among other things, the UK has no written constitution and no distinction between constitutional provisions and statutory legislation, nor a Constitutional Court.

7 Examples of this anarchist violence include Pietro Acciarito's attempted assignation of Italian King Umberto I on April 22, 1897; Sante Caserio's assassination of French President Marie-François Sadi Carnot in 1894; and Michele Angiolillo's assassination of Spanish Premier Antonio Cánovas del Castillo in 1987. It may be stressed that, in general, the leftist terrorism of the 1970s killed people who were chosen as specific targets because of their political or official functions: Politicians, prosecutors, and entrepreneurs, not people without a name. Contrast this with the terrorism of a fascist matrix—one can think of the Italian massacres of Banca dell'Agricoltura in Milan in 1969 or of Bologna's train station in 1980.

8 In this article, I am not considering terrorism in the Middle East, which is essentially connected with political and religious conflicts. This is a more complex topic that I am not qualified to discuss.

9 But see Cole, David & Lobel, Jules, Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror (2007); Bernard Manin, The Emergency Paradigm and the New Terrorism, in Les Usages de la Séparation des Pouvoirs—The Uses of the Separation of Powers 136–70 (Sandrine Baume & Biancamaria Fontana eds., 2008); Seung-Whan Choi, Fighting Terrorism through the Rule of Law?, 54 J. Conflict Resol. 940–66 (2010).

10 See Blum, Gabriella, The Fog of Victory, 24 Eur. J. Int'l L. 391421 (2013).

11 See Böckenförde, supra note 5.

12 The 1977 Additional Protocol (II) provides for conflicts between a state and a non-state party in its territory. Arguably, these rules are not satisfactory where the non-state party is not present in the territory, but the party is dispersed globally or resides in another state.

13 Derek Jinks well develops this point:

There are three important reasons to question whether the Global War On Terrorism is governed by the [Geneva] Conventions. These reasons, pitched at a high level of generality for the moment, are: (1) adverse legal and policy consequences might follow from characterizing the GWOT as a ‘war’ in the legal sense; (2) terrorist organizations like al Qaeda are not states and conflicts with such entities are materially different from inter-state wars and civil wars; and (3) terrorist organizations enjoy no protection under the rules of wars because they do not accept or observe these rules themselves.

Derek Jinks, The Applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the ‘Global War on Terrorism’, The University of Texas School of law, Pub. L. & Legal Theory Res. Paper No. 93, at 6 (Apr. 19, 2006), http://ssrn.com/abstract=897591.

14 See Künkler & Stein, supra note 3.

15 Concerning this last point, it may be worth noticing that the French government presented the bill of a statute of 248 pages: Project de loi N° 3473 renforçant la lutte contre le crime organisé, le terrorisme et leur financement, et améliorant l'efficacité et les garanties de la procédure pénale (strengthening the fight against the crime organized on terrorism and their financing, and improving the efficiency and security of the criminal proceedings), Assemblée Nationale [National Assembly], Oct. 4, 1958, http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/projets/pl3473.asp. The statute was promulgated on June 4, 2016.

16 See Pasquino, Pasquale, State of Emergency and Rule of Law. Emergency Government in Constitutional Theory, in Spheres of Exemption, Figures of Exclusion 149–68 (Gry Ardal & Jacob Bock eds., 2010).

17 1958 Const. art. 16 (FRN).

18 Id. at art. 36.

19 Bernard Manin, The Emergency Paradigm and the New Terrorism: What if the End of Terrorism Was Not in Sight?, in Les Usages de la Séparation des Pouvoirs 136, 135–71 (Sandrine Baume & Biancamaria Fontana eds., 2008).

20 See Loi 55-385 du 3 avril 1955 relative à l‘état d'urgence, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000695350 (modified many times, most recently in 2018). The French Constitutional Council was established only after this law was passed, under the 1958 Constitution of the Fifth Republic. After the introduction of the question prioritaire de constitutionnalité in 2010, allowing for a constitutional challenge of acts already in force during regular court proceedings, it was asked to review the constitutionality of the statute three times: Conseil Constitutionnel [CC] [Constitutional Coucil] Feb. 19, 2016, decision No. 2016-536, http://www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr/conseil-constitutionnel/francais/les-decisions/acces-par-date/decisions-depuis-1959/2016/2016-536-qpc/version-en-anglais.147081.html (administrative searches and seizures in the event of a state of emergency); Conseil Constitutionnel, Feb. 19, 2016, decision No. 2016-535, http://www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr/conseil-constitutionnel/francais/les-decisions/acces-par-date/decisions-depuis-1959/2016/2016-535-qpc/version-en-anglais.147082.html (policing of meetings and public places during a state of emergency); Conseil Constitutionnel, Dec. 22, 2015, decision No. 2015-527, http://www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr/conseil-constitutionnel/francais/les-decisions/acces-par-date/decisions-depuis-1959/2015/2015-527-qpc/version-en-anglais.146959.html (house arrest in the event of a state of emergency). These opinions modified only marginally the content of the law. A systematic analysis of this law and its applications can be found in: Olivier Beaud & Cécile Guérin-Bargues, L‘état D'urgence—Etude Constitutionnelle, Historique et Critique (2016).

21 The Prevention of Terrorism Acts of the United Kingdom were in force from 1974 to 1989. See Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, c. 56 (Eng.), http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/hmso/pta1974.htm. The previous temporary Prevention of Violence Act of 1939 against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was repealed in 1973. For a complete transcript of the act, see Prevention of Violence Act 1939, Hansard, http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/acts/prevention-of-violence-temporary-provisions-act-1939.

22 See Pasquino, Pasquale & Ferejohn, John, The Law of the Exception: A Typology of Emergency Powers, 2 INT'L J. CONST. L. 210 (2004).

23 See Pasquino, Pasquale, Machiavel: Dictature et Salus Populi, in Raison(s) d'État(s) en Europe 11 (Brigitte Krulic ed., 2010); Pasquale Pasquino, Locke on King's Prerogative, 26 Pol. Theory 198 (1998); Pasquale Pasquino, Between Machiavelli and Carl Schmitt. Remarks on Rousseau's Dictatorship, 1 Storia del Pensiero Politico 145 (2013).

24 Paradoxically, the French established the principle of a rigid constitution in 1791. But the control of the hierarchy of norms between the ordinary laws and the constitutional provisions was assigned de facto to a specialized body only with the constitution of 1958. Only from 2010 onwards can enacted statutes be scrutinized by the Conseil Constitutionnel. The ideology of the loi expression de la volonté générale has been for more than two centuries a major obstacle to establish in France a fully working constitutional democracy.

25 See Appendix for the original draft and an English translation of it.

26 A loi organique in the French constitutional law is an intermediary rung in the hierarchy of norms between the ordinary statute law and a constitutional norm. The procedure of its enactment is more complex, notably such a legal norm must be scrutinized ex officio by the Constitutional Council, before its promulgation. Article 46 of the French Constitution specify the procedural details. Ratione materiae, an organic law has object provisions concerning the organization and functioning of the public powers.

27 See Derosier, Jean-Philippe, Non á l'État liberticide, La Constitution Décodée (Oct. 9, 2017), http://constitutiondecodee.blog.lemonde.fr/2017/10/09/non-a-letat-liberticide/.

28 The text of the new law can be read here: Project de Loi 6 renforçant la sécurité intérieure et la lutte contre le terrorisme [strengthening internal security and the fight against terrorism], Sénat [Senate], Oct. 18, 2017, http://www.senat.fr/petite-loi-ameli/2017-2018/17.html (Fr.).

* Professor of Politics and Law at New York University; .

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