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A New Approach to the Interpretation of the French Constitution in Respect to International Conventions: From Hierarchy of Norms to Conflict of Competence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2009

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An examination of public international law textbooks and articles concerning the relationship between international law and domestic law always leads one to refer to the traditional dichotomy between monist and dualist doctrines. According to the former, international and domestic legal orders are perceived as forming part of a whole structure, where international law is automatically incorporated into national law and becomes, therefore, a constituent part of the latter. By contrast, dualist theory considers that international law and municipal law are supreme in their own sphere of application, the former taking precedence over the latter, only insofar that a specific domestic norm incorporates it into that legal order.

Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Press 2000

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2. Cf., Brownlie, I., Principles of Public International Law, 5th edn. (Oxford, Clarendon Press 1998) p. 31;Google ScholarCombacau, J. and Sur, S., Droit international public (Paris, Montchrestien 1993) pp. 178181;Google ScholarNguyen Quoc, Dinh, Daillier, P. and Pellet, A., Droit international public, 5th edn. (Paris, LGDJ 1994) p. 94;Google ScholarBoyé, A., ‘L'application des règies du droit international public dans les ordres juridiques internes’, in Bedjaoui, M., Droit international, bilan et perspectives, Vol. 1 (Paris, Pedone 1991) p. 303.Google Scholar

3. See on the monist theory, Kelsen, H., ‘Les rapports de systémes entre le droit international et le droit interne’, 14 RCADI (1926) p. 231Google Scholar and on the dualist concept, Triepel, H., ‘Les rapports entre le droit interne et le droit international’, 1 RCADI (1923) p. 73.Google Scholar

4. The founding father of the 1958 French Constitution was General Charles de Gaulle, first elected President of the Fifth Republic. The aim of the 1958 Constitution was to provide for institutional stability, by granting the President and the government more democratic legitimacy and competence. The political regime would, therefore, no longer depend on the influence of the political parties, unlike the parliamentarian regime of the 1946 Constitution, during which governments could not stay in power more than several months. However, the 1958 Constitution is neither completely a presidential regime, like the American one, since the President has, in principle, only arbitration functions and the executive power (i.e., the government) is politically responsible to the Parliament. Nor is it an entirely parliamentarian system, at least in the spirit of Rousseau, which would mean that both the executive and the judicial powers would be inferior and would flow from the sovereignty of the Parliament. In reality, the complexity of the nature of the system has become even more ambiguous since 1962, when the Constitution was amended to allow the President to be elected by direct universal suffrage, which, in fact, decreases the parliamentarian feature of the system, but also by the ‘cohabitation’ practice inaugurated in the 1980s (government and parliament being of different political wings than the President), which, in principle, decreases the political role of the President.

5. Art. 26 of the Constitution of 27 October 1946, repealed by the 1958 Constitution, read as follows: ‘Diplomatic treaties which have been regularly ratified and published have force of law even if they are contrary to French municipal law, and do not require for their applicability, any legislative enactment other than that which was necessary to the process of ratification.’

6. J. Dutheil de la Rochére, ‘France’, in Jacobs, F. and Roberts, S., The Effect of Treaties in Domestic Law (London, Sweet and Maxwell 1987) p. 42.Google Scholar

7. See Dubouis, L., ‘Le juge administratif français et les régies du droit international’, 17 AFDI (1971) p. 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8. See De Visscher, P., ‘Les tendances internationales des constitutions modernes’, 80 RCADI (1952) p. 511 at p. 560;Google Scholar the opinion of Abraham, R. (Commissaire du Gouvemement before the Supreme Administrative Court), in Conseil d'Etat, case of 23 April 1997, GISTI (102 RGDIP (1998) p. 207), who affirms that the French legal system has adhered to the monism principle since 1946, confirmed by the Constitution of 1958;Google ScholarRoseren, P., ‘Review by French Courts of the Conformity of National Provisions with Community Law’, in Curtin, D. and O'Keeffe, D., eds., Constitutional Adjudication in European Community and National Law (Dublin, Butterworth 1992) p. 257; see alsoGoogle Scholarvan Loon, J.H.A., ‘The Hague Conventions on Private International Law’, in Jacobs, F. and Roberts, S., The Effect of Treaties in Domestic Law (London, Sweet and Maxwell 1987) p. 233: ‘France and the Netherlands are examples of countries of automatic incorporation category’; see however the difference between the two latter states’ Constitutions,Google ScholarCassese, A., ‘Modern Constitutions and International Law’, 192 RCADI (1985) p. 335 at pp. 403 and 408, who qualifies the French Constitution as ‘upgrading International Treaties to the rank of quasi-constitutional law’ and the Dutch Constitution as ‘allowing International Treaties to amend the Constitution itself’.Google Scholar

9. See Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 6 June 1997, Aquarone (101 RGDIP (1997) p. 1053) in which the Court has explicitly stated that the French Constitution did not provide any legal basis for allowing international customary law to prevail over contrary domestic legislation. For a comment of this decision, cf., Alland, D., ‘La coutume Internationale devant le Conseil d'Etat: l'existence sans primauté’, 101 RGDIP (1997) p. 1057.Google Scholar This decision should be compared with the European Court of Justice case Racke (case C-162/96, [1998] ECR 1–3655), in which the Court admitted that customary international law was part of the community legal order.

10. The members of the Conseil Constitutionnel are appointed respectively by the President of the Republic, the President of the Sénat (High Chamber) and the President of the National Assembly (Chamber of Deputies). With high-qualified legal, and also often political background, the members enjoy independence from the political entities which nominate them, since their nine years term cannot be renewed. Since 1 March 2000, Mr Y. Guéna replaced Mr R. Dumas as chairman of the Conseil Constitutionnel.

11. English translation prepared by the National Assembly and French Foreign Affairs Ministry, September 1999: visited on 14 August 2000.

12. Idem.

13. Davis, M.H., ‘The Law-Politics Distinction, the French Conseil Constitutionnel, and the U.S. Supreme Court’, 34 AJCL (1986) p. 45;Google ScholarMorton, F.L., ‘Judicial Review in France: A Comparative Analysis’, 36 AJCL (1988) p. 89 at p. 106. The specific feature of the Conseil Constitutionnel leads scholars to classify it into a category of its own in respect to control of constitutionality of national legislation, different from the European model (Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy) where, basically, judicial review of acts of Parliament is a matter for specialised courts or special procedures and from the American model where constitutional issues are dealt with by regular courts. For a recent overview of this classification, seeGoogle Scholarde Wet, E., ‘Judicial Review as an Emerging Principle of Law and its Implications for the International Court of Justice’, 47 NILR (2000) p. 181 at pp. 200–201.Google Scholar

14. English translation, supra n. 11.

15. The administrative courts are divided into two degrees of jurisdiction: the administrative tribunals and the administrative court of appeals, on the one hand, the Conseil d'Etat on the other hand, granted the power to adjudicate cases on their merits. Note that some acts, such as decrees adopted by ministers are only reviewed in the first and last instance by the Conseil d'Etat.

16. For an example of the evolving role and jurisdiction of the US Supreme Court compared with the French Conseil Constitutionnel, see Morton, loc. cit. n. 13, at pp. 93–94.

17. Cf., Virally, M., ‘Sur un pont aux anes: les rapports entre droit international et droits internes’, Mélanges Rolin (Paris, Pedone 1964) pp. 488489.Google Scholar

18. Commission Italy, V. (case 39/72, [1973] ECR 101) relating to regulations. See on this question, Isaac, G., Droit communautaire général (Paris, Masson 1994) p. 161.Google Scholar

19. Cf., Vereshchetin, V.S., ‘Some Reflections on the Relationship between International Law and National Law in the light of New Constitutions’, in Müllerson, R., Fitzmaurice, M. and Andenas, M., eds., Constitutional Reform and International Law in Central and Eastern Europe (The Hague, Kluwer International Law 1998) p. 12.Google Scholar

20. English translation, supra n. 11.

21. See for a similar opinion, Sperduti, G., ‘Dualism and Monism. A Confrontation to Overcome’, 3 IYBIL (1977) p. 31 at p. 35.Google Scholar

22. Dutheil de la Rochère, op. cit. n. 6, at p. 42.

23. Infra sections 3.1 and 4.2.1.

24. By this expression it is meant that any treaty which does not provide for a ‘new legal order’ as the Treaty establishing the European Community. Even the European Economic Area Agreement signed in 1992 between the EFTA States on the one hand, and the EC and its Member States on the other hand, is far from possessing the integration features that belongs to the European Community, although some of its provisions are interpreted in a similar way as the EC provisions: see on this issue: Kronenberger, V., ‘Does the EFTA Court interpret the EEA Agreement as if it were the EC Treaty? Some remarks after the Restamark judgement’, 45 ICLQ (1996) p. 198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

25. See for a more detailed overview with respect to international law in general, Dutheil de la Rochère, op. cit. n. 6, at pp. 44–48 and from a EC law perspective, Haguenau, C., L'application effective du droit communautaire en droit interne (Bruxelles, Bruylant 1995) pp. 6873.Google Scholar

26. See for the civil courts, Cass. Civ., 6 March 1984, Kryla (111 JDI (1984) p. 859).

27. See Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 29 May 1981, Rekhou, Rec.Leb. p. 220 and more recently Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 9 April 1999, Chevrol-Benkeddach, at, commented infra, section 4.2.1.

28. Conseil d'Etat, Sect., 22 January 1963, Costa, Rec.Leb. p. 47 and Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 29 June 1990, GISTI, 117 JDI (1990) p. 967.

29. Decision 70–39 of 19 June 1970, Rec. p. 15 and OJFR 21 June 1970, p. 5806 which declared the Treaty of Luxembourg establishing common institutions to the European Communities compatible with the French Constitution, by which the Conseil Constitutionnel noted that in addition to the finding that no provision of that Treaty was contrary to the Constitution, the international commitments under scrutiny were to be implemented after the deposit of the last ratification instrument, and were therefore to be considered as reciprocal commitments.

30. Abraham, R., ‘L'ordre juridique communautaire: un ordre constitutionnel? Le point de vue français’, in Mouton, J-D. and Stein, T., eds., Vers une nouvelle Constitution pour l 'Union européenne (Cologne, Bundesanzeiger 1997) p. 55.Google Scholar

31. Commission Luxembourg, v. and Belgium, (joined cases 90–91/63, [1964] ECR 625) at p. 630. The European Court of Justice dismissed the contention of Luxembourg and Belgium according to which international law would have allowed a party, injured by the failure of another party to perform its obligations, to withhold the performance of its own commitments, on the grounds that EC law is a new legal order where, in particular, sanctions are institutionalised.Google Scholar

32. Decision 98–408 DC of 22 January 1999 on the Treaty establishing the Statute of the International Criminal Court, OJFR 24 January 1999, p. 1317. In an earlier decision, the Conseil Conslitutionnel even affirmed that the absence of reciprocity clause did not affect the constitutionality of an act, in the case of the liberalisation of public utilities where it held that the fact that rights granted to individuals and companies from other Member States, did not suppose that identical rights would be granted by other Member States of the Community: decision 92–316 DC, 20 January 1993, Rec. p. 14.

33. Cf., e.g., Decision 74–54 DC of 15 January 1975, Loi relative à l'avortement, Rec. p. 19 and Decision 98–399 DC of 5 May 1998 on the entry and residence of foreigners in France and on the right of asylum, Rec. p. 245, OJFR 12 May 1998, p. 7092.

34. Decision 74–54 of 15 January 1975: ‘Considèrant qu'une loi contraire à un traitè ne serait pas, pour autant, contraire à la Constitution’ and ‘Considèrant qu'ainsi le contrôle du principe énoncé à l'article 55 de la Constitution ne saurait s'exercer dans le cadre de l'examen prèvu à l'article 61, en raison de la diffèrence de nature de ces deux contrôles’.

35. See decision 86–216 DC of 3 September 1986, Rec. p. 135, and Conseil d'Etat, 15 March 1972, Dame veuve Sadok Ali, Rec.Leb. p. 213 and Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 7 July 1978, Croissant, Rec.Leb. p. 292.

36. Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 20 October 1989, Nicolo, Rec.Leb. p. 190. For a comment on this important decision, see Isaac, G., ‘Traité et loi postérieure: le revirement du Conseil d'Etat’, 25 RTDE (1989) p. 787.Google Scholar

37. This can be compared with the recent decision Bread v. Greene of 14 April 1998, of the Supreme Court of the United States in which the Court stressed, in conformity with its case law, ‘that if a treaty and a federal statute conflict, the one last in date will control the other’, US Supreme Court, 37 ILM (1998) p. 824 at p. 827. For a comment of this decision, cf., Sastre, M., ‘La conception américaine de la garantie judiciaire de la supériorité des traités sur les lois’, 103 RGDIP (1999) p. 147.Google Scholar

38. Since 1975, the Cour de Cassation accepts to review the conventionality of national legislation adopted after the international convention to which the national legislation contradicts, see Cass. Ch. Mixte, 24 May 1975, Société des cafés Jacques Vabre, 2 Gaz.Pal. (1975) p. 470.

39. See also recently, Conseil d'Etat, Sect., 2 June 1999, Meyet, at

40. With regard to the European Community, it is interesting to note that old decisions of civil law courts referred not only to Art. 55 of the Constitution but also to the ‘nature of the legal order created by the Treaty’: see Cour d'appel de Paris, 7 July 1965, LTM v. MBU, quoted by Erades, L., Fitzmaurice, M. and Flinterman, C., eds., Interaction between International and Municipal Law: A Comparative Case Law Study (The Hague, T.M.C. Asser Instituut 1993) p. 726. This approach was also proposed by the Attorney General Touffait in the Jacques Vabre case quoted above. However, the decision of the Cour de Cassation refers only to Art. 55 of the Constitution.Google Scholar

41. English translation, supra n. 11.

42. See Dutheil de la Rochere, op. cit. n. 6, at p. 56.

43. Abraham, , op. cit. n. 30, at p. 55.Google Scholar

44. Combacau and Sur, op. cit. n. 2, at p. 193.

45. See Frowein, J.A., ‘Federal Republic of Germany’, in Jacobs, F. and Roberts, S., The effects of Treaties in Domestic Law, UKNCCL (London, Sweet and Maxwell 1987) pp. 8284.Google Scholar

46. Infra, section 4.2.2.

47. Conseil d'Etat, 8 August 1921, Goffart, Rec.Leb, p. 833 in which it decided that the legality and the scope of acts among which one is an international convention cannot be judicially reviewed by the Conseil d'Etat. See, also Conseil d'Etat, 4 March 1964, Deschamps, Rec.Leb. p. 153.

48. Conseil d'Etat, 20 October 1989, Roujansky, 2 Revue Française de Droit Administratif (1989) p. 813.

49. See respectively, Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 30 October 1998, Sarran and C.Cass., Ass., 2 June 2000, Fraisse, at

50. English translation, supra n. 11.

51. Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 16 November 1956, Villa, Rec.Leb. p. 433 controlling the existence of the ratification; Ass., 13 July 1965, Société Navigator, Rec.Leb. p. 423; Sect., 13 July 1961, Société indochinoise d'électricité, Rec.Leb. p. 519 concerning the control of the existence of the publication of an international agreement.

52. Cass. Civ., 25 January 1977, Reyrol, 104 JDI (1977) p. 470 and 25 January 1995, Roujansky, no. 94–60279.

53. In general, the Conseil d'Etat is reluctant to use this terminology and therefore does not mention it; see, however, for an explicit reference: Conseil d'Etat, 2 March 1962, Rubin de Servens, Rec.Leb. p. 143.

54. Present author's translation. The French text of the decision reads as follows: ‘qu'il appartient au juge administratif de se prononcer sur le bien-fondé d'un moyen … tiré de la méconnaissance, par l'acte de publication d'un traité ou accord, des dispositions de l'article 53 de la Constitution’.

55. The role of Commissaire du Gouvemement with the Conseil d'Etat is a special feature of the French legal system, which has been transposed at Community level, by the creation of Advocate Generals assisting the European Court of Justice (Art. 222 of the EC Treaty). The Commissaire du Gouvemement, contrary to its name, does not represent the government but is an independent advisory counselling the judicial formation of the Conseil d'Etat. His opinions are therefore not binding on the Court. The issue whether Art. 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights (fair trial) would apply to the opinions of the Commissaire du Gouvemement, thus allowing the parties to a dispute to have full access to the opinion and to eventually reply to its legal arguments, has received a negative answer, because the Commissaire du Gouvemement does not have in charge the interests of any party to the dispute. Cf., Conseil d'Etat, 29 July 1998, Esclatine, Rec.Leb. p. 320 See for a similar position by the European Court of Justice as regards opinions of Advocate Generals, Emesa Sugar and Aruba (case C-17/98 order of 4 February 2000, nyp).

56. Cf., opinion of MrBachelier, in 103 RGDIP (1999) p. 560.Google Scholar

57. See for a short discussion on this issue, infra, section 4.1.2.

58. Poirat, F., ‘Jurisprudence francaise en matière de droit international public’, 103 RGDIP (1999) pp. 760761Google Scholar; Dehaussy, J., ‘La Constitution, les traités et les lois: à propos de la nouvelle jurisprudence du Conseil d'Etat sur les traités’, 126 JDI (1999) p. 689 andGoogle ScholarBequain, G., ‘Le juge administratif, juge de la régularité de 1'insertion des traités: l'inconstitutionnalité des traités en vigueur n'est pas impensable’, 389 Petites Affiches no. 102 (2000) p. 6.Google Scholar

59. In addition, one should note that the adjudication of the enacting act in order to assess whether the constitutional powers of the Parliament were violated or not, automatically leads the Conseil d'Etat to evaluate the content of the international convention in respect to the Constitution, since the Court will have to assess whether the convention itself commits the finances of the state: see, for a comprehensive discussion on the a posteriori constitutional control of international conventions: infra section s 4.1.1 and 4.2.2.

60. Conseil d'Etat, Sarran, supra n. 49.

61. Idem and C.Cass., Fraisse, supra n. 49.

62. Decision 93–325 DC, Loi relative à la maîtrise de l'immigration et aux conditions d'entrée et de séjour des étrangers en France, Rec. p. 224, OJFR 18 August 1993, p. 11722.

63. According to Art. 4 of the Preamble of the 1946 Constitution, which forms part of the current constitutional principles, ‘any individual persecuted for his action in pursuit of freedom holds a right of asylum on the territories of the Republic’.

64. Decision 93–325 DC, supra n. 62, at p. 11734 (author's translation; emphasis added). The official French text read as follows: ‘que si certaines garanties attachées à ce droit ont été prévues par des conventions intemationales introduites en droit interne, il incombe au législateur d'assurer en toutes circonstances l'ensemble des garanties légales que comporte cette exigence constitutionnelle’.

65. Since a 1971 decision, the Conseil Constitutionnel has extended its control of constitutional compatibility of national legislation and international conventions to principles enshrined in the French Declaration of Human Rights and the Preamble of the 1946 Constitution, both referred to in the Preamble of the 1958 Constitution: cf., decision 71–44 DC, 16 July 1971, Loi relative au contrat d'association, Rec. p. 29, OJFR 18 July 1971, p. 7114.

66. This principle is meant to bring a solution to the practice of ‘asylum shopping‘, by which individuals introduce requests in several states, until they are granted asylum.

67. See, on this reaction and further debate, Rossetto, J., ‘La Convention de Schengen: controverses et incertitudes françhises sur le droit d'asile’, 378 RMCUE (1994) p. 315 at p. 321.Google Scholar

68. Current Art. 53(1) of the 1958 Constitution: ‘The Republic may conclude, with European States that are bound by commitments identical with its own in the matter of asylum and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, agreements determining their respective jurisdiction in regard to the consideration submitted to them. However, even if a request does not fall within their jurisdiction under the terms of these agreements, the authorities of the Republic shall remain empowered to grant asylum to any foreigner who is persecuted for his action in pursuit of freedom or who seeks the protection of France for some other reason.’

69. Alland, D., ‘Jurisprudence françhise en matière de droit international public’, 98 RGDIP (1994) p. 230.Google Scholar

70. Decision 91–294 DC, 25 July 1991, Rec. p. 91.

71. See respectively, Raynaud, F. and Fombeur, P., ‘Note on Case of 30 October 1998’, 54 Actualité Juridique – Droit Administratif (1998) p. 964, andGoogle ScholarAlland, D., ‘Consécration d'un paradoxe: primauté du droit interne sur le droit international. Réflexions à vif à propos de l'arrêt du Conseil d'Etat, Sarran, Levacher et autres du 30 octobre 1998’, 11 Revue française de droit administratif (1998) p. 1094 at p. 1095.Google Scholar

72. Article introduced into the Constitution by the Constitutional Act no. 98–610 of 20 July 1998, OJFR 21 July 1998, p. 11143.

73. English translation, supra n. 11.

74. See, on this relationship and on its historical background from an international law perspective, Goesel-Le Bihan, V., ‘La Nouvelle-Calédonie et I'accord de Nouméa, un processus inédit de décolonisation’, 44 AFDI (1998) p. 24. It must be stressed that the French Conseil Constitutionnel is competent to adjudicate the constitutionality of the ‘laws of the country’ (‘his du pays’) adopted by the Assembly of New Caledonia, which apparently create new legal norms within the French legal order. See, on the first constitutional control of such acts, decision no. 2000–1 LP of the Conseil Constitutionnel on 27 January 2000, Loi dupays de Nouvelle-Calédonie relative a iinstitution d'une taxe générate sur les services, in 56 AJDA (2000) p. 252 with annotation by J.E. Schoettl, p. 252 and O. Gohin, p. 254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

75. Act no. 88–1028, 9 November 1998, OJFR 10 November 1998, p. 14087 (Loi référendaire portant disposition statutaires et préparatoires à l'autodétermination de la Nouvelle-Calédonie en 1998).

76. Art. 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights provides for the prohibition of discrimination on any ground, whereas Art. 3 of the 1st Protocol obliges the contracting parties o t ensure the right to free elections.

77. Author's translation. The official text reads as follows: ‘Considerant que si l'article 55 de la Constitution dispose que “les traités ou accords régulièrement ratifiés ou approuvés ont, dès leur publication, une autorité supèrieure à celle des lois sous reserve, pour chaque accord ou traite, de son application par l'autre partie”, la suprématie ainsi conférée aux engagements internationaux ne s'applique pas, dans I'ordre interne, aux dispositions de nature constitutionnelle; qu'ainsi, le moyen tiré de ce que le décret attaqué, en ce qu'il meconnaitrait les stipulations d'engagements internationaux régulièrement introduits dans l'ordre interne, seraitpar læ mime contraire a l&article 55 de la Constitution, ne peut lui aussi qu'être écarté.‘

78. Author's translation. According to the judgment, the organic Act of 19 March 1999 being referred to by the Nouméa agreement having itself constitutional value, the control could not be undertaken. The French text reads as follows: ‘que la suprématie conférée aux engagements internationaux ne s'appliquant pas dans l'ordre interne aux dispositions de valeur constitutionnelle, le moyen tiré de ce que les dispositions de l'article 188 de la loi organique seraient contraires au pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques et à la Convention européenne de sauvegarde des droits de I'homme et des libertes fondamentales doit etre écarté.‘ Interestingly, the Fraisse case, contrary to the Sarran case, does not explicitly refer to Art. 55 of the French Constitution. However, it is doubtful that this omission has any specific meaning in this context.

79. Cf., Alland, loc. cit. n. 71, at p. 1094 and sharing this view, D. Simon, ‘L'arrêt Sarran: dualisme incompressible ou monisme inversé?‘, 9 Europe, chron. 3 (1999) p. 4.

80. Loc. cit. n. 71, at p. 964.

81. Simon, loc. cit. n. 79, at p. 5.

82. For a similar approach towards the dualistic theory, however, in a wider context, see Müllerson, R., ‘Introduction’, in Miillerson, R., Fitzmauriceand, M.Andenas, M., eds., Constitutional Reform and International Law in Central and Eastern Europe (The Hague, Kluwer International Law 1998) p. XII.Google Scholar

83. Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 6 June 1997, Aquarone, 101 RGDIP (1997) p. 1053.

84. Infra section 4.2.1.

85. Simon, loc. cit. n. 79, at p. 5.

86. Supra section 2.1 in fine.

87. Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 3 July 1996, Koné, , 101 RGDIP (1997) p. 237.Google Scholar

88. Conseil constitutionnel, decision 71–44 DC, 16 July 1971, Loi relative au contrat d'association, Rec. p. 29, OJFR 18 July 1971, p. 7114. See also Costa, J.P., ‘Principes fondamentaux, principes généraux, principes à valeur constitutionnelle’, in Conseil Constitutionnel et Conseil d'Etat (Paris, LGDJ-Montchrestien 1988) pp. 133144.Google Scholar

89. Agreement published in OJFR 10 July 1964, p. 6128.

90. OJFR 11 March 1927, p. 3.

91. Art. 5(2) of the Act of 10 March 1927.

92. Author's translation. The text reads as follows: ‘Considerant… que ces stipulations doivent etre interprétées conformément au principe fondamental reconnu par les lois de la République, selon lequel VEtat doit refuser l'extradition d'un étranger lorsqu'elle est demandee dans un but politique.‘ As already stated, these fundamental principles have constitutional value, and therefore can be opposed to the legislative power. To the contrary, the Supreme Administrative Court has created ‘general principles of law’ (‘principes generaux du droit’) which have equal status of legislation and which are binding on the executive power and the administration. These principles relate to equal access to public service, defence rights, but also the right for a political refugee not to be subject to extradition to his own country, except if his presence on the French territory would endanger public security, in conformity with the 1951 Geneva Convention: see Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 1 April 1988, Bereciartua-Echarri, Rec.Leb. p. 135.

93. Cf., on this point, Labayle, H., ‘Le juge, la Constitution et l'extradition’, 9 RFDA (1996) p. 901 andGoogle ScholarAlland, D., ‘Un nouveau mystere de la pyramide: remise en cause par le Conseil d'Etat des traités conclus par la France’, 101 RGDIP (1997) p. 238.Google Scholar

94. Strictly speaking, the Conseil Constitutionnel does not ‘create’ constitutional principles, but grants that status to principles embodied in different fundamental texts, such as the French Declaration of Human Rights: for examples relating to the right of defence in criminal and administrative proceedings, see respectively decision 76–70 DC, 2 December 1976, Rec. p. 39 and decision 77–83 DC, 20 July 1977, Rec. p. 39. This principle has also be recognised by the Conseil d'Etat as a general principle of law: see, Conseil d'Etat, 5 May 1944, Trompier-Gravier, Rec.Leb. p. 133.

95. See for criticisms on these two points, Labayle, loc. cit. n. 93, at pp. 901–902 and Alland, loc. cit. n. 93, at pp. 240–241.

96. OJEC no. C 313, 23 October 1996, contrary to the obligation not to proceed to such an extradition if the crime is qualified as a political offence, in accordance with Art. 5(1) of the Convention.

97. See the legal literature (five authors) quoted by Alland, loc. cit. n. 93, at p. 240.

98. Cf., Frowein, J.A., ‘Federal Republic of Germany’, in Jacobs, F. and Roberts, S., The Effects of Treaties in Domestic Law (London, Sweet and Maxwell 1987) pp. 8283.Google Scholar

99. See for such an argument, Dehaussy, loc. cit. n. 58, at pp. 704–705, who however does not address the two judgements’ different approaches with regard to monism and dualism.

100. Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 5 March 1999, Rouquette et autres, at

101. See Costa/ENEL, case 6/64, [1964] ECR p. 1141. See also Simon, ioc. cit. n. 79, at p. 6 contra, Abraham, R., ‘L'ordre juridique communautaire: Un ordre constitutionnel? – Le point de vue franijais’, in Mouton, J-D. and Stein, T., eds., Towards a New Constitution for the European Union? (Cologne, Bundesanzeiger 1997) p. 56.Google Scholar

102. Bachelier, Ioc. cit n. 56, at p. 563.

103. Supra section 3.1.

104. Bachelier, loc. cit. n. 56, at p. 565. The Commissaire du Gouvernement quotes as an example, an additional act of 1866 to three treaties on delimitation of borders concluded between France and Spain in 1852, 1862 and 1866. One may nevertheless assume that a larger number of treaties will be concerned by the new case law.

105. In addition to the international law consequences, one should recall that, in particular in the case of extradition agreements not being implemented, important practical consequences will occur for the individual concerned, since (s)he will be judged in the state which refused the extradition and not in the requesting state.

106. On the essential criteria for state responsibility in international law see: De Aréchaga, E.J. and Tanzi, A., ‘La responsabilite internationale des Etats’, in M. Bedjaoui, Droit international, bilan et perspectives (Paris, Pedone 1991) p. 367Google Scholar, as well as the works undertaken by the United Nations Commission for international law on the extensive definition of international responsibility, criticised by Pellet, A., ‘Remarques sur une révolution inachevée, le projet d'articles de la CDI sur la responsabilité’,42 AFD1 (1996) p. 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

107. De Aréchaga and Tanzi, op. cit. n. 106, at pp. 389–393.

108. This right has only been implemented four times since 1957, among which two actions were removed from the register of the ECJ. See for the last example involving national restrictive measures to exports, Belgium v. Spain (case C-388/95, 16 May 2000, nyp).

109. De Wet, loc. cit. n. 13, at p. 199.

110. Alland, loc. cit. n. 93, at p. 247.

111. See Conseil d'Etat, Sect., 1 June 1951, Société des étains et Wolfram du Tonkin, Rec.Leb. p. 312 and 8 March 1968, Société Rizières indochinoises-maïseries indochinoises, Rec.Leb. p. 167.

112. Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 29 May 1981, Rekhou, Rec.Leb. p. 220.

113. Dehaussy, loc. cit. n. 58, at p. 694.

114. Author's translation. The French texts of the decision reads as follows: He choix du mode de conclusion des traites et accords internationauxn'estpas détachable de la conduite des relations diplomatiques, et, par suite, n'est pas susceptible d'etre discuté par la vote contentieuse devant le juge administratif…’; ‘qu'il n'appartient pas davantage au Conseil d'Etat… de se prononcer sur la validite d'un engagement international au regard d'autres engagements internationaux’.

115. Conseil d'Etat, 1 June 1951, supra n. III, and Conseil d'Etat, 9 June 1952, Gény, Rec.Leb. p. 19 concerning the refusal to initiate proceedings before the International Court of Justice.

116. Conseil d'Etat, Ass., 9 April 1999, Chevrol-Benkeddach, http//

117. It should be noted that this practice is not an obligation for the Conseil d'Etat for the interpretation of international conventions, in conformity with its GISTI judgment of 19 June 1990, 117 JDI (1990) p. 967 by which the Court decided that it could interpret an international treaty without referring back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This practice has moreover been interpreted as contrary to Art. 6 (fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights, by the European Court of Human Rights in a judgement of 24 November 1994, Beaumartin v. France, ECHR, Series A 296-B. With regard to EC law, the preliminary ruling procedure provided by Art. 234 of the Treaty requests national courts of last resort to refer the interpretation and the validity of Community legislation to the ECJ, and thus forbids this practice in that legal order.

118. Such a possibility was proposed by the French government in 1988 but was rejected by the Sénat. The proposal would have allowed individuals to contest the constitutionality of national legislation already in force, by a very complex three-step procedure.

119. Decision 99–410 DC, 15 March 1999, Loi organique relative à la Nouvelle-Calédonie, OJFR 21 March 1999, p. 4234 (author's translation; emphasis added): ‘la conformité a la Constitution d'une loi déjà promulgueé peut etre appréciée a I'occasion de I'examen des dispositions législatives qui la modifient, la complètent ou qffectent son domaine.’

120. Cf., Jacqué, J.P., ‘La décision du Conseil constitutionnel n. 92–308 DC du 9 avril 1992 Traité sur I'Union européenne‘, 28 RTDE (1992) p. 254 who is of the opinion that the Conseil Constitutionnel has controlled the constitutional compatibility of new Treaty provisions with past ones.Google Scholar

121. Author's translation. Cf., decision 92–308 DC, 9 April 1992, Traité sur I'Union européenne, Rec. p. 55 and decision 97–394 DC, 31 December 1997, Traité d'Amsterdam modifiant le traité sur l'Union européenne, les traités instituant les Communautes europeennes et certains actes connexes, Rec. p. 344.

122. Decision 98–408 DC of the Conseil Constitutionnel, 22 January 1999, Rec. p. 1317 which declared, in particular, Art. 27 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court incompatible with specific regime of responsibility provided by Arts. 26,68 and 68( 1) of the Constitution, in particular the responsibility of the President of the Republic during the exercise of its functions, as well as Art. 57(3)(d) providing for the possibility of investigations on the territory of the French Republic by the Attorney, contrary to national sovereignty.

123. Constitutional Act no. 99–568 of 8 July 1999, OJFR 9 July 1999, p. 10175 (English translation, supra n. 11).

124. Note that the treaty creating the International Criminal Court has been recently ratified by France according to Act no. 2000–282 of 30 March 2000, OJFR 31 March 2000, p. 4950.

125. Respectively, decision 97–393 DC, 18 December 1997, Loi sur lefinancement de la sécurité sociale pour 1998, Rec. p. 320: ‘qu'il ne resulte pas clairement de la directive 92–25 du 31 mars 1992 du Conseil des Communautes europeennes concemant la distribution en gros des médicaments à usage hutnain, non encore transposee, que les laboratoires pharmaceutiques seront soumis par un Etat membre aux měmes obligations de service public que celles édictées a I'égard des grossistes répartiteurs; qu'ainsi, en tout etat de cause, I'argumentation développée de ce chefne peut qu'etre écartée and decision 98–402 DC, 25 June 1998, Loiportant diverses dispositions d'ordre économique et financier, Rec. p. 269: ‘que les députés auteurs de la saisine soutiennent… qu'il serait contraire au principe communautaire de la libre circulation des biens et des services au sein de I'Union européenne; … considerant que, contrairement a ce que soutiennent les requerants, la disposition critiquée n'a ni pour objet, ni pour effet d'entraver la libre circulation des véhicules‘.

126. On this traditional approach see supra section 2.1.

127. This may be the case however due to specific references to the Treaty of the European Union and to the European Community are found in Arts. 88(1) to 88(4) of the Constitution. Art. 88(1) reads as follows: ‘The Republic shall participate in the European Communities and in the European Union constituted by states that have freely chosen, by virtue of the treaties that established them, to exercise some of their powers in common’ (English translation, supra n. 11).

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A New Approach to the Interpretation of the French Constitution in Respect to International Conventions: From Hierarchy of Norms to Conflict of Competence
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