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Explainer: France

France considers reviving Nazi purge law for terror offences

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C) and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (R) listen as Prime Minister Manuel Valls outlines his plans to tackle jihadist violence
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C) and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (R) listen as Prime Minister Manuel Valls outlines his plans to tackle jihadist violence REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

France's government has said it will consider restoring a law applied to former Nazi collaborators after World War II law to punish those who take part in crimes like this month's Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

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Presenting his package in response to the killing spree on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that he would ask both houses of parliament to hold a cross-party review of the offence of indignité nationale (national unworthiness).

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

The law was established following the liberation of France in 1944 as part of the purge of  people found gulity of collaboration with the German occupation but was discontinued in 1951.

It involved reducing offenders to the class of second-rate citizens, stripped of the right to vote and join trade unions and banned from working in government, the media and publicly owned companies.

In the wake of this month’s Charlie Hebdo attacks and with an estimated 3,000 French residents linked to jihadist networks, the right-wing opposition UMP has called for the law to be revived.

"A legitimate question is raised about the consequences for those who choose to lash out at the nation to which they belong,” Valls said on Tuesday. “For example, is it necessary to reactivate the penalty of national unworthiness as a symbolic marker for those who commit the absolute transgression of a terrorist act.”

But the government will not “act in haste when it comes to such questions of principle”, he told MPs and called on parliament to set up a cross-party review to examine the proposal over the next six weeks, while “ensuring it is compatible with French law and values".

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira on Thursday distanced herself from the idea.

"It would be a symbolic act but symbols have baggage," she told France Inter radio. "It's not a symbol that I would have called for."

 

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