France to change constitution to extend state of emergency

French National Assembly during a debate to extend a state of emergency, Paris, France, 19 November 2015
French National Assembly during a debate to extend a state of emergency, Paris, France, 19 November 2015 Reuters/Charles Platiau

According to government sources, France will modify its constitution to extend special powers. A legal framework is to be presented to ministers on 23 December.


French President François Hollande has set out special powers including a state of emergency in France after last month’s attack on Paris. But the new constitution will allow to extend the state of emergency with no time limit,” the French government said on Thursday, beyond the current three-month limit.

This constitutional reform aims to introduce a “civilian crisis rule clause” to counter “war terrorism,” Hollande said on 16 November.

The French constitution in its current form includes the state of siege but not the state of emergency. Both state of emergency as now, and state of siege are temporary measures, but in the state of siege, the government delegates its public order mandate to the military.

During a state of emergency, the prefect can set protection and define security zones in which the presence or residence of persons would be regulated, restrict or forbid the movement of persons and vehicles at specific times and place and deny residence to any person seeking to impede the action of the public authority.

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The new constitution will also allow the government to strip binationals convicted of terrorism acts of their French nationality.

Under this state of emergency, more than 2,000 police searches have been carried out since 13 November in France without a decision from a judge and more than 300 people have been put under house arrest.

Although the legal framework to change the French constitution is to be presented to ministers in two weeks time, it needs to obtain a positive vote from at least three-fifths of the French parliament to be passed, or by means of a referendum.

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