International and Comparative Law Quarterly

Shorter Articles

CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN FRANCE: ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

Dr Myriam Hunter-Henina1

a1 University College London.

A major constitutional reform has occurred in France. On 1 March 2010, by virtue of the Constitutional Act of 10 December 2009 (itself pursuant to the constitutional reform of 23 July 2008) a new form of constitutional review came into force, with the blessing of the Conseil constitutionnel (the Constitutional council). The changes are considerable: the role of the Conseil constitutionnel has undergone a revolution which will have implications for ordinary courts as well as for citizens' rights. Arguably, the reform transforms the Conseil constitutionnel—so far a council with limited powers of review—into a true Constitutional court, and as discussed below, opens up constitutional issues in ordinary litigation, enhancing the protection of citizens' human rights. Owing to the reform, ‘Constitutional rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution’ can now be invoked against legislation in the course of litigation. This is a true revolution in France because, up until now, no individual was allowed to invoke the jurisdiction of the Conseil constitutionnel, nor were they authorized to invoke a constitutional principle in litigation, as this would have been asking ordinary judges to assess a piece of legislation against the Constitution, a task which exclusively belongs to the Conseil constitutionnel. Constitutional rights and liberties will now (as is further discussed below) play a key part in ordinary litigation.

(Online publication January 27 2011)