France parliament amends constitution to ban death penalty, allow impeachment

France parliament amends constitution to ban death penalty, allow impeachment

[JURIST] The French parliament [official website, in French] voted Monday to amend the French Constitution [text] to include an explicit ban on the death penalty. In a special joint session of both the National Assembly and the Senate [official websites, in French] at the Palace of Versailles, the amendment [text, in French] passed with a vote of 828-26 [voting record]. While the death penalty [JURIST news archive] has been outlawed in France since 1981, Monday's vote officially revised the constitution to reflect this.

Also Monday, the joint session voted 449-203 [voting record] to approve a constitutional amendment [text, in French] guaranteeing the French president sovereign immunity while in office but also introducing the possibility of impeachment [IHT report]. The measure previously approved by the National Assembly [JURIST report] calls for US-style impeachment procedures to check the powers of France's presidency. Under the new provisions, the president can refuse to testify while in office; however, in case of a "neglect of his duties manifestly incompatible with the exercise of his mandate," a two-thirds majority of either house of parliament can authorize impeachment proceedings. The bill had languished in parliament after being approved by the French cabinet three years ago; it came forward as current President Jacques Chirac [official profile, in French; BBC profile] approached the end of his second term with a number of corruption cases [JURIST news archive] looming over him. The International Herald Tribune has more.