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France has detailed terrorism legislation in its Criminal Code that criminalizes acts committed with a view to seriously disturbing public order through intimidation or terror. Predicate offences are broad in scope, including financial crimes and property damage, as well as offences against the person. There is no exception for acts committed in the exercise of fundamental human rights.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

France defines terrorism in its Criminal Code as a series of predicate offences committed “intentionally in relation to an individual or collective undertaking whose aim is to seriously disturb public order through intimidation or terror”.Art. 421-1, French Penal Code: "lorsqu'elles sont intentionnellement en relation avec une entreprise individuelle ou collective ayant pour but de troubler gravement l'ordre public par l'intimidation ou la terreur, les infractions suivantes...".

Predicate offences include the following:

  • Deliberate attacks on life or on a person’s bodily integrity, as well as abduction, hostage taking, and the hijacking of an aircraft or a ship or other means of transport 
  • theft, extortion, destruction, and damage to property, as well as computer-related offences 
  • Offences related to armed groups
  • Offences relating to weapons, explosives, or nuclear materials 
  • Receiving the proceeds of one of the four above offences; and
  • Money laundering offences or financial crimes.

Also deemed terrorist offences are the introducing in the atmosphere, on the ground, or underground, or into food or the water supply a substance of such a nature as to endanger human or animal health or the natural environment.Art. 421-2, French Penal Code.  

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties

France has adhered to the major United Nations treaties on terrorism.

Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State Party


France has also adhered to the four European treaties on terrorism.

Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1977 European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism State Party
2003 Protocol amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism State Party
2005 Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism State Party
2015 Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism State Party

Laws and Penalties for Terrorism Offences

The penalty for a terrorist offence is a maximum of life imprisonment.Art. 421-3, French Criminal Code.Predicate criminal offences receive an increased sentence when committed with a terrorist motive. According to a Court of Appeal decision from 2017, it is not necessary to prove that each individual offender had the requisite intent. A 2018 decision held that knowledge of the terrorist aim of the group was sufficient.

Offences include participating in a terrorist group or assisting acts of terrorism. The maximum sentence for acts of terrorism committed in or against the natural environment is twenty years in prison.Art. 421-2, French Criminal Code.

There is no explicit exception in the law for acts committed in the exercise of fundamental human rights. The law is potentially broad enough to potentially cover the acts of the gilets jaunes ("yellow vest") movement that began in November 2018 in protest against the rising cost of living, but in practice the charges against violent actions of some of the gilets jaunes were prosecuted as "voluntary degradation".

Those responsible for the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris were convicted of terrorist offences in July 2022. The decision in French is attached below. Defence barristers criticized the "political nature" of the convictions in a opinion piece in Le Monde newspaper. 

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

The Code of Internal Security contains a section entitled “The fight against terrorism and attacks on the fundamental interests of the nation”. This allows for surveillance to be imposed on certain areas in which terrorism is deemed likely to occur.L223-1 to L223-7, Code of Internal Security.As a preventive counterterrorism measure, certain individuals may be prohibited from leaving French territory for a period of up to six months.Art. L224-1, Code of Internal Security.Administrative control measures can be imposed on persons in respect of whom there are serious grounds to believe that “their behaviour constitutes a particularly serious threat to public security and order" and who "habitually associate with persons or organisations inciting, facilitating, or participating in terrorist acts”.Art. L228-1, Code of Internal Security.

Opération Sentinelle was a military operation in which 10,000 soldiers and 4,700 police and gendarmes deployed in the aftermath of the January 2015 attacks in Paris, with the aim of protecting certain "sensitive" areas against terrorism. It was reinforced during the November 2015 Paris attacks, and remained in force until the state of emergency ended on 1 November 2017.


French Penal Code (English translation)

Code pénal francais

Code de la sécurité intérieure

Décision sur les attentats du 13 novembre 2015 (2022)

2017 Court of Appeal decision (original)

2018 Court of Appeal decision (original)