France - Central Authority (Art. 2) and practical information

Central Authority(ies):

Ministry of Justice

Contact details:

Address: Ministère de la Justice
Direction des Affaires Civiles et du Sceau
Département de l’entraide, du droit international privé et européen
(DEDIPE)
13, Place Vendôme
75042 Paris Cedex 01
Telephone: +33 (1) 44 77 61 05
Fax: +33 (1) 44 77 61 22
E-mail: entraide-civile-internationale@justice.gouv.fr
General website: www.justice.gouv.fr
www.entraide-civile-internationale.justice.gouv.fr
Contact person: Mrs. Tania Jewczuk, Head of Department:
tania.jewczuk@justice.gouv.fr Mrs. Catherine Rumeau, Deputy Head of Department:
catherine.rumeau@justice.gouv.fr
Languages spoken by staff: French, English

 

Practical Information

Blocking statutes:

Yes, there are two European instruments of this nature: 

- Council Regulation (EC) No 2271/96 of 22 November 1996 protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom (see, Article 5(1)). 

- Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (See, Art. 25(1)). 

In addition, two Articles of the law n°68-678 of July 26, 1968 (Articles 1 and 1 bis) - introduced by a law of 16 July 1980 - prevent "savage" requests for the purpose of obtaining evidence outside of mutual legal assistance framework. 

The provisions of Article 1 of this law aim to prohibit, "subject to international treaties or agreements",  the communication to foreign public authorities of documents or information of an economic, commercial, industrial, financial or technical nature, the disclosure of which may affect the sovereignty, security, essential economic interests of France or public order, specified by the administrative authority as necessary. 

Under Article 1 of the French Blocking Statute, "subject to international treaties or agreements and to the laws and regulations in force, it is prohibited for any person to request, seek or communicate, in writing, orally or in any other form, documents or information of an economic, commercial, industrial, financial or technical nature for the purpose of gathering evidence in or in connection with foreign judicial or administrative proceedings.” 

The resulting prohibition is particularly broad. It applies : 

- even if the communication of the document or information does not affect the sovereignty, security, public order or essential economic interests of France,

- even if this search is not acted upon,

- and even if the prosecuted person is neither French nor a French resident. 

In a decision dated 28 March 2007, the Paris Court of Appeals (9th Chamber B), reversing a judgment of acquittal rendered by the Paris Criminal Court on 1 June 2006, convicted a lawyer of the offense of communicating economic, commercial, industrial, financial or technical information aimed at obtaining evidence for foreign proceedings without complying with the requirements of the Hague Convention, and ordered him to pay a fine of 10,000 euros. The Court of Cassation upheld this ruling: in a decision dated 12 December 2007, the Court of Cassation (Criminal Division) dismissed the appeal filed against the decision of the Paris Court of Appeal.

Chapter I
(Letters of Requests)

Transmission of Letters of Requests: Letters of Request are sent directly from a judicial authority in the requesting State to the Central Authority of the requested State.
Authority responsible for informing of the time and place of the execution of Letter of Request
(Art. 7):
Judicial authority competent to execute the request.
Presence of judicial personnel at the execution of the Letter of Request (Art. 8):

Declaration of applicability.

The French Code of Civil Procedure expressly permits the possibility for the requesting foreign judge to be present during the execution of the Letter of Request (article 741), without the need to obtain authorisation from anyone.

Privileges and duties existing under the law of States other than the State of origin and the State of execution
(Art. 11):
No declaration of applicability.
Translation requirements
Arts 4(2) and 33):
The French Government will execute only those Letters of Request which are in French or accompanied by a translation into French.
Costs relating to execution of the Letters of Request
(Arts 14(2)(3) and 26):
No.
Time for execution: Between 2 and 6 months, approximately.
Pre-trial discovery of documents
Art. 23):
Letter of Request may be executed subject to certain conditions (qualified exclusion).
Information about domestic rules on the taking of evidence: 

- European Judicial Network in Civil or Commercial Matters - France.

- Articles 132 à 322 of the French Code of Civil Procedure - Legifrance.

Witness examination under Chapter I

Should Letters of Request include specific questions to be used during witness examination or only a list of matters to be addressed? French national law has no requirements in this respect.
Is it a public or private hearing? Public hearing.
Do the judicial authorities "blue-pencil" Letters of Requests (i.e. rephrase, restructure and / or strike out objectionable questions or offensive wording so that a Letter of Request may be executed under the laws of the requested State)? Yes.
Is the witness provided in advance with a copy of the questions / matters to be addressed as contained in the Letter of Request? The judge is not obliged to provide the witness with a list of the questions/matters to be addressed as contained in the Letter of Request, but there is no prohibition against doing so. However, according to article 212 of the French Code of Civil Procedure, "witnesses may not read any draft".
Are documents produced by the witness authenticated by the court? No.
Is an oath generally administered to the witness? Yes.
Can the witness be made subject to further examination and recall? Yes, but a second Letter of Request is necessary.
Are there sanctions for non-appearance of witness? Under Article 207 of the French Code of Civil Procedure, “Defaulting witnesses and those who, without legitimate reason, refuse to testify or take an oath may be sentenced to a civil fine of up to 3,000 euros.”
Must interpreters who assist with the witness examination be court-certified? No. The oath is only to be taken by judicial experts when they are entered on the list established by the Court of Appeals.
How is the testimony transcribed? In accordance with Article 219 et seq. of the French Code of Civil Procedure, witness testimonies are recorded in a transcript ("procès-verbal"), dated and signed by the requested judge and by the clerk who prepared it.

Chapter II
(Taking of evidence by diplomatic officers, consular agents and commissioners)

Article 15 Applicable.
Article 16 Applicable. See conditions and competent authority.
Article 17 Applicable. See conditions and competent authority.
Article 18 No declaration of applicability (i.e., a diplomatic officer, consular agent or commissioner may not apply for appropriate assistance to obtain evidence by compulsion).

Taking of evidence by video-links
(under either chapter)

Chapter I

Are there legal obstacles to the use of video links? No.
Conducting hearings directly, by videoconference: Under Chapter I of the Convention, pursuant to Article 27 (b) and (c) of the Convention and articles 747-1 and 747-2 of the French Code of Civil Procedure, France permits a foreign judicial authority to conduct a hearing directly on French territory, including via videoconference, without compulsion or sanction, provided that the French Central Authority has given its prior permission. The hearing may be conducted on the premises of a French Court, but this is not mandatory.
Technology used:

Pursuant to Article R. 111-7, paragraph 2 of the Code of Judicial Organization

“The technical specifications of the audiovisual telecommunication means used must guarantee a reliable, loyal and confidential transmission with respect to third parties. 

They are determined by order of the Minister of Justice.” 

The transport network currently used by the Ministry of Justice is the RNIS network (Integrated Services Digital Network / ISDN), belonging to the commutated telephone network. The required speed is 256 kbps.

Level of interpretation required: France makes use of the services of accredited professional interpreters, but also relies on the parties and their legal counsel.
Simultaneous or in sequence interpretation: No preference.
Interpretation required in which jurisdiction? No information available.
Who pays for the interpretation? Pursuant to Article 748 of the French Code of Civil Procedure, which applies to incoming Letters of Request, the costs incurred by interpreters are to be borne by the foreign (requesting) authority.
How would a request for evidence be handled if witness not willing? Should a witness refuse to attend a videoconference hearing conducted by the judicial authority, it remains for the judicial authority to determine the consequences. While Article 207 of the French Code of Civil Procedure provides that "Defaulting witnesses and those who, without legitimate reason, refuse to testify or take an oath may be sentenced to a civil fine of up to 3,000 euros", French national law provides that in civil matters, the use of videoconference is subject to the consent of all parties.

Chapter II

Are there legal obstacles to the use of video links? No.
Technology used: No information available.
Level of interpretation required: No information available.
Simultaneous or in sequence interpretation: No information available.
Interpretation required in which jurisdiction? No information available.
Who pays for the interpretation? No information available.

Other Information

Bilateral or multilateral agreements

- Supplementary agreements to the Hague Convention of 1 March 1954 were concluded with:  Austria (1979), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1969), Croatia (1969), Germany (1961), Poland (1967), Serbia (1969), Slovenia (1969), The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1969). 

- Bilateral conventions on judicial co-operation: Algeria (1962), Australia (1922), Bahamas (1922), Belgium (1956), Benin (1975), Brazil (1996), Bulgaria (1989), Burkina Faso (1961), Cameroon (1974), Canada (1922 and Agreement with Quebec of 9 September 1977), Central African Republic (1965), Chad (1976), China (1987), Congo, Côte D'Ivoire (1961), Czech Republic (1984), Djibouti (1986), Egypt (1982), Gabon (1963), Hungary, Italy (1955), Lao People's Democratic Republic (1956), Lithuania (1928), Luxembourg (1870), Madagascar (1973), Mali (1962), Morocco (1957), Mauritania (1961), Monaco (1949), Mongolia (1994), Niger (1977), New Zealand (1922), Romania (1974), Russian Federation (1936), San Marino (1967), Senegal (1974), Slovakia (1984), Switzerland (1913), Togo (1976), Tunisia (1972), United Arab Emirates (1991), United Republic of Tanzania (1922), Uruguay (1991), Vietnam (1999). 

- Council Regulation (EC) No. 1206/2001 of 28 May 2001 on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters.

Useful links: http://www.entraide-civile-internationale.justice.gouv.fr/
Competent authorities (Art. 17) Ministère de la Justice
Direction des Affaires Civiles et du Sceau
Département de l’entraide, du droit international privé et européen (DEDIPE)
13, Place Vendôme
75042 Paris Cedex 01
Phone : + 33 (1) 44 77 61 05 - fax : + 33 (1) 44 77 61 22
E-mail : entraide-civile-internationale@justice.gouv.fr
General website : www.justice.gouv.fr
www.entraide-civile-internationale.justice.gouv.fr
Additional authorities (Art. 24) Not applicable.

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