Lois scélérates

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The lois scélérates ("villainous laws") — a pejorative name — are a set of French laws restricting the 1881 freedom of the press laws passed under the Third Republic (1870–1940), after several bombings and assassination attempts carried out by anarchist proponents of "propaganda of the deed".

The first law was passed on December 11, 1893, two days after Auguste Vaillant's bombing of the National Assembly on December 9, 1893 (one person injured). It condemned advocacy of any crime as a crime, which permitted the state to repress most of the anarchist press.

The second law was passed on December 18, 1893, and condemned any person directly or indirectly involved in a propaganda of the deed act, even if no killing was effectively carried out.

The last law was passed on July 28, 1894, and condemned any person or newspaper using anarchist propaganda (and, by extension, socialist libertarians who were current or former members of the International Workingmen's Association (IWA)):

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1. Either by provocation or by apology... [anyone who has] encouraged one or several persons in committing either a stealing, or the crimes of murder, looting or arson...; 2. Or has addressed a provocation to military from the Army or the Navy, in the aim of diverting them from their military duties and the obedience due to their chiefs... will be deferred before courts and punished by a prison sentence of three months to two years.[1]

Thus, free speech and encouraging propaganda of the deed or antimilitarism were severely restricted. Some people were condemned to prison for rejoicing at the 1894 assassination of French president Sadi Carnot by the Italian anarchist Sante Geronimo Caserio.

The term has since entered popular language to designate any harsh or unjust laws, in particular anti-terrorism legislation which often broadly represses whole social movements.

See also


  1. (French) "1. Soit par provocation, soit par apologie [...] incité une ou plusieurs personnes à commettre soit un vol, soit les crimes de meurtre, de pillage, d’incendie [...] ; 2. Ou adressé une provocation à des militaires des armées de terre et de mer, dans le but de les détourner de leurs devoirs militaires et de l’obéissance qu’ils doivent à leurs chefs [...] serait déféré aux tribunaux de police correctionnelle et puni d’un emprisonnement de trois mois à deux ans." See fr:Troisième République