A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state (such as the president of a republic), according to certain procedures (usually established in a constitution). It has the force of law. The particular term used for this concept may vary from country to country—the executive orders made by the President of the United States, for example, are decrees (although a decree is not exactly an order). In non-legal English usage, however, the term refers to any authoritarian decision and, in this sense, it is often derogatory.



See Government of France.

The word décret, literally "decree", is an old legal usage in France and is used to refer to orders issued by the French President or Prime Minister. Any such order must not violate the French Constitution or Code of Law of France, and a party has the right to request an order be nullified in the French Council of State. Orders must be ratified by Parliament before they can be modified into legislative Acts. Special orders known as décret-loi, literally "decree-Act", usually considered an illegal practice under the 3rd and 4th Republic, were finally abolished and replaced by the ordinances under the 1958 Constitution.

Except for the reserve powers of the President (as stated in Art. 16 of the 1958 Constitution, exercised only once so far), the executive can issue decrees in areas that the Constitution grants as the responsibility of Parliament only if a law authorizes it to do so. In other cases, orders are illegal and, should anyone sue for the order's nullification, it would be voided by the Council of State. There exists a procedure for the Prime Minister to issue ordinances in such areas, but this procedure requires Parliament's express consent (see Art 38 of the 1958 Constitution).

Orders issued by the Prime Minister take two forms:

  • Orders (décrets simples);
  • Orders-in-council (décrets en Conseil d'État), when a statute mandates the advisory consultation of the Conseil d'État.

Sometimes, people refer to décrets en Conseil d'État improperly as décrets du Conseil d'État. This would imply that it is the Conseil d'État that takes the decree, whereas the power of decreeing is restricted to the President or Prime Minister; the role of the administrative sections of the Conseil is purely advisory.

Decrees may be classified into:

  • regulations, which may be:
    • application decrees (décrets d'application), each of which must be specifically authorized by one or more statutes to determine some implementation conditions of this or these statutes; these constitute secondary legislation and are roughly equivalent to British statutory instruments;
    • autonomous regulations (règlement autonomes), which may be taken only in areas where the Constitution of France does not impose statute law (passed by the legislative branch); these constitute primary legislation;
  • particular measures, such as the nomination of high-level civil servants.

Only the prime minister may issue regulatory or application decrees. Presidential decrees are generally nominations, or exceptional measures where law mandates a presidential decree, such as the dissolution of the French National Assembly and the calling of new legislative elections.

Decrees are published in the Journal Officiel de la République Française or "French Gazette". s


After the Russian Revolution, a government proclamation of wide meaning was called a "decree" (Russian: декрет, dekret); more specific proclamations were called ukaz. Both terms are usually translated as 'decree'.

According to the Russian Federation's 1993 constitution, an ukaz is a Presidential decree. Such ukazes have the power of laws, but may not alter the Russian constitution or the regulations of existing laws, and may be superseded by laws passed by the Federal Assembly. The Government of Russia can also issue decrees which will not contradict the constitution/laws or presidential decrees.

Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church uses decrees from the Pope such as a papal Bull, Papal Brief or Motu Proprio as legislative acts.[1]

Other uses of the term

In some jurisdictions, certain types of court orders by judges are referred to as decrees.

See also


  1. ^ "Decree". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 


  • Executive decree authority, John M. Carey and Matthew Soberg Shugart, Eds., Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 0521597226

External links

All external sites in French unless otherwise noted.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • decree — de·cree /di krē/ n [Old French decré, from Latin decretum, from neuter of decretus, past participle of decernere to decide] 1: an order having the force of law by judicial decree 2: a judicial decision esp. in an equity or probate court; broadly …   Law dictionary

  • decree — de‧cree [dɪˈkriː] noun [countable] LAW 1. a judgement made in a court of law after a civil action: • The council had already been successful in obtaining a court decree against the former MP. conˈsent deˌcree LAW an order …   Financial and business terms

  • Decree — • In a general sense, an order or law made by a superior authority for the direction of others. In ecclesiastical use it has various meanings. Any papal Bull, Brief, or Motu Proprio is a decree inasmuch as these documents are legislative acts of… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Decree — De*cree , v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Decreed}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Decreeing}.] 1. To determine judicially by authority, or by decree; to constitute by edict; to appoint by decree or law; to determine; to order; to ordain; as, a court decrees a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • decree — [dē krē′, di krē′] n. [ME decre < OFr decret < L decretum, neut. of decretus, pp. of decernere, to decree < de , from + cernere, to sift, judge: see CERTAIN] 1. an official order, edict, or decision, as of a church, government, court,… …   English World dictionary

  • Decree — De*cree , n. [OE. decre, F. d[ e]cret, fr. L. decretum, neut. decretus, p. p. of decernere to decide; de + cernere to decide. See {Certain}, and cf. {Decreet}, {Decretal}.] 1. An order from one having authority, deciding what is to be done by a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Decree — De*cree , v. i. To make decrees; used absolutely. [1913 Webster] Father eternal! thine is to decree; Mine, both in heaven and earth to do thy will. Milton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • decree — [n] mandate, legal order act, announcement, behest, bidding, charge, charging, command, commandment, declaration, decretum, dictum, direction, directive, edict, enactment, injunction, instruction, judgment, law, order, ordinance, precept,… …   New thesaurus

  • decree — ► NOUN 1) an official order that has the force of law. 2) a judgement or decision of certain law courts. ► VERB (decrees, decreed, decreeing) ▪ order by decree. ORIGIN Latin decretum something decided , from decernere …   English terms dictionary

  • decree ni|si — «NY sy», Law. a conditional decree of divorce, which becomes final later …   Useful english dictionary

  • decree — vb *dictate, prescribe, ordain, impose Analogous words: *command, order, enjoin, charge, direct: constrain, oblige, compel, *force …   New Dictionary of Synonyms