FFF – Lèse-majesté

In the whacky world of old laws, there is one that seems quite odd; lèse-majesté. This law means that it is illegal to insult a head of state, or in some cases a flag or a country itself.

This is currently the case in Italy, Poland and Switzerland and used to be in Germany until Jan 1, 2018.

In Poland, there were two cases of individuals being charged under these laws. One for insulting the Pope as he was visiting, resulting in a fine of $8740 AUD, another for allegedly insulting Vladimir Putin causing thirty activists to be detained, with only one being charged.

In Iceland, the law extends to include “a country, foreign head of state, its representatives or flag” causing imprisonment of two years, or in serious cases, six years.

In the Netherlands, 18 convictions were made, and 9 prosecutions between 2000 and 2012. A quote from the wiki page reads:

In October 2007, a 47-year-old man was sentenced to one week’s imprisonment and fined €400 for, amongst other things, lèse-majesté in the Netherlands when he called Queen Beatrix a “whore” and told a police officer that he would have anal sex with her because “she would like it”.

However, Saudi Arabia, due to its very perverse judicial system, has potentially even worse penalties. Under their new security laws, actions that “threaten Saudi Arabia’s unity, disturb public order, or defame the reputation of the state or the king” are considered acts of terrorism. This can cause punishments such as public lashings, lengthy jail terms and even a death sentence.

Thailand has had similar laws, with the current constitution holding the clause:

The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.

Thus, lèse-majesté has been a larger part of their criminal law, with 400 cases brought to trial between 2006 and 2011. A recent case On June 9, 2017, reveals the extent to which this law is used.  In Bangkok, a 33-year-old Thai man was given 35 years imprisonment for posting 10 Facebook photos and comments about the Thai royalty. This sentence was reduced from the original 70 years following a guilty plea made after a year in jail before the trial.


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