Here are the deadlines and steps to release official documents in other states


There is no unanimity on the deadline for making official documents public: everything depends on their importance to the security of the state.

30 years in Germany and Italy, 50 years in France and up to 75 years in the United States. There is no unanimity on the deadline for: open official documents to the public: everything depends on the importance they have for the security of the state.


The law establishes the right of citizens to access administrative documents, but with restrictions for a wide range of cases: the deliberations of the Council of Ministers, national defence, foreign policy, the security of the state and of persons or the integrity of currency and public credit.

These documents that could affect national defense may be made public after 50 years, with two exceptions: when they could affect the safety of the named persons or when they interfere with the design, manufacture, location or use of nuclear weapons. , chemical or biological weapons.


In Germany, the law establishes a period of 30 years for the declassification of official secrets or sensitive material, preferably from the various internal, external or military espionage departments.

However, in accordance with a reform approved in 2017, the same espionage divisions — whose coordination depends directly on the State Department — can rule that they are not released under a series of exceptions.


The term of official secrets is 15 years, but when that term expires, the government has 30 days to decide whether to extend this term and, if so, to 30 years, a time that cannot be exceeded.

Professional secrecy must always be motivated by the Prime Minister in a closed session before the Committee for the Security of the Republic, a parliamentary committee that regulates the activities of the secret services.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the Official Secrets Act aims to prevent the leakage of sensitive government information and espionage. All government officials, employees working in the security services, judges, police officers, members of the armed forces or those under contract with the executive branch are bound by this law.

Sensitive government documents can only be made public after 30 years, but the deadline can be extended if authorities judge that disclosure could harm the image, national security or foreign relations of the country.

United States

The United States does not have an Official Secrets Act and the disclosure of classified information is generally not illegal, but there are several classified information protection laws that sanction the disclosure of defense-related secrets and only the courts can determine whether information is a threat to national security. endangers.

The US government has three levels of classification of information: confidential, secret, and top secret, and according to a 2009 decree, its declassification occurs automatically after 25 years.

But there is information that can remain sensitive and pose a threat to national security, and in these cases reviewing the publication, in whole or in part, takes up to 50 years.

But there is still highly sensitive information, such as an agent’s identity or the design of a weapon of mass destruction, that can keep a document secret for up to 75 years. Outside of that, a special permit is required.


A 1998 law in Belgium created a general framework to protect the confidentiality of sensitive documents and, in particular, imposed severe penalties in cases of unauthorized disclosure, but did not include a declassification procedure.

The ecological parties Ecolo and Groen have introduced a bill, supported by the governing coalition, which proposes that a document can be made public within a period of 20, 30 or 50 years, depending on whether it is considered confidential, secret or top secret. , the three levels used by Defense or Foreign Affairs.

Declassification requires explicit approval from the relevant government, which must make a decision six months before the end of the term and can request extensions of ten to ten years in a procedure overseen by the federal parliament. The total period must not exceed 100 years.

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Source: EITB


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