Discrimination of Minority Belief Groups in France report 2010

CAP Liberté de Conscience report 2010

Discrimination of Minority Belief Groups in France

Dept. of State*CAP LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience – Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience) is an association created in 2000 to unite minority religions in France in order to counter discrimination concerning the right to freedom of conscience and belief and to alert the public to acts and speech violating human rights or which are a threat to fundamental liberties. Members of CAP include adherents to numerous minority faiths targeted for discriminatory measures as so-called “sects” by the government.

CAP LC wishes to set the record straight regarding discrimination of minority belief groups in France. We also wish to address the response made in February 2010 by the French government[1] to the request of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for updated information following her 2005 measures taken to implement them”[2] in the event similar representations were made by the French government to ODIHR.

Following are clarifications and comments on the arguments provided in the French government’s letter of February 2010 to the United Nations Rapporteur which include detailed information and evidence of ongoing religious discrimination in France in contravention of OSCE accords on religious tolerance.

On pages 12 and 13 of its letter, the French government stated:

“In order to implement its missions, MIVILUDES does not use any list, or any grid of discrimination, and reminds any time it can to the State agents who contact MIVILUDES that such an approach must be avoided. It does not take in consideration either the content of the beliefs as such, nor does it rely on the ’recognition’, the characterization of being established or not, of being majority or minority, of the studied movements, or on the point of knowing whether their content can be characterized as religious or as beliefs.”

This statement is not correct and is incomplete. MIVILUDES actually does worse than use a “sect” list: it has compiled a repository of records (“référentiel”) established entirely on one-sided accusations and allegations against so-called “sectarian” movements. To date, targeted faiths have not had access to these records and have been provided no opportunity to respond or correct any misinformation.

1) A Stigmatizing Repository of Records Created by MIVILUDES

In May 2009, the President of the Inter-ministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight against Sectarian Deviances (MIVILUDES), Mr. Georges Fenech, announced that a repository of records had been created on approximately 600 movements he had characterized as « sectarian ». The record repository has been established, according to his statements to the media, on the sole basis of denouncements or complaints against minority belief movements.

Although Mr. Fenech claimed that the concerned movements would be able to access the records and make comments on their content (but not correct the files), such access has not been provided to date and the minority belief groups have no way of correcting the accusations made against them by way of denouncement to MIVILUDES.

After an opposition by the Minister of Interior who feared that the accusatory records would stigmatize minority faiths, the French government decided to not make these records public. However, they have been made available by MIVILUDES to professionals, such as Judges, Prosecutors and lawyers for use in cases against such groups. They have  also been made available to public authorities and local officials who make decisions that affect the rights of these groups, such as  authorizing or denying the renting of conference halls or nursing licences to members of minority groups.[3]

In the Rapporteur’s recommendations following her official visit to France on 18-29 September 2005, French authorities were urged to no longer, in judicial mechanisms, refer to or use the list of “sects” published by Parliament in 1996. See, E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.4 8 March 2006, Mission to France Report, submitted by Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

We are concerned that the current practice of designating minority belief groups as “sectarian movements” and keeping a repository of records on such groups is, in actuality, tantamount to keeping a “blacklist” of religious groups denigrated as so-called “sects”. Indeed, the current practice is likely to be even worse as a secret repository of records composed of uniformly derogatory allegations without allowing for correction and explanation by the groups concerned will have even more devastating consequences on the rights of these targeted minority groups to freedom of religion or belief as guaranteed by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the relevant provisions of the Helsinki Accords.

France has ratified international human rights instruments guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion and belief and guaranteeing the principles of non-discrimination and equality.  It is therefore bound to uphold these standards as a member of the international community.

Additionally, the fact that the record repository will not be made public but instead will only be accessed by “professionals” contravenes fundamental rights. To provide one-sided accusatory information to judges and law enforcement authorities on minority belief movements outside any procedure for access to and correction of any inaccurate, misleading or incomplete information in these records by concerned groups not only raises religious freedom issues, it also fatally undermines fundamental due process and jeopardizes the right to presumption of innocence and the independence of the judiciary.

These current oppressive measures and actions by MIVILUDES to abuse the judicial process to target minority religious groups and their followers and to bias judges against such groups and their members interfere with the independence of the judiciary, contravene the right to a fair hearing, violate the principles of non-discrimination and equality at the heart of justice, and represent an attempt to improperly single out and repress minority religious organizations through bad faith prosecutions and  trials steeped in prejudice.

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the creation of such a secret record repository on “sectarian movements” directly contravenes the recommendation in the Rapporteur’s 8 March 2006 Mission to France Report urging the French Government “to ensure that its mechanisms for dealing with these religious groups or communities of belief deliver a message based on tolerance, freedom of religion or belief and on the principle that no one can be judged for his actions other than through the appropriate judicial channels”.

As we have previously noted, special seminars entitled “awareness sessions” on so-called sects have been held each year for Magistrates and Judges in France since 1998. These seminars continue. Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information law have shown that these seminars organized by MIVILUDES were entirely based on documentation provided by anti-sect associations without any possibility for the concerned communities to rebut this information. This documentation comprised hostile press articles and negative court decisions rendered against the concerned groups or their members omitting decisions from higher judicial authorities directly contradicting those decisions. No positive jurisprudence, official recognitions, or objective information from scholars regarding these groups were provided or even considered.

Such “awareness” programs for court officials have been condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. In its 1996 Concluding Observations, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended, in strikingly similar circumstances, that Germany discontinue the holding of « sensitizing sessions for judges against the practices of certain designated sects”. Otherwise, the right to a fair trial is destroyed for religious minorities. (Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations, Germany: 18/11/96 CCPR/C/79/Add.73)

However, Mr. Fenech fully endorses these biased indoctrination programs and recommended their extension in his 2008 Report to the Prime Minister entitled Justice Facing Sectarian Abuses, where he detailed his plan to increase the fight against “sects”[4]: “The subjects treated and the qualities of the speakers are fully satisfactory, but the number of attendants is still too low”.

Such seminars were given from 30 November to 2 December 2009 and extended to Magistrates of Appeal Courts as part of MIVILUDES’ program for 2009. The MIVILUDES record repository which has been made available to Judges and law enforcement officials is based on the same one-sided and biased information provided in these seminars; the repository therefore violates the very principle addressed as inappropriate by the Human Rights Committee. Reliance on such information undermines due process and religious tolerance and aggravates prejudice against minority faiths.

As part of MIVILUDES’ objective of “dynamizing” the exchanges between MIVILUDES and Magistrates in charge of penal investigations, advisors of MIVILUDES have met in 2009 with Prosecutors dealing with cases in which the existence of so-called “sectarian deviances” were presumed.

There is great concern in the minority religious community in France that this system of indoctrination will create undue incitement of Magistrates and Judges, and put political pressure on them to prosecute and convict individuals and organizations due to their minority religious beliefs in contravention of fundamental human rights.

Under the previous 1995 Parliamentary list of “sects”, targeted groups and their members were routinely subjected to never-ending investigations, audits and labor inspections. Municipal authorities refused to rent town halls to religious associations designated in the Report as “sects”. Custodial rights of parents were challenged in court on the grounds that a parent belonged to a religious group on the blacklist.

According to the testimony of witnesses CAP LC has received, this discrimination against targeted minority faiths persists and will only be aggravated by the repository of records recently created by MIVILUDES.

For example, the association known as The Movement of Graal in France is a Christian religious and philosophical movement which espouses the spiritual liberation of humanity through the spreading of the message of Graal.[5] The Movement was listed in 1995 on the “blacklist” published by the Parliamentary inquiry commission on “sects”. They have been systematically targeted for discrimination since, primarily through the actions of MILS and then its successor, MIVILUDES.

The President of the association, Mr. Thibeaudeau, provided CAP LC with specific evidence of discrimination. By letter dated 28 June 2005, the bank Crédit Mutuel denied the association the possibility to open a bank account, but the letter did not state any reason. Graal searched for a new bank and a letter, dated 10 Aug 2005, from the bank Société Générale also rejected the Graal request for a bank account, without stating any reason either.

Then, by letter of 1 Sept 2005, Le Credit Lyonnais bank sent a letter informing Graal that its application for opening a bank account was denied on the grounds that the bank’s work in managing an account for such an entity listed in the reports of the 1995 and 1999 [“sect”] Inquiry commissions of the National Assembly would be very difficult considering the constraining rules of both money laundering enforcement and of the Bank Commission, and the public order nature of these rules.

In another area, the Deputy Mayor of Saintes, by letter of 29 October 2007, denied Graal a city room to hold a conference. The letter stated the official reason for its denial: the Graal association was listed in the 1995 report of the National Assembly as a sectarian movement of 500 to 2,000 followers. By letter, dated 4 April 2008, from the city of Pau, Graal was again denied a public room.

By a Decree of 17 March 2010, the Mayor of Boulogne-Sur-Mer rejected Graal’s request to use the conference hall of the House of Associations (Maison des Associations) and “strictly prohibited” such use stating that the holding of a conference by Graal would be “contrary to public order and public morality” due to the “sectarian” character of Graal as noted in the 1995 Report of the Parliamentary Commission on Sects.

A similar example is that of the religious movement Sûkyô Mahikari, a branch of Buddhism. Mr. Duclos, the President of this religious group in France, reported to CAP LC last month that since 1999, when the Parliamentary Commission on finance and sects included Mahikari in the so-called “sects”list, neither MILS nor MIVILUDES have ever given them a chance to be heard, or to correct inaccuracies in their Report.

As a result of these false allegations, Mr. Duclos said Sûkyô Mahikari was evicted from a building because they were accused of being a sect. They have been charged higher than usual bank fees, have been refused service requests and have even had their bank accounts closed.

Another long standing example of discrimination in France is that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In April 2010, Gerard Gertroux provided testimony to CAP LC in this regard. Mr. Gertroux is an academic who has completed his work towards a PhD (Doctorate). At la Maison de l’Orient at the University of Lyon, he had a research director and a jury of six ready to review his dissertation. Just before he completed his work, however, his research director and all six jurors received a letter informing them Mr. Gertroux was a Jehovah’s Witness.  After they received the letter, they refused to grant him the PhD.  Two of the jurors refused to even talk to him again.  The research director signed a transfer request, however, so he could move to another school to try to get his PhD there.

Mr. Gertroux tried to transfer to another university, L’INALCO, but the new university refused to accept him as a transfer. Even though he received the agreement of a research director at L’INALCO, and two of his original jurors agreed to serve on his jury there, he was not accepted.

He said this is an example of the influence of MIVILUDES and the black list.  MIVILUDES has indoctrinated everyone against minority movements on the black list. This influence is spread across the entire government, as MIVILUDES is an Inter-Ministerial agency. And the Minister of Education is over all Universities – Universities depend on the Minister for support. So Universities are not willing to cross the government.

All the above testimonies and letters enclosed reveal that the 1995 list of sects is still in use in France and that MIVILUDES, far from reminding “any time it can to the State agents who contact MIVILUDES that such an approach must be avoided” as was asserted by the French government in its reply of February 2010 to the Rapporteur, has actually amplified the phenomenon by inciting State agents to attend “awareness sessions” and by providing them with a depository of records based on such a list and the related accusations against minority belief groups.

2. “Sects” Considered as “Pathology of Belief”

In May, 2009, Mr. Fenech declared to the press that « 500 to 600 sectarian movements are established in France, against less than 200 fifteen years ago”.[6] But this increase of the number of referenced movements, which Mr. Fenech claims  justifies stepped-up government action, is in reality due to the very escalation in the targeting of practices or beliefs considered by MIVILUDES as « deviating » and to the inclusion of a larger number of minority groups  in the repository of records established by Mr. Fenech.

Olivier Bobineau is a sociologist of religions, Professor at the Catholic Institute of Paris and a scientific associate of the Director of the Central Office for Cults at the Ministry of Interior since January 2006. Professor Bobineau, who resigned as a scientific advisor to MIVILUDES in 2005, considers MIVILUDES to act as the official “mind-police” for France. In an interview of 8 June 2009 he explained: [7]

“It intends to have a modern public policy, but it is the only one to not abide by three fundamental criteria:

1. A definition of the object of its work: MIVILUDES mixes sect, sectarian phenomenon and sectarian deviance, without giving any definition. These terms are empty shells applied to anything and everything, which results mainly in raising the number of sects in France from 200 to 607. The increase by three is due to the fact that MIVILUDES has set its cap at psychoanalysis.

2. An explanation of its methodology, that is to say the existence of a public debate, the crossing of sources, a real reflexion on the subject… but the only logic of MIVILUDES is the search of scapegoats, itself based on another logic, that of inquisition. The views of MIVILUDES are ‘we have no proof, which means that they hide them, therefore they do constitute a threat’.

3. A true assessment of its action: there is no tool for that, nor any discussion on the conclusions of MIVILUDES: when the OSCE and the UN dare criticize its work, MIVILUDES answers that these two institutions are infiltrated by sects.”

Based on this logic, MIVILUDES has launched a fight against movements it accuses of sectarian deviances on the basis of their beliefs. In its Annual Report 2008[8] MIVILUDES explained the following:

“Law condemns all practices which are prejudicial to Human rights and fundamental liberties, or are a threat to public order. The specific field of mental manipulation is typical of sectarian deviances. Repression by the State is necessary if a certain number of criteria are satisfied:

– One or more people start to believe in certain ideas which differ from the ideas generally accepted by society. The person receiving these ideas starts to modify all of their references, relations and projects. The life of the person escapes their control. The person is directed and conditioned by the psycho-sectarian manipulator.

– This commitment costs money and will represent a substantial share of the budget.”

These are the two criteria given to characterize mental manipulation. The spreading of new beliefs, which differ from beliefs of traditional religions generally accepted in society, is the main criterion to accuse minority belief movements of engaging in so-called “sectarian deviances”.

The February 2010 response of the French government to the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s request for updated information is therefore inaccurate and misleading, when it states that MIVILUDES “does not take into consideration either the content of the beliefs as such, nor does it rely on the ‘recognition’, the characterization of being established or not, of being majority or minority, of the studied movements, or on the point of knowing whether their content can be characterized as religious or as beliefs”.

Indeed, in Mr. Fenech’s 2008 Report to the Prime Minister, not only purported “sectarian abuses” but beliefs themselves are targeted for action by the State. For example, the Report quotes psychologist Mrs. Sonya Jougla with approval:

“Until today, the children who are victims of sects remain the forgotten of society and of professionals of childhood in danger; maybe because it is even more difficult to protect a child from his parents’ beliefs than from their beating or their incestuous sexuality; maybe also because the duress that the parents impose on their child by immerging him into a sect is perfectly legal.”[9]

This statement is very clear: the issue at stake is to protect children from their parents’ beliefs. Such an approach, and the implementation of recommendations that flow from that approach, constitutes a clear violation of the right of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs guaranteed by the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.

The inherent bias against the beliefs of religious movements designated as “movements of sectarian character” is further evident in Mr. Fenech’s Report by the Report’s arbitrarily characterizing these beliefs as « pseudo-philosophical or pseudo-religious types of totalitarianism » and denigrating such beliefs as harmful by claiming that they constitute “a doctrine degrading to the individual which drapes itself in ‘new spiritualities’”.[10]

Other French government officials have made public pronouncements regarding its “fight” against what it considers to be “deviating” beliefs. For example, at a conference given by MIVILUDES at the Lyon City Hall on 26 November 2009, French Secretary of State for Justice, Jean-Marie Bockel, stated:

The sectarian phenomenon can be analyzed as pathology of belief on a background of individuation and deregulation of belief.”

He then stated that “sectarian deviances” are “comparable to mutating viruses which spread in often insidious ways the poison of manipulation of human behaviors and spirits”.

Such statements, which have been published in national media, have been posted on the official site of the French Ministry of Justice where they stand to date.[11]

During the same conference, French officials publicly announced the creation of the first “anti-sect” Task Force pursuant to one recommendation formulated by Mr. Fenech in his 2008 Report to the Prime Minister. Commander Bernard Malfay, from the Central Office of Repression of Violence to Persons, presented to the audience at the Lyon City Hall the CAIMADES, Task Force of Assistance and Intervention in Sectarian Deviances Matters (Cellule d’assistance et d’intervention en matière de dérives sectaires).[12] This Task Force composed of six police officers is dedicated to bring assistance to all the police services facing cases of suspected “sectarian deviances”. CAIMADES has “interrogation frames”, kind of guidelines for interrogating people on their past, in order to help expert psychiatrists determine if there has been or not been mental subjection or allegiance to a so-called “guru”.

In its contribution to the 2009 MIVILUDES Report, the Ministry of Interior notes that this new anti-sect police was created on 1st September 2009 and that although it is advisable to have it intervene from the very beginning of any investigation, its assistance can be obtained at any stage of penal proceedings, in particular during questioning and custody and that experts can be used to take care of followers during these interventions of police forces.[13]

These interventions and “care” of followers were actually recommendations of Mr. Fenech in his 2008 Report to the Prime Minister which have been implemented in 2009. In the Report, he stated that followers of “degrading” beliefs were “happy slaves”, “not yet conscious of being victims”.[14] For them, he recommended that, during judicial investigations, a psychiatric examination should be performed to confirm if the adherence to such beliefs constituted a state of subjection, and that during custody, a special “support” should be organized with a psychologist and anti-sect associations as “followers who are not conscious of living in a situation of dependency” are “susceptible of strong emotional reactions at the time of their arrest and in the following hours”. He recommended the use of anti-sect associations for the “treatment” of members of minority belief groups, so they could do some kind of de-programming from alleged “degrading” beliefs on these followers, and for their follow-up so members would not try to reconstitute the dismantled minority belief groups.[15]

It is not the business of States to regulate beliefs. Designating specific religious beliefs and communities as so-called “sectarian” and restricting an individual’s freedom to choose and change his or her belief is inconsistent with international standards on religious freedom.

Article 9.1 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, which “right includes freedom to change his religion or belief”, and freedom “to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”.

In furtherance of the policy of “true religious pluralism”, the European Court of Human Rights has instructed governments “to remain neutral and impartial” and has been loathe to accept any restrictions on religion, viewing any contested measures with “strict scrutiny”.[16] The Court has in particular emphasized:

in exercising its regulatory power in this sphere and in its relations with various religions, denominations and beliefs, the State has a duty to remain neutral and impartial”; this duty of neutrality “excludes assessment by the State of the legitimacy of religious beliefs or the ways in which those beliefs are expressed.”[17]

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found that freedom of religion is not limited in its application to traditional religions and that any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community, contravenes Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.  The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed.  Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions.  The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community.

General Comment No. 22 on Art. 18 (Para 2).

The French government’s repressive policy regarding minority belief groups violates these international human rights standards.

3) Public Condemnation and Stigmatizing of Minority Groups by MIVILUDES

In contravention of these standards, MIVILUDES proceeds to statements on what groups constitute religions or what beliefs should be considered beliefs, and stigmatizes or condemns groups publicly, contrary to what the French government asserted in its February 2010 reply: “MIVILUDES does not proceed to any public condemnation or any stigmatizing of movements or practices as such, but only to warnings which pertain to its mission”.

As an example, before and during a trial which took place at the Paris First Instance Court in May and June 2009 against some members of the Church of Scientology accused of fraud by an ex-parishioner under the advice of anti-sect association UNADFI, Mr. Fenech appeared in more than 100 national media, including television (major public channels), to publicly denigrate the Church of Scientology and the beliefs of its parishioners. He repeatedly said that Scientology was not a religion, for example on national radio RTL on 16 June 2009 where he stated:

“It is a strong signal for all those victims who get snatched in this organization, which adorns itself with a religious mask. In fact Justice is in progress to lift the veal on this pseudo religion and to show that behind this there are real maneuvers which violate fundamental freedoms.”

And he repeatedly asserted that the beliefs of Scientologists could not be considered as “beliefs”. As an example, during a debate on national TV France 5 on 16 May 2009, he replied to a sociologist of religions[18] who was putting forward freedom of belief:

“Mr. Liogier sees beliefs everywhere. It is normal; it is his job to observe the religious phenomenon. When we talk about Scientology, tell me where you see the beliefs when it concerns buying courses, auditing, tests via the e-meter, personality tests, purification.”

Mr. Fenech actually presented the Church of Scientology as being guilty in a media campaign before the trial had even started with statements such as: “We are facing a commercial enterprise with a religious packaging which makes an enormous amount of victims,”[19] or “The trial that will be opened in Paris demonstrates well that there are dangers for persons whom we need to warn and inform.”[20]

Far from performance of a duty of warning the public against sectarian deviances as claimed by the French authorities, this behavior of MIVILUDES’ President appears more as a public condemnation and an attempt to put political pressure on and bias the Judges to criminally convict members of this group.

In violation of his duty of neutrality as a high government official, Mr. Fenech actually behaved as an anti-sect activist. When he found out during the Scientology trial that the penalty of dissolution for legal entities convicted of fraud had been cancelled from the Penal Code by the legislator, he commented as regards Scientology, for which no decision on the guilt had been taken yet: “We must re-adopt the means to neutralize such associations.”[21]

These actions taken by MIVILUDES do not correspond to the presentation made by the French government in its February 2010 reply to the Religious Freedom Rapporteur. Even more importantly, they represent an infringement of the right to a fair trial and to freedom of belief for the concerned minority belief groups.

4) Raids in the Communities

As part of his mission at MIVILUDES, Mr. Fenech has adopted a new method of monitoring and investigating minority belief groups: he has engaged in unannounced, surprise “visits” to certain communities in 2009 as explained in MIVILUDES’ 2009 Report.[22]

What is not reproduced in the Report however is that the visits were done with journalists who were never introduced as such to the concerned communities who opened their doors in good faith and felt betrayed. All visits were followed by a media blitz with very serious accusations against the concerned groups stigmatized as “sectarian movements”.

The usual scenario of these “visits” – or rather raids – has been as follows: Mr. Fenech, arrives with about 10-15 people, including someone from the media so the story could be printed with photographs, or from the TV. Mr. Fenech and his group show up unannounced and demand to come inside to ask questions. Most of the movements acceded to let Mr. Fenech in with his media circus, which they later regretted.

A small Catholic community Amour et Miséricorde (Love and Mercy) which used to gather for prayers around their leader who had visions of the Virgin Mary every month, announced its dissolution after a “visit” by MIVILUDES. The newspaper Le Progrès reported on 18 December 2008:

“Dominique Balestrat, owner of the land on which the community was living who has been a member of the group for ten years, feels this is incomprehensible and sad. He says: ‘We welcomed Georges Fenech, he told us that he was not coming for an investigation but just to meet with us. And we are now bombarded with slander. He did not come as an enemy. He came as a traitor. He used the media to crush us when there is nothing to crush. We used to be ten people or so here’.”

Despite – or because of – the fact that this group enjoyed good relations with the Archbishop of Dijon, Mr. Fenech met with the Archbishop to try to have him withdraw his support. The newspaper La Gazette de Côte d’Or reported the following interview of Mr. Fenech on 11 December 2009:

Journalist: Did you meet with His Highness Minnerath?

G. Fenech: Yes, at my request. As a matter of fact the members of this community claim to be supported in their faith by the Archbishop of Dijon. We had a long discussion in this regard. The Archbishop did not have all the elements in hand to have a very complete opinion on this movement, which to our viewpoint poses certain difficulties.

Journalist: What was his reaction?

G. Fenech: He seemed to be surprised. We amongst other things told him that Juliano Verbard, who later became the “Petit Lys d’Amour” in La Réunion Island, did an initiation journey in this community. In La Réunion, he reproduced the practices, be it with the songs, the liturgy, the visions… Later on, all this resulted in the abduction of a child. I do not say that there is a link between Love and Mercy and the Petit Lys d’Amour, but I say that the inspiration of the Petit Lys d’Amour has come from Love and Mercy.”

Mr. Fenech’s approach was unsuccessful as the Archbishop maintained afterwards his support for Amour et Miséricorde.

On 13 October 2009, the MIVILUDES team accompanied by a journalist of Le Parisien and a team of France 2 Television did another unexpected “visit” in the community Moulin des Vallées (Mill of the Valleys) at Saint Malon sur Mel in Brittany. Moulin des Vallées presents itself as an ecumenical monastery where people can “find a little silence, respite, for reflection”. It gathers about 70 licensed health practitioners around the philosophical teachings of Buddhist monk Brother Abel.

The letter of protest sent by members of the Monastery to the Préfet[23] tells about the conditions and spirit of this “visit”. The members summarized their complaint as follows:

“Mr Préfet, we solicit your help to understand how Mr. Fenech can legally introduce himself in a monastery, under the cover of a Ministerial investigation, in order to actually help journalists make an unauthorized report?”

They further described the “visit”:

“We were present at the Ecumenical and Secular Monastery Moulin des Vallées on Tuesday 13 October during the visit of MIVILUDES, which we perceived as extremely violent, a real “raid” as was characterized by Mrs. Anne-Cécile Juillet, journalist of ‘Aujourd’hui en France’ (Today in France), in her article of Friday 16 October.

With hindsight a feeling persists of having been in a stranglehold, of having been abused. We have witnessed, dumbfound and helpless, this unbelievable intrusion. We experienced this practice as a rape, for this raid of MIVILUDES was so brutal. We were stunned that such means could be used in the name of the Interministerial Commission of Fight against Sectarian Deviances.

We were subjected to an uninterrupted flow of questions to which we tried to answer on the characterization alleged by Mr. Fenech and we have been particularly chocked by the innuendo of being sectarian that he uttered, interrupting us continually.

Our answers received no credit: we were judged and condemned in advance. Indeed, by a series of assimilations, insinuations and inaccuracies, our choice of life has been denigrated and compared to movements which principles are in total opposition to our values.”[24]

This new method of MIVILUDES, presented in its 2009 Report as a better help to victims, is actually an infringement of these communities’ rights. MIVILUDES’ sequence of action is as follows: they receive denunciations or letters of complaint on certain groups, or simply the groups are included in the list of sects established in 1995. Instead of trying to dialogue and obtain further neutral information, MIVILUDES uses such denouncements to organize raids with the media to attack the concerned groups.

Far from trying to comply with the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur after her 2005 visit to France, MIVILUDES is actually involved in a policy of attack and “fight” against minority groups, contrary to the directives of dialogue featured in the European Lisbon Treaty and to the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination encompassed in the international human rights instruments that France has ratified to guarantee the right to freedom of religion and belief.

Conclusion

Rather than attempt to repair the human rights shortcomings identified in the 8 March 2006 Mission to France Report, the French authorities have chosen a more intolerant and discriminatory policy based on the repression of minority beliefs they consider possessing a  “pathology of belief” which needs in their view to be regulated.

The reality is that the French government, primarily through MIVILUDES and its President, has fostered and fueled minority religious intolerance due to its public policy to “fight” religious groups it has designated as “sectarian movements”.

This worsening situation and the current oppressive measures and actions taken by MIVILUDES to target minority belief groups contravene basic human rights of the members of these groups such as their right to freedom of religion or belief, to a fair trial and to be free from discrimination.

These repressive measures cannot be countenanced under OSCE and UN standards, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

International and legal standards mandate that new religions or religious minorities be treated fairly and in the same way as other religions. These standards also mandate a spirit of tolerance towards minority movements and a responsibility on the part of the State to create dialogue and take action where discrimination occurs. Until all the repressive measures are removed and the French government takes affirmative action through dialogue at high levels and other measures that foster tolerance towards all religions, discrimination in France directed at the hundreds of  religions targeted as “sectarian movements” will continue.

CAP LC respectfully requests that ODIHR and the Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief communicate with the French government regarding this matter and investigate the allegations detailed in the enclosed submission in order to restore the rights of religious minorities in France.


[1] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/religion/docs/followup/FU-France.pdf, Annex

[2] A/HRC/13/40/Add.1, page 25

[3] See Article in national newspaper Libération of 3 August 2009 “La France est en pointe dans la lutte contre les sectes” : http://www.liberation.fr/societe/0101583433-la-france-est-en-pointe-dans-la-lutte-contre-les-sectes

[4] See Page 33 :  http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/084000443/0000.pdf

[5] See: http://www.graal-france.net/index.html?page=3073

[6] La Croix newspaper 19 May 2009: http://www.la-croix.com/documents/doc.jsp?docId=2374056&rubId=47601

[7] See http://www.wmaker.net/psyresoformations/Lutte-contre-les-sectes-La-Miviludes,-police-des-esprits_a574.html and http://www.olivierbobineau.com/Revue%20de%20presse/article/rue89.html

[8] Report Page 59: http://www.miviludes.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Miviludes_Rapport_2008-EN.pdf

[9] Report Page 30: http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/084000443/0000.pdf

[10] Report Page 11: :  http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/084000443/0000.pdf

[11] Reference on Miviludes site: http://www.miviludes.gouv.fr/Colloque-Vigilance-et-lutte-contre?iddiv=4 and speech of Secretary of State on the site of the Ministry of Justice, §1.1: http://www.presse.justice.gouv.fr/index.php?rubrique=10093&ssrubrique=11374&article=18343

[12] Lyon Capitale.fr 26 November 2009.

[13] Report pages 261-262: http://www.miviludes.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapport2009_mise_en_ligne.pdf

[14] Report Page 42: http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/084000443/0000.pdf

[15] Report Pages 19-20: http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/084000443/0000.pdf

[16] Manoussakis v. Greece, 18748/91, 26 September 1996, § 44.

[17] Metropolitan Church, 45701/99, 13 December 2001, § 116-117.

[18] Raphaël Liogier, Director of “l’Observatoire du Religieux” and Professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Aix en Provence

[19] France 5 Television, 16 May 2009

[20] France 2 Television, news, 12 May 2009

[21] France Soir newspaper, 15 September 2009

[22] Report page 296: http://www.miviludes.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapport2009_mise_en_ligne.pdf

[23] Local government representative

[24] The letter and video testimonies can be found on the internet site of the Center of Information and Counselling of New Spiritualities (Centre d’Information et de Conseil des Nouvelles Spiritualités): http://www.sectes-infos.net/Moulin_des_Vallees.htm

Author: admin

CAPLC (European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience). This ONG follows a humanist universal call towards peace, brotherhood and tolerance regarding all human beings. It stemmed out of the following observations: -worldwide, an unparalleled crisis of civilisation, aggravated by recurrent economic, social and financial upheavals pours on mankind an array of evils and disasters: genocide, poverty, unemployment, starvation, terrorism, crime, drugs, extinction of species…

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