FRANCE: What is the outcome of the About- Picard law on the prevention and suppression of sects?

10 10 2013

FRANCE

Human Rights Without Frontiers (07.10.2013) – In June 2011, after ten years that the Law of 12th June 2001 has been in force – designed to strengthen the prevention and repression of sectarian movements affecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms (1) – Georges Fenech announced in the annual report published in Miviludes that a complete assessment of the law would be forthcoming the following year (2). The 2011 report was finally submitted two years later to the Prime Minister, simply reproducing the proceedings of a conference held in camera the 26th October 2011 in the National Assembly (3).

The first half of the report is composed of lengthy expressions of thanks and self- congratulatory comments issuing from the members of the Palais Bourbon study group on sects and from other anti-sect activists, including lively criticism of those who have expressed fears about this repressive legislation.

It is only during the intervention of Mrs Maryvonne Caillibotte (Director of Criminal Affairs and Pardons) and only at that time that we finally have real results with some figures:

“Regarding the statistical evidence, in 2010, we know a hundred criminal proceedings in connection with sectarian activities which have been identified as such. [ … ] In terms of convictions of the main perpetrator of fraudulent abuse of weakness, since 2004, 35 convictions have been established. However, only a few were committed in the context of sectarian activities.” (4)

This specific data implies the following two observations:

First of all, the few cases (probably less than one per year) that have led to a conviction for “fraudulent abuse of the state of weakness” over the past year reveal how the “sectarian infraction” is insignificant in comparison to the real problems of French society. However, the proceedings initiated are not lacking, considering the conditioning in various media that has been promoted by anti-sect organizations. If nothing else, in 2010, one hundred criminal proceedings were initiated. And the representative of the Ministry does not hide the fact of having exerted “pressure” on the court to get the desired result … (5)

Secondly, the law includes in its title the main target, that is to say,” cults,” without giving a legal definition. This law has been essentially used outside of the sectarian context. On the one hand, parliamentary proceedings have been wrongly focused on this non-issue. On the other hand, it confirms the fears that a law of this kind can easily be sidetracked from its original intent.

The rest of the evaluation proposed by Miviludes is only a reminder of the whole legislative arsenal which has been voted in over time, not to mention the more concrete question of what it actually accomplished.

In a legal analysis of these legislative efforts, Professor Patrice Rolland reached at that time the following conclusion:

“In general, the law of 12 June 2001 is a mediocre law that reflects in a passive manner the perplexities of French public opinion with regard to what it calls sects. Failure to understand the purpose and meaning of these transformations of religious sentiment may in fact undermine a fundamental freedom or perhaps, because of this risk, remain undeliverable. This is probably the best that one could wish for.” (6)

In the end, the results have been relatively positive: this law has not reached the goal of some draconian political figures involved in the fight against what they see as threatening sects.

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(1) Loi n° 2001-504 du 12 juin 2001 tendant à renforcer la prévention et la répression des mouvements sectaires portant atteinte aux droits de l’homme et aux libertés, Journal officiel, n°135, 13 juin 2001, p. 9337.

(2) Rapport au Premier ministre 2010, Miviludes, La Documentation française, 2011, p. 7.

(3) Rapport au Premier ministre 2011-2012, Miviludes, La Documentation française, 2013, pp. 39-88.

(4) Ibid., p. 61.

(5) Ibid., p. 59.

(6) Patrice Rolland, « La loi du 12 juin 2001 contre les mouvements sectaires portant atteinte aux Droits de l’Homme. Anatomie d’un débat législatif », Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 121 | 2003, 149-166.

Source :http://www.droit-tj.fr/spip.php?article344 (Translation French-English by Human Rights Without Frontiers)


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