This is also encouraging violations of the rights of parents to educate their children in conformity with their own convictions, as discrimination arise when some religious groups are targeted as “non traditional”, “sects”, cults”, etc. And children must be protected from discrimination, and violation of their rights including article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This report, poorly made, contradicts also the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. When some courts have tried to prosecute new religious movements on the basis of the peremptory statement that they were “sects” and that for that reason Children were at stake. In Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia, the Court recalled that Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention on Human Rights requires the State to respect the rights of parents to ensure education and teaching in conformity with their own religious convictions and concluded:
“Both parents, even in a situation where they adhere to differing doctrines or beliefs, have the same right to raise their children in accordance with their religious or non-religious convictions and any disagreements between them in relation to the necessity and extent of the children’s participation in religious practices and education are private disputes that are to be resolved according to the procedure established in domestic family law.” [para 125]
The resolution also proposes “Extensive awareness-raising measures for welfare services, judges (in family law cases, especially when parents separate), civil servants, the police and ombudsmen’s”. These “awareness raising measures” on so called “sects” have existed in Germany and the UN Human Rights Committee, in its 1996 Concluding Observations regarding Germany, have recommended that Germany discontinue "sensitizing sessions for judges against the practices of certain designated sects”. These “awareness raising sessions” also exist in France, where they constitute one sided indoctrination sessions that have resulted in strong discrimination against religious minorities or new religious movements. These sessions are absolutely contrary to the Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on judges: independence, efficiency and responsibilities: 22. In their decision making judges should be independent and impartial and able to act without any restriction, improper influence, pressure, threat or interference, direct or indirect, from any authority, including authorities internal to the judiciary. (…)
57. An independent authority should ensure, in full compliance with educational autonomy, that initial and in-service training programmes meet the requirements of openness, competence and impartiality inherent in judicial office.
The whole report is openly based on data provided by FECRIS and the French Miviludes. FECRIS is known for associating with the “mighty” and discriminate against religious minorities they label as “sects”. They cannot be considered as neutral, fair or reliable for such a report which touches such an important issue. FECRIS is almost entirely funded by the French government, so it is not a surprise that they are linked to the French Miviludes, an internationally criticized body which is suppose to fight against “sects”. The exportation of this ideological biased system from France to other countries of the Council of Europe would be a very unconsidered move for the Assembly.
For these reasons, and many others that we can’t obviously raise all in this letter without writing a book, we would like to ask the Assembly to not engage in such a risky path, a path which will encourage discrimination, persecutions of religious minorities throughout the member States of the Council of Europe. Every religion is a minority somewhere. Every religion is a “sect” somewhere in the views of some others. The Council of Europe is here to protect the Right to Freedom of religion or Belief of every person, including the ones who are members of religious minorities. This report should be, at the very least, sent back to Committee for further review until it is done properly and that the resolution and recommendation it proposes respects Human Rights international standards.
President of Guild of Experts on Religion and Law (Moscow, Russia)
Letter from the Guild of experts on sects.pdf