European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom

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La libertà religiosa europea diventerà più fragile se giovedì prossimo l’Assemblea parlamentare del Consiglio d’Europa adotterà la «Risoluzione sulla protezione dei minori dalle derive settarie»

Articolo di  Marco Ventura
Corriere della Sera,  8/4/2014 
 
MILANO - La libertà religiosa europea diventerà più fragile se giovedì prossimo l’Assemblea parlamentare del Consiglio d’Europa adotterà la «Risoluzione sulla protezione dei minori dalle derive settarie». La Risoluzione chiede ai governi di sorvegliare e reprimere le sette, gruppi che isolano e manipolano la gioventù, e che si distinguono dalle religioni tradizionali, di cui i governi dovrebbero servirsi per proteggere i giovani dalle «derive settarie».
 
Per i fan della Risoluzione, non basta la tutela penale ordinaria dei minori, senza distinzioni di fede, che mette alla pari gli abusi commessi da un prete, un guru o un non credente. Andrebbero invece punite specificamente le «derive settarie», ovvero le «tecniche di pressione aventi lo scopo o l’effetto di creare, mantenere o sfruttare uno stato di soggezione psicologica o fisica, in modo tale da danneggiare l’individuo e la società». Dove è stata percorsa, questa via è stata un fallimento. E ha violato diritti [...]
 

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Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, April 9th 2014 | Comments (0)

Remarks concerning the report “The protection of minors against excesses of sects,” Council of Europe hearing, 8 April 2014, Strasbourg. During the event "Minors and excesses of sects: a serious threat to religious freedom?" organized by EIFRF, CARE for Europe, the Moscow Helsinky Group, the All Faith Network and the European Evangelical Alliance, and sponsored by Mr Valeriu Ghiletchi, member of the Parlementary Assembly of the Council of Europe.


Dr Aaron Rhodes today's speech on religious freedom at Council of Europe side-event

Dr. Aaron Rhodes
Co-founder of the Freedom Rights Project; President of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe; former Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
 
I appreciate this opportunity to speak in the framework of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 
As I understand it, the main role of the Parliamentary Assembly is to undertake investigations and make recommendations to the member states of the Council of Europe.

I am here to appeal to the members of the Parliamentary Assembly to soundly reject the resolution entitled “The protection of minors against excesses of sects.” (Drafted by French MP Rudy Salles and to be voted upon the 10th of April by the Plenary Assembly of the Council of Europe.)

As a human rights advocate, I am certain that this resolution would not offer children any meaningful protection not already available to them under the laws of member states.  

But if it were to pass, the resolution would itself constitute a threat to children, as well as adults, who are members of minority religions.  

It would stigmatize them and increase the chances of them being exposed to prejudice, discriminated against, and even subjected to violence. 

The proposal raises the obvious question:  Why focus just on so-called “sects”?  What about the threats to children by main-line religious organizations?  

The resolution would be a strike against religious toleration and thus against democracy and human rights, which mean nothing if religious groups are not treated equally. 

The resolution would be a stain on the Council of Europe.  It is in no way consistent with the intent of the founders of the Council of Europe.  Indeed, it is confusing that such a document, one that would weaken human rights protections and possibly inspire human rights violations, is even under consideration.

An impressive list of independent human rights organizations, and those that monitor religious freedom issues in particular, are calling for the rejection of this measure. 

They are doing so because they understand that the work of defending human rights is often that of defending the rights of members of minority groups—linguistic, ethnic, racial, political, sexual, or religious minorities, whose rights and security are often threatened because of discrimination and prejudice. 

Indeed, the whole philosophical edifice of human rights emerged with recognition of the moral obligation to respect people’s dignity, not because they are members of one’s own kin or shared one’s religion or nationality, or ethnicity or race, but because they are simply human beings.   It is also a central tenet of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Pluralism gave us our appreciation for the dignity of humanity as such, and for the universality of human rights.

We believe this Resolution violates the principle of State’s duty to neutrality in matters of religion or belief, treating some with greater suspicion than others, and stigmatizing their members. 

Let us apply a simple test, the test of the Golden Rule:  How would you feel, as a member of a so-called “sect,” if Europe’s guardians of human rights passed this Resolution? If members of the Council of Europe acted on the recommendations to engage in an assault on religions classified as “sects”?   Indeed, the human rights community has many times condemned the classification of religious organizations using pejorative terms like “sect.”  Passage of this Resolution will put the Parliamentary Assembly at odds, not only with obligations under its own European Convention, but also at odds with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.   The Resolution is not only a recipe for discrimination and intolerance; it will provide cover for arbitrary interference in religious life. 

Let me conclude be a few words about the implications of this proposal with regard to the effort to protect the freedom of religion worldwide.

Many members of the Council of Europe consider the freedom of religion a priority concern in their engagement with other countries.  That is absolutely correct and appropriate, because the freedom of religion deeply affects the enjoyment of many other human rights, and is intrinsically among the most important rights necessary for human fulfillment.

But the freedom of religion is seriously threatened in a depressing number of countries—threatened by discriminatory laws; by blasphemy laws; by the refusal of authorities to protect members of minority religions; even by laws under which people can be executed for changing their religion—laws that exist even in some states that are members of the UN Human Rights Council.

The Council of Europe is respected around the world for upholding human rights standards.  But if the Council of Europe itself embraces religious discrimination and interference by state authorities in the form of the Resolution under consideration here, it will not only degrade its own standards, but also diminish its value as a model for others.         
 
aaronarhodes@gmail.com
0049-170-323-8314
 
 
 
 
 
 
  

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, April 9th 2014 | Comments (0)

Press release
Minors and excesses of sects:
A serious threat to religious freedom?
Human Rights experts speak up at Council of Europe
Tuesday 8th April – Strasbourg – Council of Europe


A serious threat to religious freedom?  Human Rights experts speak up at Council of Europe
At an event in the Council of Europe today a coalition of 5 groups concerned with Religious Freedom held a well-attended event on the subject. The event was sponsored by Member of Parliament Valeriu Ghiletchi*. The event was held to focus attention on the already extensive criticism of French MP Rudy Salles’ Report “The protection of minors against excesses of sects” – a report that will be debated in the Parliamentary Assembly on the 10th April.

The two speakers, Professor Vincent Berger** and Dr Aaron Rhodes*** outlined the dangers of adopting a report that would affect the rights of religious minorities when, from a human rights and legal perspective, there are no or inadequate definitions to define the supposed problem. To implement measures without any clear legal basis would only end up stigmatizing and eventually reducing the rights and protection of children and their parents.

The report was also strongly criticized for its lack of evidence to support the proposed recommendations which Professor Berger said ‘would be likely to seriously undermine religious freedom and freedom of association guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Indeed, they cast aspersions on all new religious and spiritual groups that have emerged in Europe alongside traditional churches and denominations…’

Dr. Rhodes, former Executive Director of the International Helsinki Committee and Co-Founder of the Freedom Rights Project, who has worked in the human rights field for many years, was particularly critical of the failure of the report and recommendations to meet human rights standards. He made it clear that the draft resolution “would not offer children any meaningful protection not already available to them under the laws of member states” and that if it “were to pass, the resolution would itself constitute a threat to children, as well as adults, who are members of minority religions. It would stigmatize them and increase the chances of them being exposed to prejudice, discriminated against, and even subjected to violence.” 

He went on to say, “The resolution would be a stain on the Council of Europe.  It is in no way consistent with the intent of the founders of the Council of Europe.” “Passage of this Resolution will put the Parliamentary Assembly at odds, not only with obligations under its own European Convention, but also at odds with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.   The Resolution is not only a recipe for discrimination and intolerance; it will provide cover for arbitrary interference in religious life.”    

After a number of questions, many of them seeking to understand the motivation behind the report, Mr Ghiletchi concluded the meeting by appealing to the attendant MPs and NGO representatives. He said “This should not become a resolution. It will be a stain, a shame to the Council of Europe if it accepts this resolution. This draft report is a real threat to religious freedom and we cannot accept such a Pandora’s Box.”

Key points of serious concern included the following:

- The use of the term “sect” will establish a restrictive classification system that will stigmatize and marginalize targeted minority faiths.  This runs counter to statements by international human rights bodies and two former UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion and Belief that the term is a derogatory designation inconsistent with policies that foster religious freedom, pluralism and tolerance.
 
- The implementation of “extensive awareness-raising measures” for certain officials, including judges, on the issue of “sects” will contravene a UN Human Rights Committee finding that such “awareness sessions” violate human rights standards and a recommendation that “sensitizing sessions for judges against the practices of certain designated sects” cease.(1)

- The establishment of national and regional information centers or “sect observatories” without requiring such centers to be staffed by independent, neutral and objective experts with appropriate academic qualifications, and to provide targeted religious groups with access to their files and the opportunity to respond and correct inaccuracies, will result in a biased approached toward minority faiths. 
 
- The series of measures in the area of education and children will jeopardize the rights of parents to educate their children in conformity with their own religious beliefs, as protected under Article 9 and Protocol 1, Article 2, of the Convention; Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
 
- The call for all 47 member states to “adopt or strengthen, if necessary, legislative provisions punishing the abuse of psychological and/or physical weakness” is clearly based on the much-criticized About-Picard law in France.  This runs counter to previous declarations and resolutions of PACE.  On April 26, 2011, 50 members of PACE signed Declaration 321, expressing their concern about the About-Picard law.  And on November 18, 2002, PACE adopted Resolution 1309 on the About-Picard law, calling on the French government to “reconsider the law” and its conformance with Article 9 of the Convention.

The report will come before the Assembly on Thursday 10th April. It is expected that there will be strong opposition to the report and many amendments will be filed if the report is not rejected completely.
 

*Mr. Ghiletchi is a key figure in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s campaign “One in Five” directed at uniting parliaments in combating sexual violence against children.

**Professor Berger was until recently the Jurisconsult of the European Court of Human Rights – a unique position responsible for case-law monitoring and preventing case-law conflicts in the Court. He is therefore in a unique position to determine the validity of the report from a European human rights and case law perspective.
***Dr Rhodes is regarded as one of the world’s leading human rights activities who has deveoted his life to public service.

The groups sponsoring this event are:

European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom
Care for Europe
The Moscow Helsinki Group
The All Faiths Network
The European Evangelical Alliance


1. UN Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations: Germany (18/11/96), (CCPR/C/79/Add.73). 


Rédigé par EIFRF le Tuesday, April 8th 2014 | Comments (0)

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