On April 10, 2014 report no.13441 - “The protection of minors against excesses of sects” - by the French MP Mr. Rudy Salles will be discussed at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly session.
The presented draft resolution and recommendations by Mr. Salles are aimed to address the “excesses of sects”, describing them as “acts which have the purpose or effect of creating, maintaining or exploiting a state of psychological or physical submission in an individual, causing harm to that individual or for society”. For the prevention of such actions the draft resolution offers the adoption of special legislative provisions “punishing the abuse of psychological and/or physical weakness” (Draft resolution, Par. 6.7).
At the same time, it is very important to consider the following aspects in order to assess the presented initiative: in the explanatory memorandum the rapporteur points out that it is impossible to give a definition of a “sect”, however, based on another report, he suggests the difference between “religion’ and a “sect” - “while a religion implies free, informed consent on the part of those who join it, people joining certain sects may be free when they join it, but are not informed, and, once they are informed, they are usually no longer free” (Explanatory Memorandum, Par. 15).
In addition to all the mentioned explanations, it is numerously pointed out in the draft resolution and in the whole report that the problem is not studied sufficiently within the Council of Europe member states and there is no adequate data in this regard. Based on the above mentioned, the following conclusions can be drawn:
It is not viable to take any international measures as it is impossible to define and reach consensus about the definition of a “sect”. The rapporteur himself is not capable to offer even the draft version of this term.
The term “sect” has an offensive and discriminatory connotation most often used by dominant religious groups against comparably new and small religious groups.
Such regulation of religious organizations requires a study of their ideology and evaluation of their legitimacy at the national levels, which absolutely contradicts the principle of religious neutrality entrenched by a state. It has also to be mentioned that the PACE – institution of the Council of Europe - shall not adopt the resolution contradicting the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, another CoE institution.
The presented initiative is definitely incompatible with the fundamental human rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, especially Articles 9 (freedom of conscience), 11 (freedom of association), 14 (non-discrimination) as well as the Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (the rights of parents with regard to the education of their children).
The presented draft resolution and recommendations are discriminatory granting privileges to the so called traditional and dominant religious associations.
At the same time, the proposed projects are not based on any empirical research that could demonstrate actual existence of the problem. The draft resolution and recommendations are very vague and groundless, endangering a number of fundamental human rights. It is beyond doubt that the adoption of these documents will generate additional artificial barriers for many religious organizations to exercise the right to freedom of religion or belief. Consequently, there is no ground to share or support the presented initiative.
Stemming from the above mentioned, we call on the Parliamentary Standing Delegation of Parliament of Georgia to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe not to support Mr. Salles’ draft resolution.
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Article 42 of the Constitution
Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group