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FRANCE: A new witch hunt, investigation on the repression of associations in the context of the fight against Islamism

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Report by the Observatory of associative freedoms (Observatoire des libertés associatives) published on 01/02/2022 (unofficial translation from French)

In an unprecedented investigation, researchers associated with the Observatory of Associative Freedoms analyse the excesses of the fight against Islamism, which has gone from anti-terrorism to political and financial hindrance against associations in which Muslim people participate. “A witch hunt” that risks proving to be counter-productive and draconian.

In the name of the “fight against communitarianism and separatism” or “the defense of republican principles”, associations defending the rights of Muslims, as well as those showing solidarity with these communities, are the target of sanctions on the part of public authorities. These sanctions are presented as a response to the role that the associative fabric would play in the trajectories of radicalisation and terrorist engagement. However, the demonstration of the phenomenon is never brought. Some associations, thus, find themselves the target of public political attacks justifying administrative and financial sanctions without resorting to the law and adversarial proceedings. This phenomenon has accelerated since the assassination of Samuel Paty in October 2020, to the point of becoming a “new witch hunt”.

For its second survey, the Observatory of Associative Freedoms, bringing together social science researchers and association leaders, analyses the repression of associations in the context of the fight against Islamism through cases of abusive sanctions between 2016 and 2021. This survey shows the quasi-systematic absence of legal or factual bases for the sanctions studied, which range from the prohibition of access to public facilities, the withdrawal of subsidies to dissolution.

By penalizing associations whose activities are legal, according to the law in force, and sometimes by making accusations based on uncertain factual bases, these obstacles prove to be dangerous and counterproductive in the fight against Islamism and terrorist phenomena, because they contribute to deepen the civic marginalisation of our Muslim fellow citizens through the weakening or disappearance of associations.

The law consolidating respect for the principles of the Republic, known as the “separatism law”, and in particular the Republican Commitment Contract which it now imposes on all associations requesting approval or funding, risks to excessively strengthening the prerogatives of control and sanctions by public authorities on associations, in a context of political manipulation of republican principles.

Paris, February 1, 2022

The facilitation of the conditions for the dissolution of an association or a collective, on the motivation of the Ministry of the Interior and presidential decree, and their multiplication in recent months, weighs like a threat on all freedoms of opinion, of expression and protest which are inseparable from the freedom of association“, worry the member associations of the Coalition for associative freedoms.

These unfounded attacks against these associations are part of an ideologically motivated administrative police, a witch hunt which should offend all those attached to the rule of law and freedom of association“, indicated the authors of the report during a press conference in the presence of the President of the Ligue des droits de l’Homme and two MPs, Ms. Mathilde Panot and Mr. Aurélien Taché.