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FRANCE: According to CSOs, the dissolution of the CCIF puts associations in danger

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Joint statement published by the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH – France) on 8 October 2021 (unofficial translation from French)

The dissolution of the CCIF validated by the Council of State: associations in danger!

In a ruling handed down on the sly on 24 September 2021 [Surprisingly, there is no trace of this decision either on the website of the Council of State or on Légifrance, ed.], the Council of State gave its blessing to the dissolution of the CCIF, an association whose purpose was to fight by legal means discrimination against Muslim people. Unfortunately, this decision risks to set a precedent, placing a sword of Damocles over associations whose purpose is to defend rights and freedoms. 

The dissolution of the CCIF, under the accusation of provocation to acts of terrorism, had been announced with great fanfare by the Minister of the Interior in reaction to the murder of Samuel Paty. The Council of State had to state that the accusation didn’t have any basis, as there was no elements to suspect the association of complicity, or even complacency, in this abominable act or in other terrorist acts. The Minister of the Interior must not have been so sure of himself since he had also invoked, to justify the measure, the provision that allows the dissolution of associations “that cause discrimination, hatred or violence” or that propagate ideas that justify or encourage such discrimination, hatred or violence.  

In a curious twist, the dissolution of the CCIF is therefore approved on the grounds that by fighting – legally – against anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred, it has itself become guilty of discrimination and hatred… In fact, for the Council of State, “criticising without nuance” public policies or laws that are considered to be discriminatory is to push the victims of the alleged discrimination down the slope of radicalisation and to invite them to evade the laws of the Republic. In other words, having the impertinence to criticise the state by arguing that it is violating the law is almost an attack. What a curious concept of the rule of law… To reach this conclusion, the Council of State has totally misused a text originally designed to combat the spread of violent, racist and inegalitarian ideologies, and has thus transformed it into a lethal weapon that can be used against any association defending rights and freedoms. 

The decision is also worrying in that it amounts to admitting that an association is responsible not only for its own actions and public positions, but also for those of its former leaders – including when they express themselves in a personal capacity – and those of its members, former members and even people who comment on its online publications. The associations are thus ordered, on pain of dissolution without prior notice, to exercise constant vigilance over the comments or actions of their members – comments or actions which, in this case, the public prosecutor never considered appropriate to pursue.  

Finally, and even more importantly perhaps, in a worrying renunciation of its supervisory role, the Council of State took the minister’s accusations for granted, without the slightest hindsight. This is how statements made by the former CCIF’s spokesperson in 2014, stating that Islamist attacks – which the association has consistently condemned – represented a minority of the attacks committed in Europe (which was true at the time), became statements “tending to relativise, or even legitimise, the attacks”.  

It is legitimate for anyone to criticise CCIF’s interventions, or even its general position – as some of the organisations that signed this text have done. The debate of ideas is normal and desirable in a pluralist society. On the other hand, it is incomprehensible – and unacceptable – that an association whose purpose is to act by legal means, notably by taking legal action, to fight against what it considers, rightly or wrongly, to be illegal discrimination, should be treated, for this reason, as an enemy of the Republic and condemned to civil death.  

The Council of State’s decision states that by fighting, by legal means, what one holds to be unjust, one becomes an accomplice to the infamies committed under the pretext of injustice, and that by demanding that the State respect the law, one becomes guilty of sedition. This decision ignores the fundamental values of the rule of law. Combined with the promulgation of the law “reinforcing the respect of the principles of the Republic”, it places the entire associative world under control by the Minister of the Interior and gives the government the power to silence civil society. 

8 October 2021 

ADM – Action Droits des Musulmans (ADM) 

Attac 

Comede – Comité pour la santé des exilé·e·s 

CRLDHT– Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme en Tunisie 

Fasti – Fédération des Associations de Solidarité avec les Tout·e·s les Immigré·e·s 

Fédération nationale de la Libre Pensée 

Femmes Égalité 

Fondation Copernic 

FTCR – Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyenneté des deux Rives 

Gisti – Groupe d’information et de soutien des immigré·e·s 

LdH – Ligue des droits de l’Homme 

Memorial 98 

MRAP – Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples 

SAF – Syndicat des avocats de France 

SM – Syndicat de la magistrature 

Union syndicale Solidaires 

UTAC – Union des Tunisiens pour l’Action Citoyenne 

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