FRANCE: CSOs react to Minister of Interior order of dissolution of an organisation working on islamophobia

Update: On December 2, 2020, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced in a tweet that the Council of Ministers had notified the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) that it was being dissolved by decree. The organisation had already voluntarily dissolved in order to maintain its legal actions against islamophobia active abroad. Read the final statement of the organisation here.

On 16 October, Samuel Paty, a teacher in Conflans, France, was murdered after showing his students caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. This horrendous act was followed by statements against some civil organisations, accused of opposing the ‘Republican order’ and being ‘radical Islamists’.

French civil society organisations showed concern about the call by Gérald Darmanin, French Minister of the Interior, to dissolve the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), an anti-racist organisation member of the European Network Against Racism. This threat has triggered a wave of support to the organisation which has been fighting against racism and discrimination targeting Muslims for the last 20 years.

Human Rights Watch:France: Dissolving Anti-Discrimination Group Threatens Rights

The French government’s decision to shut down a leading anti-discrimination group threatens basic human rights and liberties including freedom of expression, association, and religion, and the principle of nondiscrimination, Human Rights Watch said today. […] “Whatever its intention, this measure risks further stigmatizing Muslims in France,” said Kartik Raj, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Shutting down an organization that raises legitimate concerns about anti-Muslim prejudice is blaming the messenger rather than addressing existing discrimination.”

Read here the full statement of Human Rights Watch originally published on 4 December 2020.

Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH): Political dissolution of CCIF

[…] By assuming to dissolve an association because it has described as Islamophobic “measures taken with the aim of preventing terrorist actions and preventing or combating acts punishable by law”, the government is taking the path of the crime of opinion. By adding that the CCIF’s opinions constitute “acts with a view to provoking acts of terrorism” and “that it defends and promotes a particularly broad notion of Islamophobia”, the government is showing us that no one is safe from such and such prosecution.

The League for Human Rights (LDH) is deeply concerned about this attack on the rule of law. It can only lead to increased tensions and reinforce the idea that all Muslims are under accuse.

Read here the full statement of Ligue des Droit de l’Homme originally published in French on 3 December 2020.

ECF: The European Civic Forum warns about rapid deterioration of civic space and rule of law in France

[…] The French legal framework for associations is one of the strongest in the world and has proved fit for associations to develop their multi-fold activities for more than a century. Associations can be dissolved, as it has happened in the past decades, based on clear legal grounds, mostly linked to the conduct of violent actions. However, this does not appear to be the case in relation to the decisions that are being taken by the Government now. French civic actors are questioning the lack of factual evidence presented by authorities.

As ENCL has stated, dissolving an association is the “severest of punishments, and a curtailment of the right of freedom of association; it should only be undertaken after careful consideration…”

It follows that any decision to dissolve an association should be based on clear evidential legal grounds and not political considerations.

Read here the full statement of the European Civic Forum originally published on 1 December 2020.

Amnesty International: France: shutting down anti-racist organisation risks freedoms

Responding to the announcement by Gérald Darmanin, the French Minister of Interior, that the French government will dissolve the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), an NGO that combats discrimination against Muslims, Nils Muižnieks, Europe Director at Amnesty International said:

The proposed dissolution of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France would be a shocking move from the French government. This move could have a chilling effect on all people and organisations engaged in combating racism and discrimination in France.
Nils Muižnieks, Europe Director at Amnesty International

“The dissolution of an organization is an extreme measure that can be justified only in very limited circumstances, such as if it poses a clear and imminent danger to national security or public order. The French authorities have failed to provide to date any evidence that could justify the dissolution of CCIF.

“Amnesty International is extremely concerned about the signal that this sends to NGOs and the fight against discrimination in France. We call on the French authorities to immediately reverse this decision.”

Read here the full statement of Amnesty International originally published on 20 November 2020.

LDH: Hate, arbitrariness: we will not yield anything

What is the point of gathering around Samuel Paty, what is the point of our anger and our revolt if, at the same time, hatred is made into scapegoats, freedom of expression is censured and arbitrariness is publicly claimed?

Revenge has no place in the imperative need to respond to the challenges posed to us by those who have made death and fanaticism their flag in the name of a political and misguided vision of Islam.

Throwing out the names of associations without any link to the crime committed makes them targets for social ostracism and makes freedom of association a danger whose exercise should be restricted.

This government rhetoric, which oscillates between contempt for the law and presumed guilt because of religion or origin, leads to preventing any debate on the policies implemented for decades both to put an end to the discrimination that undermines the republican pact and to better ensure our security. Worse, it has freed the word of those who, for decades, have been proclaiming at all costs that Islam and with it all women and men of that faith or culture are outside the laws of the Republic.

Read here the full statement of la Ligue des Droit de l’Homme originally published in French on 27 October 2020.

Michel Tubiana, honorary partner of la Ligue des Droit de l’Homme concerning the announcement of the dissolution of CCIF pointed out “emotion, highly justified, should not replace the rule of law”.

[A lire] Michel Tubiana, pdt d’honneur #LDH concernant l’annonce de dissolution du @ccif : “l’émotion, hautement justifiée, ne devrait pas se substituer à la règle de droit”.

— LDH France (@LDH_Fr) October 22, 2020

La Quadrature du Net: An unacceptable infringement of freedom of association and Equal rights

The stigmatisation strategy chosen by the Minister of the Interior is dangerous since it targets individuals and associations because of their religious affiliation, whether real or assumed, when they have no connection with terrorism or hate speech. This authoritarian stance undermines essential principles of the rule of law, which protect against collective accusations, abusive procedures and procedures that are not based on specific facts.

The arbitrary dissolution of associations is neither a fair nor an effective way to defend freedom of expression or collective security. Only religious fanatics and the extreme right have something to gain from such dissolution; the rule of law has everything to lose.

We call on the government to renounce the dissolution of CCIF, to respect freedom of association and freedom of expression, which are enshrined in the Constitution of our Republic.

La Quadrature du Net, together with a coalition of NGOs, published here the full statement in FR on 21, October 2020.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR): Extremely concerned by the Interior Minister threat

The CCIF’s mission is to fight racism and racial discrimination, and specifically Islamophobia, in France. It provides crucial legal support and advice to victims of discrimination and conducts important research to uncover to reality of anti-Muslim racism in France. Its professionalism and expertise have been recognised by European and international institutions, including by equality bodies and human rights NGOs.

We are concerned by the political pressures, at the highest level of the French government, and intimidation campaign targeting a human rights organisation whose work is to address discrimination and hate crimes against Muslim citizens.

This proposal to dissolve a professional anti-racist organisation which does crucial work to combat racism and defend the rights of racialised groups is a violation of democratic freedoms, in particular as there has been no legal enquiry into the allegations prior to the Minister’s announcement. It reflects institutional racism within the French government, in a context where it has recently announced a bill which stigmatises and targets French Muslim communities.

Instead of criminalising anti-racist organisations, we urge the French government to respect its commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms. We caution political leaders on their use of inflammatory rhetoric, which fuels hatred and intolerance instead of reinforcing social cohesion and inclusion.

Read here the letter cosigned by ENAR and 72 NGOs. Published on 20 October 2020.

CCIF: Dissolving the CCIF, the shift from rule of law to arbitrariness

In these dark moments, we have a choice to make: either we play the game of terrorists of division by targeting Muslims, or we unite society, fighting both terrorism and all forms of racism. With these statements on the dissolution of the CCIF, these political figures are playing the game of terrorists, dividing society and forcing people to choose between fighting terrorism and fighting racism, instead of uniting and fighting both.

By circumventing the law, and by assuming that he wants to “get messages across” through political acts, Gérald Darmanin is acting outside and against republican law. The raids are thus no longer a tool to control real criminality, but a means of political intimidation. Under the pretext that current laws would not allow him to “fight against Islamism,” the Ministry of the Interior is thus breaking the law while waiting to modify it. This is a major blow, opening the way for the extreme right in its quest for power. If Muslims are told that they no longer have the right to defend their rights, it is a sign that terrorists and racists have won. Our freedoms are at stake for all of us.

The campaign that is being waged precisely against the CCIF, as well as other associations such as the Omar Mosque, “Learn & Understand”, Barakacity or Ummah Charity, is part of a troubled political dimension. For several years now, the government in power has been developing a repressive strategy of persecution, which seeks to politically kill any dissent… in the very name of “freedom of expression”.

Read here the full statement of CCIF originally published on 19 October, 2020.