FRANCE: Open letter – for the attention of senators: Bill “reinforcing respect for the principles of the republic”

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Unofficial translation of joint open letter, published by LDH on 07 April 2021, available here.

Joint open letter, of which Malik Salemkour, president of the LDH, is a signatory

Paris, April 7, 2021

Madam Senator, Sir Senator,

On the eve of the Senate vote on the bill “confirming respect for republican principles”, we would like to reaffirm to you our total opposition to this catch-all law, which proposes measures that are sometimes imprecise, sometimes disproportionate, but generally speaking, dangerous for freedoms, in particular with regard to a certain number of fundamental freedoms. In addition, this law casts a general suspicion on people of Muslim faith or those supposed to be.

Different aspects of this law are of particular concern to us and we share the criticisms voiced by bodies such as the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) or the Defender of Rights (DDD). The purpose of this letter is to draw your attention to the many reasons which lead us to unanimously reject the establishment of a “republican engagement contract”, a contract that any association requesting a subsidy from the State or of a local authority would be obliged to sign.

As underlined by the High Council for Associative Life (HCVA) in the very critical opinion it issued in December 2020, a large number of central administrations are already requesting a commitment from associations requesting grants to respect the values ​​of the Republic. Failure to comply with this leads to reimbursement of the sums paid. As of now, no subsidy request can be addressed to the State or to a local authority, without the requesting association committing, via the reference to the Charter of reciprocal commitments, to respect the values of freedom, equality and fraternity. We can therefore only join in the observation of the HCVA when it considers that ” by committing to respect the values ​​and principles of the charter of reciprocal commitments, any association takes on a sufficiently strong contractual obligation without it being necessary to confirm this commitment by signing a new text .  

In reality, this republican commitment contract turns out to be above all “a contract of mistrust” towards associations and, if it were adopted, this provision would seriously weaken the associative life which in our country is a pillar of citizenship.

The project encourages all administrations and local communities to make their subsidies conditional on the definition of the association’s general missions as well as its terms of action. Such a provision is dangerous because it would revert the very foundations upon which the freedom of association is based on, including respect for their independence, their critical function and the free conduct of their projects as recalled in the 2014 Charter. If it was only a question of requiring associations to respect the law, we recall that associations, like all legal persons, are already required to do so and that sanctions are provided for when they do not do so. In reality, this employment contract only makes sense if it goes beyond this requirement and that is what worries us. The objective of public funds would thus be diverted, they would no longer aim to promote associative life in its diversity but to transform associations into cogs of the State. It therefore seems useful to us to recall that associations, even when they seek support from public authorities, local or national, are not intended, as such, to reflect the opinions of a government, the priorities of the government, or the political preferences of a municipal majority.

Our concern is all the more acute given that the law does not provide  a clear definition of the content of this “contract” and the national representation, once again marginalized, will only have to decide on its framework, since the executive intends to act by decree. Faced with a growing controversy over the government’s hidden intentions, the ministers carrying this bill have unveiled a preliminary draft of this decree. It is most worrying, with very intrusive constraints on the internal functioning of associations and very general fields to be controlled, giving way to great risks of arbitrariness, inquisitorial action and tensions.

We believe that through “this republican contract”, this project intends to give administrations and local elected officials the power of moral police and thought in a logic of generalized surveillance and bringing all associations and their members into line. It would open a serious risk of destabilization, weakening, even for the very existence of associations and unions, all structures which nevertheless play a decisive role in maintaining social cohesion, as evidenced every day by their commitment to help millions of our fellow citizens to face the health, social and environmental crisis. It is to have very little consideration for their contribution to democratic life to want to infringe their freedom in this way.

For all these reasons, we consider that this bill does not respect Republican principles but, on the contrary, it flouts them.

This is why we urge you, Madam Senator, Mr. Senator, to reject it. You will understand that our approach is made public.

Please accept, Madam Senator, Sir, our cordial greetings.

 

Mehmet Ali Boduk, President of the Citizens’ Assembly of Turkish Originals (Acort),

Nacer El Idrissi, President of the Association of Maghrebian Workers of France (ATMF),

Aurélie Found, national spokesperson for the Association for the taxation of financial transactions and for citizen action (Attac)

Bernard Dreano, President of the Center for Studies and Initiatives of International Solidarity (Cedetim),

Mouhieddine Cherbib, spokesperson for the Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia (CRLDHT),

Arnaud Tiercelin, Lucille Bertaud and Yann Renault, co-chairs and co-chairs of the Committee for National and International Relations of Youth and Popular Education Associations (Cnajep),

Nathalie Verdeil, Confederal Secretary of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT),

Annick Berthier, President of Emmaüs France,

Antoine Beliveau, co-president of the Federation of Solidarity Associations with All Immigrants (Fasti),

Fayçal Ben Abdallah, President of the Federation of Tunisians for Citizenship on Both Shores (FTCR),

Benoit Teste, General Secretary of the Unitary Trade Union Federation (FSU),

Karl Ghazi, President of the Copernicus Foundation,

Farid Bennai, spokesperson for the United Front for Immigrations and Popular Neighborhoods (FUIQP)

Jean-François Julliard, Director General of Greenpeace France,

Vanina Rochiccioli, President of the Information and Support Group for Immigrants (Gisti),

Bernard Dreano for the Initiatives for another world collective (Ipam),

Christian Eyschen, Secretary General of Libre Pensée,

Malik Salemkour, President of the Human Rights League (LDH),

Albert Herszkowicz, President of Memorial 98,

Jean-François Quantin, co-president of the Movement against racism and for friendship between peoples (Mrap),

Sarah Durocher, co-president of Family Planning,

Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme,

Katia Dubreuil, president of the Syndicat de la magistrature (SM),

Estellia Araez, President of the French Lawyers Union (Saf),

Mélanie Luce, president of the National Union of Students of France (Unef),

Murielle Guilbert, co-general delegate of Union syndicale Solidaires,

Jean-Marie Fardeau, national delegate of VoxPublic,

READ THE LETTER IN PDF FORMAT