Resolution 1309 (2002)
of religion and religious minorities in France
On 30 May 2000 a private members bill to reinforce the prevention and
suppression of sect-like groups was tabled in the French Parliament. Act No.
2001-504 on the reinforcement of the prevention and suppression of sects
which infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms became law on
12 June 2001.
The Parliamentary Assembly recalls its Recommendation 1412
(1999) on the illegal activities of sects, in which it concluded that it was
unnecessary to define what constituted a sect, but that it was essential to
ensure that the activities of groups, whatever religious, esoteric or
spiritual description they adopted, were in keeping with the principles of
democratic societies and, in particular, the provisions of Article 9 of the
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
In this text the Assembly also called on the governments of member states
to use the normal procedures of criminal and civil law against illegal
practices carried out in the name of groups of a religious, esoteric or
Although a member state is perfectly at liberty to take any measures it
deems necessary to protect its public order, the authorised restrictions on
the freedoms guaranteed by Articles 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and
religion), 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of assembly and
association) of the ECHR are subject to specific conditions.
After examination of this French law, the Assembly cannot but conclude that
ultimately, should the case arise, it will be for the European Court of
Human Rights, and it alone, to say whether or not this law is compatible
with the ECHR.
The Assembly invites the French Government to reconsider this law and to
clarify the definition of the terms offence and offender.
Text adopted by the Standing Committee,
acting on behalf of the
Assembly, on 18 November 2002 (see Doc. 9612
report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr