The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is of the
opinion that more measures must be taken at national and European
level to counter the excesses of sects which affect minors.
Without seeking to define the term “sect”, the committee puts
forward a series of measures to identify more effectively the extent
of the phenomenon of sects and to combat abuse of minors by sects.
It condemns in particular the “excesses of sects”, namely acts and
techniques which seek to place individuals in a state of psychological
or physical submission, and stresses that these excesses can lead
to violations of the fundamental rights of minors in terms of their
right to life, their physical integrity, their family and social
links and their education.
Unfortunately, in Europe, there are no comprehensive data
on the scale of this problem, and action taken in this regard by
the European institutions and the national authorities has been
very limited. Only a few States have passed legislation to prevent
and punish excesses of sects (Belgium, France and Luxembourg) and
a number of others (in particular Austria, Germany and Switzerland)
have adopted smaller-scale measures, primarily in the field of surveillance.
The Council of Europe member States should step up their efforts
to protect minors against the excesses of sects. Amongst other things,
they should compile statistics on the scale of the phenomenon of
sects, set up national surveillance centres in this regard, ensure
effective monitoring of private schools and home schooling, make
abuse of weakness a criminal offence, and carry out large-scale
awareness-raising activities. It is also recommended that national
parliaments set up study groups on the phenomenon of sects so that
the public at large is made more aware of this issue. In addition,
the committee believes that it would be helpful to set up a working
group in the Council of Europe for the purposes of exchanging information
and good practices.