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CULT IN FRANCE : NEWS
February 2009

 


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FRANCE
Miviludes' head Georges Fenech liable to a suspended six-month prison term

On Wednesday 11 February, the Procurator of the Republic demanded a suspended six-month prison term for Georges Fenech, a former magistrate and now president of Miviludes, for his alleged role in the Angolagate.

The procurator stated that Mr Fenech "had a duty of vigilance" on the origin of the funds transferred to the magistrates' association he was heading.In 2001, Georges Fenech was indicted for accepting a check of 100,000 Francs (15,000 EUR) from the company Brenco whose director, Pierre Falcone, was involved in illegal sales of weapons to Angola. He was then the president of APM (Association Professionelle des Magistrats).

In 2004, the Socialists elected at the Court of Justice of the French Republic had asked for his withdrawal from the jurisdiction of which he was the deputy chairman.

In 2008, Georges Fenech, now a member of the National Assembly (Sarkozy's party), was declared ineligible for one year for violating the articles of the election code dealing with the direct expenses of the election campaign of the candidates. He then asked for his re-appointment in the magistracy and he was affected to the central administration of the Ministry of Justice. In June, PM François Fillon commissioned him "to assess the judicial provisions meant to fight with more efficiency against sectarian deviations." This was the prelude to his appointment at the head of MIVILUDES.

Translation by Human Rights Without Frontiers

Sources: Le Parisien, 13 February 2009 - Le Monde, 24 September (Mis en cause dans l'affaire Falcone)

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FRANCE
Tensions around a proposal for a new "black list" Le Parisien (13.02.2009)

An arm-wrestling has been engaged between Georges Fenech, president of Miviludes (Inter-ministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight against Cultish Misbehaviors), and the Ministry of the Interior in charge of religious affairs. Prime Minister François Fillon under whose authority Miviludes had been placed, will have to mediate between both parties. Last week, his office received a letter signed by Michèle Alliot-Marie (1) asking the services of François Fillon to "regulate" the action of Miviludes after in January last his president had expressed the idea to propose a new orientation in the policy of his agency. In fact, Georges Fenech intends to go beyond the new orientation. He mainly wants to issue a new list on the pattern of the one that the parliamentary commission on cults had established in 1995 and that had put France in the dock in international fora for violating freedom of conscience. "Rather than a list, specifies Georges Fenech contacted yesterday evening on his coming back from a visit to the Beatitudes community in Haute-Garonne, I am envisaging to put in place a system of reference of the movements and practices showing cultish misbehaviors."

Through this semantic ambiguity, he avoids the term "list" which evokes a contested conception of the fight against "cultish misbehaviors".

"I think such a system of reference is useful for associations, for public powers and for local collectivities. According to me, we miss such a tool," continues the president of Miviludes who feels supported by a statement made on the TV channel France 2 by François Fillon himself exactly a year ago in the heat of an argument on the cult issue.

"The Prime Minister had specified that in the framework of the fight against cultish misbehavior, the role of Miviludes was to update the data concerning the deviant movements."

At the Ministry of the Interior, the exhumation the principle itself of the "black list" is a source of irritation. The policy of Michèle Alliot-Marie in this field is in conformity with the 2005 circular letter released by Jean-Pierre Raffarin (2) which was rejecting lists of movements likely to have cultish misbehaviors and was following another line of thought: to qualify in legal terms facts that could be viewed as criminal offences.In her letter addressed to François Fillon, the Minister of the Interior expresses her "surprise" about the policy change of Miviludes, "without any previous inter-ministerial dialogue" and severely points at the move: infringement of freedom of conscience, weakening of France on the European and international scene, repeated condemnations of its intransigence on religious freedom issues by the annual report of the US Department of State but also by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). "The list is a source of irritation," says a well- informed observer. The argument is back in the public debate. (3)

Anne-Cécile Juillet

Translation by Human Rights Without Frontiers

footnote
(1) Minister of the Interior
(2) Then Prime Minister
(3) This article shows that the criticisms voiced at the annual meeting of the OSCE/ODIHR in Warsaw by the human rights organizations and communities of faith or belief harassed by Miviludes and so-called cult-watchers have not remained unheard and unnoticed.

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