F E C R I S

European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism

PRESENTATION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ON 24 APRIL 2003

Introducing FECRIS

FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism) was founded on 30 June 1994 in Paris following the International Congress on Sectarianism in Barcelona in 1993. It is a non-commercial association under French law. It declared itself politically, philosophically and religiously neutral as stated in article 2 of its statutes.

Its objectives are:

· Rally representative European associations concerned with contemporary organisations with sectarian and totalitarian characteristics, whether legally constituted or not, whose practices violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, European and national laws.

· Represent the member associations in their contacts with the European institutions in the framework of their defence of families, individuals and democratic societies against the activities of harmful sectarian organisations.

· Alert public authorities and international institutions in the event of punishable activities.

· Participate in the creation of a European legal area with regard to sectarian issues.

· Create an international information network.

· Research and study the legal field of sectarian deviations.

To date the Federation covers 42 associations spread over 26 countries:

Argentina - Australia - Austria - Belgium - Bulgaria - Cyprus - Estonia - Finland - France -Germany - Ireland - Italy - Israel - Malta - Norway - Netherlands - Poland - Russia - Serbia - Slovakia - Sweden - Switzerland - Spain - United Kingdom - Ukraine.

The wide development of our network is due to the migration of cults/sects from the USA and Western Europe to Eastern Europe resulting in the progressive creation of Eastern European associations which then became FECRIS correspondents.

In 1999, FECRIS wishing to clarify the ethical principles to which its members and correspondents adhere drew up a chart, in which it declared itself non-philosophic, non-religious, non-political and non-commercial.

The basic concepts which motivated FECRIS’s activities are:

· Respect of religious, philosophical and political pluralism;

· Objectivity and pragmatism whilst keeping in mind the complexity of situations.

· Discretion, respect of the professional secrecy.

· Continually question. Never forget that the sectarian phenomenon is constantly evolving.

In 1999, in Paris, on the premises of the French National Assembly, a European Conference was organised by FECRIS which brought together more than 200 participants from all over Europe. At the end of this conference the participants a Common Declaration.

In this Declaration FECRIS commits itself to respect fundamental freedoms as accepted in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and fundamental freedoms of 1950, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and in a general way various declarations pertaining to Man and the Citizen ratified by different European States.

FECRIS declared, among other duties, that it considered that the public authorities were responsible for:

· the protection and guarantee of individual freedoms;

· the transparency and availability of information to enable individuals to protect themselves against the adverse practices of sectarianism;

· the protection of individuals against any form of degrading mental manipulation, state of subjection and psychological and/or intellectual conditioning in whatever context.

FECRIS had already declared its support of resolution 134 of 18 February 1998 of the European Parliament's Committee of Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs.

This resolution invites Member States to "take measures, in compliance with the principles of legality, with a view to fighting abuses caused to people by certain sects which should be denied the status of cult or religious organisation endowing them with certain tax advantages and legal protection".

FECRIS also fully agrees with the Resolution adopted on January 15, 2003 by the European Parliament according to which it:

"recommends to the members States to fight the illegal activities of alleged sects, which threaten the mental or physical integrity of individuals and, thus, respect the principles of the State of Law and apply normal procedures of penal and civil law, in accordance with the views expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe ".

"also considers that the freedom to no longer adhere to a religion or to a philosophy and the right to leave the corresponding community must also be included in individual freedoms and that this right should be actively protected by public authorities whenever this proves to be necessary"

With regard to the FECRIS’ charter, in particular it should be kept in mind that:

Our analysis is based on the evidence derived from the behaviour of organisations. It is important to resist the pressure to place cultic/sectarian behaviour on the safe ground of belief and religion. The argument is a false one based on a superficial approach to the issues and incompatible with scientific analysis.

We focus on a cult or a guru when the organisation or the individual "trades" in beliefs and in destructive techniques with mind control as a tool.

Our conclusions are considered and cautious. They take into account possible misrepresentations and the sorrow and destruction of the victims and their families.

We denounce the uninformed enrolment of individuals into certain thought reform systems and the potentially damaging results to our social, democratic and family structures.

The activity of FECRIS has three axes:

· The most important perhaps, from a practical point of view, is the pooling of experience and information of its associations. This information activity and support is greatly facilitated today by the use of the Internet. The interaction of the network also allows for the control of the Federation’s deontology principles.

· The organisation of meetings on research at European level.

In 2001, after the first conference of 1999 in the French National Assembly, FECRIS organised a meeting of lawyers from various European countries to discuss their specific experience in the field of defence of the victims of sects/cults.

In 2002, a conference was devoted to Child Protection with regard to the sectarian phenomenon. This was held under the aegis and in the buildings of the General Secretariat of Youth of the Catalan Government. The debates mainly concerned the effects of sectarian influence on the physical and mental health of children and teenagers, the social rehabilitation, the methods and teaching aids of prevention and the protection of children within civil and penal law.

FECRIS’ main objective is to give the European authorities the information which they need to make them aware of the phenomenon of harmful sectarianism, of its dangers not only for individuals and families but also for the States and democracies.

In the expectation of obtaining advisory status of the Council of Europe, FECRIS regularly attends the meetings or regroupings of OING [1] during the sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Mainly it attends the regroupings concerning the "Rights of Man", "Health" and "the Social Charter".

I was pleased to be invited to the European Parliament, in the hope that FECRIS would be able to bring significant information on sectarian digressions and violations of Human and Children’s Rights to the European network of 15 national experts which the Parliament had recently created.

FECRIS is recognised for its impartiality by several official or governmental organisations such as the MIVILUDES [2] in France, the CIAOSN [3]in Belgium, the services of the French Prime Minister, the Parliament of Catalonia and, in particular, its Secretariat for Youth, the Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen, an Austrian government body etc.

The European Parliament invited FECRIS to take part in a meeting under the aegis of its Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs.

FECRIS is also well-known to the French government which, within the framework of its promotion of Human Rights, grants it significant support.

Remarks:

[1]International Non-Governmental Organisation
[2]Mission Interministérielle de Vigilance et de Lutte contre les Dérives Sectaires Nuisibles
[3]Center d'Information et d'Avis sur les Organisations Sectaires Nuisibles.