France: ’Republican values’ law risks discrimination

As the French Senate prepares to debate a law “to strengthen respect for the principles of the Republic” tomorrow, Amnesty International is calling for the many problematic provisions of the bill to be scrapped or amended. The proposed legislation would give the French authorities new powers to deny or withdraw funds to certain organizations. Against a backdrop of stigmatizing rhetoric about Muslims and Islam, there are serious concerns that the law will be applied in a discriminatory way.

This proposed law is wide open to abuse, and a threat to the very freedoms the French authorities claim to stand for.

Marco Perolini

Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s Europe Researcher, said:

“This proposed law would be a serious attack on rights and freedoms in France. It would allow public authorities to fund only organizations which sign a ‘contract of republican commitment’ – a vaguely defined concept which is wide open to abuse and threatens the very freedoms of expression and association the French authorities claim to stand for.”

Several elements of the bill raise concerns regarding France’s obligations to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression, and the principle of non-discrimination. Amnesty International calls on France to allocate funds in a non-discriminatory manner and to ensure that all organizations, including those that are critical of governmental policies and work on combatting discrimination have the same chances of receiving funding.

“Time and again the French authorities have used the vague and ill-defined concept of ‘radicalization’ to justify the imposition of measures without valid grounds

Marco Perolini

In its statement setting out the justification for the bill, the government mentions the need to strengthen a legal arsenal that is insufficient to tackle “radical Islam”.

“Time and again we have seen the French authorities use the vague and ill-defined concept of ‘radicalization’ or ‘radical Islam’ to justify the imposition of measures without valid grounds, which risks leading to discrimination in its application against Muslims and other minority groups. This stigmatization must end,” said Marco Perolini.