Мнение со стороны

Jean-Marie Delarue: "In practice, this means that the fight is not against extremism, but against religion itself"

European Union

"Jehovah's Witnesses in France are citizens like everyone else. There is no reason to think otherwise. Some of their beliefs are unique to them. But these beliefs do not contradict the values of the French Republic and do not conflict with the teachings of other religions that exist in France. I would like to emphasize that France has always been a multi-confessional country, and even more so today. We are a secular state, and it is not always easy for foreign countries to understand this. That is, we proceed from the fact that everyone is free to believe what he wants, and the state does not interfere in religious matters. Therefore, we can coexist peacefully. The government does not impose its ideology, and religions, in turn, do not dominate each other. That is why, I think and hope, Jehovah's Witnesses can practice their faith in an acceptable way without disturbing public order. But so far they have never been seen in such violations.

I believe that a democratic society should clearly define what it means to violate public order, to harm the common interest. A democratic country can blame and condemn someone in clear terms. Extremism is an obscure concept. Each of us will always be an "extremist" for someone. There is political diversity in France, and views can range from the extreme left to the extreme right. Does this mean that people who hold opposing views are extremists who violate public order? Absolutely not. Public order is violated by someone who causes damage to property or people, for example, in public places. We all know what it looks like. But the concept of "extremism" does not make any sense to me if it does not include specific actions that can be qualified as extremism. For this reason, if they try to bring Jehovah's Witnesses under this law, then the concept of "extremism" is not applicable in this case.

Perhaps the law on extremism is a way to convey to religious groups, whether Jehovah's Witnesses or someone else, that they must obey this law without clarifying concepts and any clarifications. In this case, in practice, this means that the fight is not against extremism, but against religion itself. Consequently, the principle underlying international human rights instruments — the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms — is violated. Both documents contain an article that clearly defines freedom of conscience and religion. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, freedom of conscience and religion is unconditional. The European Convention on Human Rights states that such freedom may be restricted if public order is affected. A Russian judge should take into account that if the fact of violation of public order is not proven, then Jehovah's Witnesses are persecuted for completely different reasons - they are persecuted as a religion. In this case, we ignore the fundamental freedom enshrined in the most important international laws. I would like you to persuade the Supreme Court, which is obliged to decide on the case, to carefully weigh two conditions: on the one hand, the fact of violation of public order, and on the other hand, freedom of religion is a fundamental right that cannot be taken away without serious consequences.

Jean-Marie Delarue, member of the French Council of State, former director of civil liberties at the French Ministry of the Interior.