French government wants to shut down the largest NGO documenting racist and hate attacks against Muslims in France. Amnesty says the draft law that would allow the crackdown threatens the right to freedom of association.

Members of the Muslim community attend the Friday prayer at Strasbourg Grand Mosque, France, November 20, 2015, one week after the deadly attacks in Paris.
Members of the Muslim community attend the Friday prayer at Strasbourg Grand Mosque, France, November 20, 2015, one week after the deadly attacks in Paris. (Reuters)

France is set to discuss a proposed legislation on December 9 that could open the way for the government to dissolve civil society organisations. Some provisions of the draft legislation, however, threaten freedom of association and may have a chilling effect on human rights defenders and non governmental organisations, Amnesty International has warned.

The proposed draft allows the governments to dissolve organisations on additional vague grounds, the group said in a public statement titled, “Austria/France: NGOs at risk following state’s attacks on freedom of association” on Wednesday.

However, the group reminds that according to European human rights law, dissolution of an organisation is an extreme measure that can be justified in very limited circumstances and France’s current law already fails to require prior judicial scrutiny on the government's decision to shut down an organisation.

Practice of national security and public order to withdraw or restrict funding unnecessarily or disproportionately is concerning as it can be used as grounds for silencing dissent and closing down associations, Amnesty warned. 

READ MORE: Amnesty slams French claims of being champion of free-speech

French government came under fire after horrific violent attacks perpetrated in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and Nice (France) as its approach to counter-terrorism was blamed for leading to collective punishment of migrants and Muslims in the country. 

Following the attacks, the Interior Ministry waged a war on several Muslim organisations including Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), the largest NGO that documents racist and hate attacks against French Muslims. The interior minister said CCIF was an “enemy of the Republic” and “back room of Islamism," as he told the media about his intention to dissolve it.

Yet, Amnesty warned that the French authorities have failed to provide to date any evidence that could justify the dissolution of the organisation.

“Nothing shows that the CCIF is a clear and imminent danger for national security or public order, which could justify its dissolution,” the statement read.

“The dissolution of the CCIF would be a blow to the right to freedom of association and have a chilling effect for all human rights defenders engaged in combating racism and discrimination.”

CCIF also denied the French government's accusations in a statement on Thursday saying that the government immediately drew an association between the horrific attack and the organisation without demonstrating the slightest implication regarding its involvement. 

"The accusation against us is unfortunately an extreme illustration of what many Muslims – or supposed Muslims – suffer in France: the suspicion of solidarity with terrorists in the event of silence, and the accusation of hypocritical concealment (taqiyya) when speaking," the CCIF statement said.

"We have shown how, in five years, Islamophobia has gradually normalised and how government mechanisms, under the guise of the fight against radicalisation and terrorism, have participated in this stigmatisation."

READ MORE: Stabbed under the Eiffel Tower: How France's deradicalisation hurts Muslims

Austria following the footsteps of France

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the law on association introducing new grounds for the government to shut down places of worship, and a new criminal offence on “political Islam.”

According to the new law, those who “are not terrorists themselves but constitute a fertile ground for terrorism” will be punished – in a development that Amnesty says is concerning regarding the rights to freedom of association, freedom of religion and liberty and security.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association indicates that, as best practice, any dissolution of an organisation should be decided by a court.” 

According to OSCE/ODHIR and Venice Commission Guidelines dissolution can be justified only after a court rule, while international labor law clearly prohibits the administrative dissolution of workers’ and employers’ organisations.

Source: TRT World