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Rise of hate speech and violence motivated by racism and intolerance in France: Council of Europe Report.

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Hate Speech in France (Newsweek).

France: Anti-racism commission concerned at rise of hate speech and violence motivated by intolerance.

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has endorsed a new report on France which reveals a rise in hate speech and racist violence.

“I commend the significant efforts made by the French authorities to combat racism and intolerance,” Jagland said on the publication today of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) report.

“However, hate speech, which has become commonplace in the public sphere, remains a matter of concern. I call on political leaders in particular to refrain from making comments which stigmatise already vulnerable groups and fuel tensions in French society.”

Human Rights Europe.

Council of Europe Anti-Racism Commission expresses concern at the rise of hate speech and violence motivated by racism and intolerance in France. (Press Release).

Strasbourg, 1 March 2016 – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today publishes its fifth report on France in which it analyses recent developments and outstanding issues and makes recommendations to the authorities.

“I commend the significant efforts made by the French authorities to combat racism and intolerance. However, hate speech, which has become commonplace in the public sphere, remains a matter of concern. I call on political leaders in particular to refrain from making comments which stigmatise already vulnerable groups and fuel tensions in French society”, said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland on the occasion of the publication of this report.

On the positive side, ECRI welcomes measures taken by France, including the creation of a post of inter-ministerial co-ordinator for combating racism and intolerance, the adoption of two plans for combating racism and antisemitism, the prosecution and conviction of persons responsible for hate crimes and the introduction of a new curriculum providing education in civic and democratic values.

In the area of integration, ECRI notes with satisfaction the strengthening of the reception and integration contract system through a mechanism to facilitate job-seeking, and the reform of lower secondary education designed to foster social mixing. These measures must now quickly deliver results. In addition to this, the authorities are reminded of the adoption of a circular aimed at ensuring that the dismantling of illegal Roma camps is accompanied by assistance measures.

ECRI expresses concern over the high level of under-reporting of racist crime, the cuts in budgets earmarked for integration policies and the remaining gaps in the criminal-law provisions relating to hate speech. In this connection, the authorities are called on to take measures to ensure that racist motivation and motives related to sexual orientation and gender identity are made an aggravating circumstance of any ordinary criminal offence.

ECRI is alarmed at the rise of hate speech and the increase in racist, antisemitic and islamophobic violence. “Although it was drafted before the November 2015 attacks in Paris, the report contains recommendations to the French authorities which are fully relevant today”, said ECRI’s Chair.

The following two recommendations are to be implemented on a priority basis and will be the subject of interim follow-up by ECRI within two years:

– revise school curricula and teacher training programmes to promote a better understanding of issues relating to religion and immigration;
– ensure that no legitimate residence (“domiciliation”) application submitted by members of groups such as Roma is turned down and reduce processing times so that these persons can be given access to basic rights.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s visit to France in March 2015 [Press release] and takes account of developments up to 18 June 2015.

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.

Council of Europe.

Le Monde comments after this press release,

Council of Europe experts  expressed concern on Tuesday the 1st oat March in the “banalisation” of racist discourse in France . They also denounced an increase in xenophobic,  antisemitic and Islamophobic acts. According to data from the Ministry of Interior, violence associated with these prejudices has increased by 14% between 2012 and 2014, including a rise of 36% for anti-Semitic acts. In their report the experts of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) also denounce homophobia and anti-Roma discrimination.

The text mentions an alarming persistence of Islamophobic discourse, particularly among political leaders such as the president of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, who in December 2010 compared Moslem street prayers to the German occupation in December 2010, or the mayor of Meaux Jean- Francois Copé (Note: a leading figure in the main right wing party, Les Républicains, at present battling it out with Sarkozy) ), who in October 2012 spoke of  Muslim “louts” who snatched a pain au chocolat from a youngster on the grounds that  “we do not eat during Ramadan”.

The Commission also regrets decisions taken “in the name of a restrictive conception of secularism” that can be “seen as sources of discrimination”. As an example they cite the decision taken in 2015  by the mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône, Gilles Platret to remove from the menus of school canteens alternatives without pork products.

 

The organisation also calls to legislate to make racism or homophobia  “an aggravating circumstance in any ordinary criminal offence” . This is a reform promised several times last year by President Francois Hollande .

As for Roma, the French politicians should give them a legal address, even if they have no permanent residence, so as not to hinder their access “to basic rights” , including the schooling of their children.

Finally, ECRI regrets inflation hate speech on the Internet and social networks , “despite the authorities’ efforts to curb this phenomenon”  The same phenomenon was observed during the protests against the introduction of gay marriage in early 2013.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm

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