The European Centre for Law and Justice took part in the Human Dimension Implimentation Meeting 2017 in Warsaw at the conference centre of the national Stadium from the 11th to the 22nd of September 2017. Organised every year by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), this event is the largest conference about Human Rights and Democracy in Europe. It is a platform for numerous actors concerned by these questions, including the representatives of the governments of the 57 participating States of the OSCE, the OSCE Partners for Co-operation, OSCE structures, representatives of civil society, all of which are allowed to speak during the sessions. This conference allows them to evaluate the implementation of commitments taken by States within the OSCE, to underline their violations, to make recommendations in order to improve this implementation, to discuss challenges and to share good practices.
All these actors meet daily for two working sessions on a particular theme. The ECLJ took part to the four working sessions of the 14th and 15th of September 2017 on the themes of “freedom of conscience, religion or belief” and “tolerance and non-discrimination” during which it made two oral statements.
Freedom of conscience, religion or belief
On Thursday the 14th of September 2017, the working session of the morning had a precise theme: “freedom of conscience, religion or belief and equality between men and women – towards a more holistic comprehension” which allowed the ECLJ to address the subject of equality between men and women through the prism of “gender” and of the right to consider that men and women were created different. In its oral intervention, the ECLJ hence called out on States on the fact that the gender theory that is currently aimed to be imposed proposes an ideological vision of equality between man and woman, which hurts freedom of religion and belief of, notably, Christians. The relationship between man and woman is seen within this as a fight of one against the domination of the other, forgetting that men and women are equals for they possess the same dignity as soon as they both are human persons. This vision has dire consequences as long as it denies the natural difference between the sexes and their complementarity, even though they are enriching for society.
Tolerance and non-discrimination
During the morning working session of Friday the 15th of September 2017, the ECLJ dealt in its oral intervention with the link between tolerance and non-discrimination and freedom of thought, of conscience and of religion in noting that if intolerance towards Christian can notably be seen in hate speeches during debates on societal questions, it is also visible through restrictions to their freedom of conscience and religion and to their freedom of expression. The ECLJ explained that a so-called liberal society cannot preach tolerance and at the same time be itself intolerant. It particularly denounced the French situation: on the one hand mayors who face heavy penalties if they refuse to celebrate unions between persons of the same sex, and on the other hand the recent extension of the crime of obstruction to abortion, which is discriminatory inasmuch as it leads to criminally prosecuting only “pro-life” speeches. The ECLJ called upon participating States to take into account, in their legislations, freedom of expression and freedom of the individual to act according to his or her conscience.
The delegation representing the French government, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, indicated in substance that the mayor, being a State’s agent, must, in this respect, apply the law without discrimination and in total neutrality. As soon as he acts as a public officer and not as a private person, he cannot refuse to celebrate the marriage of persons of the same sex, nor of strangers or divorced persons. Yet the Constitutional Council decided that a mayor who would use his right to conscientious objection could delegate the celebration of the union of persons of the same sex to one of his deputies. As regards abortion, the French delegation pretended that it is, in France, a fundamental right for all women since 1975 and that France will continue to promote this right.
Side-events take place alongside the plenary working sessions: the ECLJ took part in one of them entitled “Confronting hate crime: progress is possible” and organised in link with the theme “tolerance and non-discrimination” by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE. This institution lists the hate-crimes committed within the OSCE-zone and the description of which is reported by State and civil society actors, notably via a website. According to the figures of 2016, out of all hate-crimes against Christians listed by the OSCE, more than 20 % were of violent attacks, less than 5 % threats and about 75 % were attacks against properties. Mixed results were drawn from these figures and recommendations were made: while the ODIHR noted a good level of collaboration with the actors reporting hate-crimes, it yet regretted that too many reports were insufficiently detailed. The ODIHR reminded the importance of reports of good quality and what they should consist in in order to formulate policies of prevention and to identify the victims and their needs.