Illegal activities of sects in Europe: The Assembly gives priority to prevention

Council of Europe Press Service, June 22, 1999
Press Contact: Christiane Dennemeyer

-- See the Report --

The COUNCIL OF EUROPE Parliamentary Assembly today adopted, unanimously, a Recommendation which gives priority to the prevention against dangerous sects. "Major legislation on sects is undesirable", the Assembly reiterated during a debate organised during its summer session. The Recommendation which was adopted following the debate pointed to the risk that any legislation passed in this area might well interfere with the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Nonetheless, the serious incidents which had occurred in recent years did warrant an insistence that the activities of groups referred to as sects - which the Assembly did not feel it necessary to define - be carried out in keeping with the principles of democratic societies. Therefore, it was vital to have access to reliable, objective information on these groups, directed in particular at teenagers within the framework of school curricula and at the children of followers of groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature.

Consequently, the Assembly called on the governments of the member States:

  • to support the setting up of independent, national or regional information centres on sects;

  • to include information on the history and philosophy of important schools of thought and of religion in general school curricula;

  • to use the normal procedures of criminal and civil law against illegal practices carried out by these groups;

  • to encourage the setting up of non-governmental organisations to protect victims, but also;

  • to take firm steps against any discrimination or marginalisation ofminority groups and encourage a spirit of tolerance and understanding towards religious groups.

The Assembly also requested that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe set up a European Observatory on groups of a religious, esoteric or spiritual nature, to make it easier for national centres to exchange information. The Council of Europe should also take action to promote the setting up of information centres in central and eastern European countries. A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe promotes democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 41 member States.

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