Oct 14, 2022

France : UNPO Submits Universal Periodic Review to UN on Treatment of Minorities

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization has submitted a Universal Periodic Review to the United Nations Human Rights Council about France’s treatment of minorities. Of particular concern was the way in which French government authorities shut down peaceful self-determination activist organizations in the name of “countering separatism.” UNPO believes that France has violated commitments to respecting civil and political rights in these cases and must allow a political platform for organizations wishing to advocate the right to self-determination of different peoples within the French territory.  

UNPO has two French members, Brittany, and Savoy. In addition, many other French regions have a historic past separate from the French state, be it Corsica or Alsace-Lorraine, and in France national minorities exist in abundance. Yet the French state attitudes to any regionalist movements are openly hostile. The dissolution of Savoisian association “Direction aux Affaires Savoisiennes” by the Haute Savoir prefecture was an evident attack on the right to freedom of assembly and association.  

France has also garnered controversy for its linguistic laws. The French Assembly and Senate had passed legislation to promote regional languages in early 2021, in a welcome step forward towards recognition of regional identities. However, the French Constitutional Court decided on 21 May 2021 that regional languages said that the languages could not accede to the status of ‘immersive’ in public education institutions. Their justification is a potential violation of Article 2 of the French Constitution: the language of the Republic being French. Yet in practice many academic institutions and so-called immersive schools advertise the use of English as a language alongside French, creating the surreal discrimination of national minority languages vis-à-vis another foreign language. 

The Special Rapporteur on Minority Rights Fernand de Varennes reminded the French government in his letter that it is a signatory to the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. As per article 4.3, the French government has committed to the right to allow national minorities to be able to learn in their mother tongue. It is in addition a signatory of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that guarantees minority rights promotion.