France says it will outlaw all neo-Nazi groups (GUARDIAN UK) Jon Henley in Paris, FRANCE 02/03/05)
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France will take steps to break up and ban all neo-Nazi groups on
French soil after new figures showed that the number of violent
attacks they committed more than doubled last year, the interior
minister said yesterday.
Dominique de Villepin told French television that the move did not
target Jean-Marie Le Pen´s far-right Front National, a legitimate
political party, but the small, splintered ultra-right groups "whose
common traits are incitement to hatred and the recourse to violence".
According to a French intelligence service report, up to 20 such
groups are active, mainly in Alsace, the greater Paris region and
southern France. Between them they have up to 3,500 members, and were
responsible for 65 violent attacks in 2004, compared with 27 the
Announcing the measure to the national assembly late on Tuesday, Mr
De Villepin said: "These groups are a disgrace to our national memory
and our republican values. They are also a danger and a threat. Faced
with this unacceptable situation, I will take all necessary steps."
A ministry official said yesterday that Mr De Villepin would present
the cabinet with "all the necessary proofs and justifications" for
breaking up the groups by the end of February. "Only those groups
with values compatible with the republic will remain," he said.
The government will invoke a 1936 law that allows the president to
dissolve "private militias and combat groups" by decree. The same law
was used three years ago to dissolve Unité Radicale, one of whose
members, Maxime Brunerie, pulled a rifle from a guitar case and fired
a shot at Jacques Chirac during the 2002 Bastille Day parade on the
According to the intelligence service report, supporters of France´s
extreme right fall into various categories: skinheads, ultra-
nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and hooligans. Their
attacks are no longer aimed mostly at Jews but at a new "worst common
enemy": Muslims and Arabs on French soil.
Mr De Villepin told parliament that he would demand "great vigilance"
from the police to ensure groups did not re-form under new names.
Local authorities would be ordered to ban public rallies by targeted
groups, he said, and anyone renting out a meeting room would have to
check the identity of the hirer and real purpose of the event.
The minister also said he would ask website hosts to stop groups
using the internet to spread neo-Nazi messages, and would take legal
action against those failing to do so.
The anti-racism group SOS Racisme praised the minister´s decision.
But police and some opposition MPs said it would be difficult, if not
impossible, to enforce. "Proving that these are genuine groups rather
than informal gatherings of friends will not be easy," one
intelligence officer said. "And once you´ve managed it, then what?
Unité Radicale was banned and has since just re-formed as Bloc
Identitaire. They will all rename themselves."
Armand Jung, a Socialist MP from Alsace, where half a dozen mass
meetings of 300-800 French and German neo-Nazis have taken place over
the past two years using the pretext of a party, a concert, a
football match and even, on one occasion, a wedding, said the move
was "wishful thinking".
"In Alsace we have a serious problem, but there are no organised
groups whatsoever, no names and addresses."
Mr Le Pen, the Front National leader, caused outrage this month by
saying that the Nazi occupation during the second world war had not
been "particularly inhumane".
Mr De Villepin said yesterday that it would be up to the courts to
judge that comment, but that the far-right party was at
present "still in the realm of politics" and "of a different nature
to the neo-Nazi movement". (Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers
Limited 2004 02/03/05)
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