Article originally published on BDS website, 11 June 2020 – accessible here

  • ECHR rules unanimously that French highest court’s criminal conviction of Israel boycott advocates violates the European Convention on Human Rights’ freedom of expression article.
  • Decision has major implications for anti-BDS state repression in Europe including Germany, where advocates for Palestinian rights face fierce restrictions on their civil rights.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled unanimously today that the French highest court’s 2015 criminal conviction of activists with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement advocating nonviolent boycotts of Israeli goods violated article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Reacting to the breaking news, Rita Ahmad from the Palestinian-led BDS movement said:

This momentous court ruling is a decisive victory for freedom of expression, for human rights defenders, and for the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. It confirms a 2016 European Union position defending the right to call for BDS against Israel to achieve Palestinian rights under international law.

This is a major legal blow to Israel’s apartheid regime and its anti-BDS lawfare. At Israel’s behest, European governments, especially in France and Germany, have fostered an ominous environment of bullying and repression to silence Palestine solidarity activists.

 

The ECHR decision comes at a time of widespread condemnations of Israel’s plans to formally annex large swathes of the occupied Palestinian territory. In response to these plans and to Israel’s ongoing “apartheid regime” and “de facto annexation,” Palestinian civil society has reminded states of their obligations to adopt “lawful countermeasures,” including a ban on “arms trade and military-security cooperation with Israel” and on trade with Israel’s illegal settlements.

In 2009 and 2010, eleven activists in France had participated in peaceful protests inside supermarkets calling for a boycott of Israeli goods in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. They were convicted by French courts of “incitement to discrimination.”

Rita Ahmad said:

At a time when European citizens, inspired by the Black Lives Matter uprising in the US, are challenging the ugly legacy of European colonialism, France, Germany and other EU countries must end their racist repression of human rights defenders campaigning for Palestinian human rights and for an end to Israeli apartheid.

Europe is deeply complicit in Israel’s occupation, siege of Gaza and slow ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Palestinians in Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and elsewhere. For as long as this complicity continues, BDS campaigns will too.

We salute Palestine solidarity activists in France who, despite the prevalent anti-Palestinian repression, have effectively campaigned against Israeli apartheid and against corporations that are complicit in its war crimes against Palestinians, including AXA, Veolia and Orange.