News   /   Palestine

EU human rights court rebukes France over fines for BDS activists

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows Pro-Palestine demonstrators marching behind a banner of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Marseille, France, on June 13, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that French judges were wrong to take penal action against members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, who staged demonstrations against Israeli-made products, stating the protests did not amount to incitement to discrimination.

On Thursday, Europe's top rights court ruled that the demonstrations by about a dozen activists from "Collectif Palestine 68" group – a local offshoot of the BDS movement – on two occasions in 2009 and 2010 outside a supermarket near Mulhouse, eastern France, could not be considered a hate crime.

During the protests, the activists displayed products made in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and urged clients not to buy them.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR said the French judges should have taken into account the fact that “the applicants had not been convicted of making racist or anti-Semitic remarks or of inciting hatred or violence.”

The court further noted in its ruling that political speech is by nature controversial, but remains a legitimate public interest, “provided that it did not cross the line and turn into a call for violence, hatred or intolerance.”

ECHR also ordered French authorities to pay each of the applicants 7,380 euros ($8,383) in damages, and a further 20,000 euros ($22,720) to jointly cover legal expenses.

The activists were initially cleared of the charges after their arrests, arguing at the time they had a right to call to boycott Israel as part of the freedom of speech.

However, an appeals court overturned the ruling and found them guilty of inciting people to discriminate against products from Israel.

The verdict prompted the demonstrators to appeal to the European court in 2010.

Amnesty International has hailed the ruling by Europe's top rights court.

“Today's landmark decision sets a significant precedent that should stop the misuse of anti-discrimination laws to target activists campaigning against human rights violations perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians,” Marco Perolini of Amnesty France said in a statement.

The BDS movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations pushing for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”

Thousands of volunteers, trade unions, NGOs, academic and business societies, as well as cultural figures worldwide have joined the boycott campaign to help promote the Palestinian cause.

PLO urges intl. coalition to confront Israel annexation plans

The secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee has called for the formation of an international coalition to confront the Israeli regime’s plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank.

“The formation of the international coalition must emanate from an international conference which includes all of world countries under the United Nations auspices to support the Palestinian people and reject the Occupation’s aggressive measures against the Palestinian people including settlement, Judaization, blockade and killings that contradict all international conventions and norms,” Saeb Erekat told Arabic-language al-Mugtama news magazine.

Erekat added that the Palestinian Authority has been leading intensive diplomatic efforts to mobilize international support against the looming Israeli move, stressing that the recognition of a Palestinian state is the first step towards preventing Israel from seizing nearly 33 percent of the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was sworn into office for another term on May 17, has set July 1 for the start of cabinet discussions on extending Israeli “sovereignty” over settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

In response to Israel’s decision, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared the end of all agreements signed with Israel and the United States on May 19.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku