The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today ruled that the conviction in France of activists who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was a breach of their freedom of expression by criminalising the movement through some of the toughest legislation in the world. It ordered the French government to pay damages of €27,380 ($31,150) to each defendant.
“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,” declared Rita Ahmad of the Palestinian-led BDS movement.
The 11 defendants were identified as: Jean-Michel Baldassi, Henri Eichholtzer, Aline Parmentier, Sylviane Mure, Mohammad Akbar, Maxime Roll, Laila Assakali, Yahya Assakali, Jacques Ballouey, Habiba El Jarroudi and Farida Sarr-Trichine. Led by Baldassi, they were convicted by France’s top court of incitement to economic discrimination after taking part in a 2009 demonstration at a supermarket in the French town of Illzach and handing out leaflets calling for a boycott of Israeli products.
BDS France hailed the court’s decision as a major victory and hopes that the ruling by the ECHR “highlights the false and dishonest nature of the attempts at defamation waged against the BDS Campaign, attempts aimed at silencing all those who promote action against Israeli apartheid.”
The BDS movement has called for boycotts against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions in a nonviolent campaign in protest at Israeli abuses of Palestinians and their legitimate rights.