The European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously on Thursday that the highest appeals court in France had violated the rights of activists with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement when it upheld their criminal convictions in 2015.
The ruling judged that the activists, part of the nonviolent movement advocating boycotts of Israeli goods, had their rights to freedom of expression contravened under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human rights
“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,” Rita Ahmad from the Palestinian-led BDS movement said in a statement.
The judgement marks a major victory for the BDS movement, not only in France, but for those defending Palestinian human rights across the world.
The timing of the ruling could not have come at a more important moment, as the Israeli regime seeks to annex large sections of land across West Bank.
At the same time, it is a significant blow to Israel, who have been relentlessly pressurising and bullying governments to restrict the rights of those speaking out against Israeli occupation and oppression. The judgement today made it clear that governments across Europe are in violation of citizens’ human rights if they seek to create a hostile environment for those opposing the actions of the Israeli apartheid state.
The BDS activists were arrested in France in 2009 and 2010, when they had taken part in a number of peaceful protests in supermarkets calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. They were subsequently convicted of ‘incitement to discrimination.’
The court ordered the French government to pay 101,000 euros ($115,000) in damages to the activists. The French government has three months to appeal the decision.