On June 11, 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stated that conviction of activists involved in the BDS campaign boycotting products imported from Israel had no relevant and sufficient grounds and violated their freedom of expression, in the case known as Baldassi and Others v. France.
In 2009 and 2010, eleven France-based activists held peaceful protests in supermarkets calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, as the latter continues to violate human rights of the Palestinian people who are striving for their freedom, justice and equality. They were convicted by French courts of “incitement to discrimination.”
The eleven applicants are: Mr Jean-Michel Baldassi, Mr Henri Eichholtzer, Ms Aline Parmentier, Ms Sylviane Mure, Mr Nohammad Akbar, Mr Maxime Roll, Ms Laila Assakali, Mr Yahya Assakali, Mr Jacques Ballouey, Ms Habiba El Jarroudi, and Ms Farida Sarr-Trichine. The applicants are all French nationals, apart from Mr Nohammad Akbar and Ms Habiba El Jarroudi, who are Afghan and Moroccan nationals respectively. Mr Eichholtzer and Ms Parmentier live in Habsheim and Zillisheim respectively. Mr Jacques Ballouey lived in Mulhouse, as did the other applicants.
The cases, which resulted in an unanimous rule that acquitted the BDS campaigners of the charges pointed at them, “concern the complaint by activists in the Palestinian cause about their criminal conviction for incitement to economic discrimination, on account of their participation in actions for boycotting products imported from Israel as part of the campaign ‘BDS : Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’”, according to the ECHR press release.
The release stressed that:
“[The ECHR] noted that the impugned actions and comments from the applicants were a form of political or ‘militant’ expression and concerned a subject of public interest”.
Highlighting the judicial process, the releases continued thus:
“The Court has emphasised on many occasions that there is little scope under Article 10 § 2 of the Convention for restrictions on political speech or on debate on matters of public interest. It was in the nature of political speech to be controversial and often virulent. That did not diminish its public interest, provided that it did not cross the line and turn into a call for violence, hatred or intolerance.
The Court considered that the applicants’ conviction had lacked any relevant or sufficient grounds. It was not convinced that the domestic court had applied rules in keeping with the principles set out in Article 10 or had conducted an appropriate assessment of the facts”.
Articles involved explained
Relative to Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the Convention, the applicants complained that they were convicted on the basis of section 24(8) of the Law of 29 July 1881 on freedom of the press of incitement to economic discrimination, whereas that text did not cover economic discrimination. Based on Article 10 (freedom of expression), they complained of their criminal conviction on account of their participation, within the frame of the BDS campaign, in actions calling for a boycott of goods produced in Israel.
It is important to mention that this victory corresponds to a time of political upheaval, while Israeli occupation plans to annex the Jordan Valley and territories in the West Bank in early June.
Source: The cover photo originally appeared on BDS Movement's website.