ECtHR: France violated freedom of expression rights of Palestine solidarity campaigners
Palestine solidarity campaigners who were convicted and fined for promoting a boycott of Israeli products suffered a violation of their human rights, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled.
In today’s Chamber judgment, only available in French, the court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
However, judges held by a majority that there had been no violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the Convention, noting that the applicants should have known they were likely to be convicted under section 24(8) of the Law of 29 July 1881.
In a partly dissenting judgment in which she noted the Irish origins of the term “boycott”, Judge Síofra O’Leary, the Irish judge on the court, argued that the court should have found that there had been a violation of both Article 7 and Article 10 of the Convention.
The 11 applicants in the case are members of the Collectif Palestine 68, a French organisation which supports the 15-year-long international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.
Five of the applicants participated in a supermarket protest in September 2009, in which they displayed Israeli products in trolleys and handed out leaflets, and eight participated in another supermarket action in May 2010, in which they collected signatures on a petition calling for Israeli goods to be withdrawn from sale.
The applicants were initially acquitted of incitement to discrimination, but that decision was overturned by an appeal court which convicted them in November 2013.
The five applicants charged in relation to the 2009 protest were given a suspended fine of €1,000 and ordered to pay the International League against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA), Lawyers Without Borders, Alliance France-Israel and National Office of Vigilance Against Antisemitism (BNVCA) €1,000 each in non-pecuniary damage and €3,000 each in civil party expenses.
The nine applicants charged in relation to the 2010 protest were similarly given a suspended fine of €1,000 and ordered to pay LICRA, Lawyers Without Borders and Alliance France-Israel €1,000 each in non-pecuniary damage and €3,000 each in civil party expenses.
After the dismissal of their appeals in October 2015, a case was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights in 2016.
The court has directed France to pay each of the applicants €380 in respect of pecuniary damage, €7,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and €20,000 jointly in respect of costs and expenses.