Groundbreaking statement by 200 European Legal Scholars Upholds the Right to BDS for Palestinian Rights

Palestinians welcome statement as “a major blow to Israel’s repressive legal war” on the BDS movement:

  • Renowned legal scholars and lawyers from 15 European countries consider BDS as “a lawful exercise of freedom of expression”
  • Palestinian BDS human rights defenders welcome the statement as a “defining moment” in asserting their right to boycott Israel to realize Palestinian rights

8 December 2016 – Marking the 10-December UN Human Rights Day, which this year raises the slogan, “Stand up for someone’s rights today,” about 200 legal scholars and practicing lawyers from 15 European states have issued a statement that stands for Palestinian rights and considers the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality as “a lawful exercise of freedom of expression.”

The legal scholar’s statement was issued in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Dutch.

“The list of statement signatories includes world-renowned legal figures of the prominence of South African jurist John Dugard, who served at the International Court of Justice; Sir Geoffrey Bindman, honorary Queen’s Counsel in the UK; José Antonio Martín Pallín, former Supreme Court judge in Spain; Alain Pellet, Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in France; Guy Goodwin-Gill, former Legal Adviser for the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Eric David, former legal counsel for the Council of Europe and the Belgian government; Robert Kolb, former legal expert with the ICRC and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Marco Sassòli, former deputy head of the ICRC’s legal division; Michael Mansfield, UK Queen’s Counsel; Lauri Hannikainen, Member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI); and Géraud de la Pradelle, who led the civic inquiry into the involvement of France in the 2004 Rwanda genocide.”

While not taking a position for or against BDS, the European legal scholars’ statement defended the right to pursue Palestinian rights under international law through BDS measures against Israel. It said:

States that outlaw BDS are undermining this basic human right and threatening the credibility of human rights by exempting a particular state from the advocacy of peaceful measures designed to achieve its compliance with international law.”

Robert Kolb, who served as a legal expert with the Swiss Foreign Ministry, commented:

The right of citizens to advocate for BDS is part and parcel of the fundamental freedoms protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.”

John Dugard, who served at the International Court of Justice, stated:

No government ever attempted to outlaw or criminalize the Anti-Apartheid Movement for advocating boycott, disinvestment or sanctions to compel South Africa to abandon its racist policies. BDS should be seen as a similar movement and treated accordingly.

Eric David, former legal counsel of the Council of Europe and the Belgian government, explained why civil society has increasingly supported BDS against Israel saying:

It is in response to [the] irresponsible passivity of States that civil society created the BDS movement. Repression of BDS, therefore, comes as support of Israel’s violations of international law, and of the failure of States to perform their commitment made in 2005 to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.’”

Welcoming the groundbreaking legal scholars’ statement on behalf of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global BDS movement, Ingrid Jaradat said:

This is a defining moment in the struggle against Israel’s patently repressive legal war on the BDS movement for Palestinian rights. Leading European jurists have now confirmed that advocating and campaigning for Palestinian rights under international law is a legally-guaranteed right for Europeans and indeed all citizens of the world. Israel’s desperate attempts to outlaw the BDS movement and to legally bully its supporters into silence threatens democratic space, the jurists said in their critical statement.

“By joining Israel’s anti-democratic war of repression on BDS, the governments of France and the UK have become more isolated than ever. In addition to this definitive endorsement by European legal scholars for the right to BDS, the European Union, as well as the governments of Sweden, Netherlands and Ireland, along with hundreds of European political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations, have unequivocally stated their support for the right of citizens to engage in boycotts against the Israeli state.”

BNC’s Europe Campaigns Coordinator Riya Hassan added:

The BDS movement has grown tremendously across Europe in recent years, mainly spurred by popular outrage at Israel’s impunity in entrenching its decades-long regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against the indigenous Palestinian people.”

This momentous statement by European jurists not only vindicates BDS human rights defenders who have insisted that BDS is protected free speech. It will undoubtedly add a crucial layer of legal protection for European BDS networks and citizens in their efforts to end European complicity in Israel’s regime of oppression, especially in military trade and research, banking, and corporate involvement in Israel’s violations of international law.”