Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, has condemned attacks on human rights defenders and affirmed the right of European citizens to freedom of expression and association, including through participation in the global Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In response to a question on whether the EU commission will commit to defending BDS activists’ right to exercise their democratic freedom of expression, put forward by MEP Martina Anderson, the EU High Representative stated:
“The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU Member States’ territory, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory.”
Mogherini also affirmed that
“Freedom of expression, as underlined by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, is also applicable to information or ideas ‘that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.”
Having failed to hinder the growing support and impact of the BDS movement in the mainstream, Israel has launched an unprecedented anti-democratic campaign to silence Palestine rights activism and outlaw BDS.
The Israeli-induced attacks on the BDS movement include pressure on governments, legislators and officials to fight BDS activity through implementation of repressive measures that pose a threat to civil and political liberties at large.
When asked about the Commission’s assessment of statements made by Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz that ‘targeted civil elimination’ should be carried out against Palestinian and international leaders for the BDS movement, the EU High Representative stated that
“The EU firmly condemns threats and violence against human rights defenders under all circumstances.”
Riya Hassan, Europe Campaigns Officer of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global BDS movement, commented:
“We welcome the EU’s belated defense of the right of European and other citizens to stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights, including through BDS tactics. But Palestinian civil society expects the EU to respect its obligations under international law and its own principles and laws by, at the very least, imposing a military embargo on Israel, banning products of companies that do business in Israel’s illegal colonies, and suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement until Israel fully complies with the human rights clause of the agreement.”
A letter signed by more than 30 MEPs had called on Federica Mogherini, to take measures assuring freedom of expression regarding the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for justice and equality and recognising Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, as a human rights defender.
This letter echoes growing European political and civil society calls for protecting the freedom of expression of activists and organisations involved in BDS activity for Palestinian rights under international law.
More than 350 European human rights organizations, trade unions, church groups and political parties, have called on the European Union to defend citizens and organisations right to boycott Israel in response to its occupation and violations of Palestinian rights.
Representatives of the Swedish, Irish and Dutch governments have publicly defended the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS.