French Highest Administrative Court Upholds the Legality of Two Palestine Solidarity GroupsPublished on Fri Jun 03 2022
In landmark rulings dated 29 April 2022, the French Council of State (France’s highest administrative court) has prevented the dissolution of the Comité Action Palestine (CAP) and the Collectif Palestine Vaincra (CPV). In the decisions, the Council rejected the unfounded allegations of antisemitism and support to terrorism made against the groups and confirmed the legitimacy of boycott calls.
Gérald Darmanin, France’s Interior Minister, had announced on 24 February 2022 that he would seek the dismantlement of the two Palestine solidarity groups, at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron. He cited both groups’ alleged incitement to hatred, discrimination, or violence, as well as their supposed provocation to commit terrorist offences, as the basis for the government’s action. As a result, on 9 March 2022, the French President, Prime Minister, and Interior Minister, signed two governmental decrees pronouncing the dissolution of CAP and CPV.
Both groups sought an urgent order to suspend the decrees. The applications claimed that the decrees constituted a serious violation of the CAP and CPV’s fundamental rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. In addition, they claimed that the decree was adopted pursuant to an irregular procedure, as the groups were not granted sufficient time to submit their observations and, in the case of CPV, the Interior Minister refused to communicate the files on which the decision was based.
In two interim rulings, the Council of State granted interim relief to the solidarity groups, ordering the suspension of the decrees and thus the survival of the CAP and CPV. The Council found that:
- While the CAP expressed “clear-cut and sometimes virulent opinions on the situation in the Near East [and] on the Israeli government’s policies and actions”, the statements did not incite to hatred, discrimination, or violence.
- There was no evidence to support a finding that members of the CAP were involved in antisemitic conduct, nor that the groups had disseminated statements of an antisemitic nature.
- “The call for boycott, insofar as it expresses a dissenting opinion, constitutes a particular way of exercising freedom of expression and cannot in itself, except in particular circumstances establishing the contrary, be considered as provocation or a contribution to discrimination, hatred or violence against a group of people, likely to justify a measure of dissolution”. In the present case, no such circumstances were found and the CPV’s call for boycott was legitimate.
- The information disseminated, and the opinions expressed, by CAP and CPV, cannot be defined as acts committed with a view to inciting to acts of terrorism in France or abroad.
On these grounds, the Council of State determined that the decrees gravely violated the groups’ fundamental freedoms of association and of expression. This decision is consistent with the unanimous Baldassi judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, which affirmed the legitimacy of the BDS movement’s call for boycott.
The CAP, the CPV as well as the three organisations that intervened as third parties, French Jewish Union for Peace, France Palestine Solidarity Association and Union Syndicale Solidaires, commended the Council’s ruling.
Collectif Palestine Vaincra still awaits a final decision on the merits to get a definitive suspension of the decree concerning their dissolution.
Photo: CC Conseil d’Etat