Germany - Cancellations of Events

Israeli Apartheid Week vs City of Oldenburg

Published on Mon Apr 15 2019 - modified on Tue Dec 15 2020

In February 2019, the City Council of Oldenburg refused to a grant public space to the local Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanction (BDS) group, claiming that the movement is antisemitic. BDS Oldenburg petitioned the Court that acknowledged its claims and instructed the city to grant the venue to host events related to the 2019 Israeli Apartheid Week.

In February 2019, Mr Cristopher Glanz, acting on behalf of BDS Oldenburg, submitted to the City Council of Oldenburg an official request for a city-owned conference space for events related to the 2019 Israeli Apartheid Week. The City Council refused to grant space, claiming that the BDS movement is antisemitic, refering among other materials, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

Attorney Ahmed Abed, representing BDS Oldenburg, , challenged the decision by filing an application for an interim measure before the Administrative Court of Oldenburg. On 21 March, the Court issued a judgement in favour of the City, arguing that the applicant did not sufficiently demonstrate that the BDS campaign is not antisemitic.

With the assistance of the ELSC, Attorney Abed filed an appeal of this decision before the Higher Administrative Court of Lower Saxony, including: i) a legal memo developed by ELSC, arguing how the right to boycott Israel is lawful under international law, and how this right is protected by international human rights law, especially by the Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR); ii) an authoritative statement signed by Professor John Dugard stressing the full legitimacy of BDS under international law.

The Higher Administrative Court overturned the decision of the lower Court, stating that since the charge of antisemitism represents a very serious allegation, the burden of proof lies with the party making the accusation. The Court further stated that “in any case, from the summary examination of the present case it cannot be determined that the applicant or the BDS campaign and the persons participating in the events undermine the free democratic basic order. Accordingly, (…) the applicant is entitled to carry out the planned events in City-owned venues.”

* The City of Oldenburg had already been convicted in 2018 for having withdrawn the permission it had already granted for an event organised by BDS Oldenburg in 2016.

Timeline

11 February 2019: Mr Cristopher Glanz, acting on behalf of BDS Oldenburg, submits to the City Council of Oldenburg the official request for city-owned conference space for events related to the 2019 Israeli Apartheid Week.

8 March 2019: Since the City of Oldenburg did not reply to the request, attorney Ahmed Abed, on behalf of Cristopher Glanz, files the application before the Administrative Court of Oldenburg asking to grant the requested space.

14 March 2019: The City of Oldenburg publishes a statement where it officially refuses to grant to BDS Oldenburg the requested rooms, claiming that the BDS campaign is antisemitic.

21 March 2019: The Administrative Court of Oldenburg rules in favour of the City, arguing that the applicant did not sufficiently demonstrate that the BDS campaign is not antisemitic.

26 March 2019: Attorney Abed, assisted by the ELSC, files the urgent appeal before the Higher Administrative Court of Lower Saxony.

28 March 2019: The Higher Administrative Court overturns the decision of the Lower Court and instructs the City of Oldenburg to provide to BDS Oldenburg a place to hold the 2019 Israeli Apartheid week.

Related Links

Case Analysis, the Global Freedom of Expression, Columbia University

Ghislain Poissonnier, La Cour supérieure administrative de Basse-Saxe se prononce sur la légalité du BDS, AURDIP, 11 May 2019

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