Austria - Case Update

Ask the Mayor of Vienna to End Strategic Lawsuit Against Palestinian Rights Advocate

Published on Wed Mar 30 2022 - modified on Wed Apr 13 2022

In November 2021, the City of Vienna filed a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) against an activist to deliberately repress and intimidate BDS-Austria and Palestinian rights advocates. Such a tactic threatens democratic values and fundamental rights.

On 6 April 2022, in a highly contestable decision, the judge ruled in favor of the City of Vienna and ordered that the BDS activist must no longer use the logo of the City of Vienna in connection with any publication or public statement. Nevertheless, BDS Austria won’t be silenced and is determined to denounce the Israeli apartheid. The activist will appeal.

It is time to reinforce the pressure and show the City of Vienna that it cannot keep silencing lawful and legitimate activism!

Send an email to the Mayor of Vienna and ask him to end this undemocratic lawsuit.

Here is the content of the email that will be sent to the Vienna Mayor (the original email will be sent in German):

Dear Mayor Ludwig,

I am writing to you in protest of the City of Vienna’s recent intimidation lawsuit against Viennese activists of the worldwide, Palestinian-led, non-violent human rights campaign BDS. I am asking you to personally advocate for the City of Vienna to drop this lawsuit immediately.

The City‘s lawsuit against BDS Austria based on a Facebook post cannot be assessed as anything other than an attempt by the City of Vienna to intimidate civil society activism. In this case, the City of Vienna is suing BDS Austria because it made a social media post of a photo (!) of a poster with the inscription “Visit Apartheid”. The unknown poster-makers used the logo of the City of Vienna, and BDS Austria commented on sarcastically in the post. BDS Austria has committed neither defamation nor slander; instead, it has exercised its fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression, which is not to be persecuted in a democratic society.

BDS Austria’s posts fit within the context of the Israeli occupation and annexation that violate international law and the implementation of an apartheid system (see e.g. the most recent Amnesty International Report on this). BDS is a human rights campaign – as seen in the anti-apartheid movement in the South African context – launched by Palestinian civil society; it is perfectly legal and legitimate to advocate for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against occupying regimes.

The City of Vienna is rightly in the crossfire of criticism already, after threatening Lobau climate activists with so-called SLAPPs (‘Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation’), which are clearly abusive lawsuits with the purpose of preventing critical civil society engagement, intimidating critics and financially draining them. This absurd new SLAPP contributes to this trend and negatively affects the City of Vienna’s image, in Austria and abroad.

It is also a continuation of the years-long practice of silencing Palestinian and Palestine-solidarity voices: from smear campaigns and unfounded allegations to undemocratic municipal and national council resolutions explicitly condemning the global, nonviolent BDS campaign. The current lawsuit by the City of Vienna follows this trend by demanding the deletion of a Facebook post and a multi-digit payment of damages (along with already intimidating effects of high court and legal fees) to the local BDS campaign. 

As a citizen concerned by freedom of expression and of assembly, I urge you to end these arbitrary restrictions and the criminalization of peaceful advocacy and human rights work and to personally advocate for the cessation of the lawsuit by the City of Vienna. Especially in times of crisis and upheaval, prudent and clear leadership that is transparently based on constitutional and human rights principles is important.


[people’s information here]

What else can you do to support the case?

  • Sign the petition to ask the City of Vienna to drop its lawsuit and repeal its anti-BDS resolution
  • Donate to help the activist with the legal fees
  • Spread the word on your social media with the hashtag #ViennaVisitApartheid

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