More and more German courts confirm the right to BDSPublished on Wed Feb 09 2022
Time for German cities and the Bundestag to scrap their shameful anti-Palestinian resolutions
European Legal Support Center (ELSC), Amsterdam and Berlin, February 9, 2022
On January 20, Germany’s Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig confirmed that the City of Munich had violated the right to freedom of expression by denying the use of its conference hall solely because it did not like the particular theme of the planned event. The Court instructed the City to provide its hall for a public debate of Munich’s anti-BDS resolution. The ELSC commends the judges of Germany’s highest administrative court for this principled decision, which represents yet another milestone in efforts to put an end to Germany’s unethical and unlawful anti-BDS resolutions.
The decision of Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig comes in a context in which activists for Palestinian human rights have to turn to the courts to defend their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly against their cities, which seek to impose the anti-BDS resolutions adopted by local and regional parliaments, as well as the German Bundestag.
Since 2019, at least seven German courts have consistently upheld the right of activists to use public facilities for BDS-related events. In eight decisions, the Munich Regional Court, the administrative courts of Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, Cologne, Hesse, Bavaria and, most recently, Leipzig have convicted the cities of Oldenburg, Bonn, Frankfurt and Munich for violating the constitutional rights to equality, freedom of expression and assembly, instructing the cities to provide the requested public facilities.
In light of these court decisions, German municipal bodies should respect these constitutional rights and ensure equal access to public venues for activists for Palestinian rights. Nevertheless, promoters of Germany’s anti-Palestinian policies, including the federal antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein, continue to push for more of the same restrictive measures, claiming that German cities may lawfully deny public spaces for BDS-related activities, because decisions of administrative courts, including the recent decision of the federal court in Leipzig, apply to the respective specific cases and circumstances only.
In terms of legal efforts, the step ahead is, therefore, a principled challenge of the constitutionality of the anti-BDS resolutions that underpin the restrictive measures of German cities. At least 13 such anti-BDS resolutions – which, based on the false accusation of antisemitism, call for withholding public spaces and subsidies from groups and activities related to the Palestinian civil society-led BDS movement – have been adopted since 2017 by the parliaments of Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Dortmund, Bochum, Bonn, Leipzig and Bielefeld, the countries of Baden-Württemberg, Thuringia and North Rhine-Westphalia, and the federal Bundestag.
German administrative courts have already ruled that these anti-BDS resolutions are no more than an expression of will, do not have legal standing and can, thus, not justify the restriction of an existing legal right. The Constitutional Court of North-Rhine Westphalia, moreover, has confirmed that the legality of these resolutions may by challenged in constitutional courts, when procedures are exhausted in administrative courts.
Since the Bundestag’s anti-BDS resolution of 2019, activists of the initiative ‘Bundestag 3 for Palestine’ have been insulted as antisemitic and unlawfully excluded from many public spaces in German cities. A Jewish member of the initiative was even compared to the antisemitic murderer of Halle by the antisemitism commissioner and Uwe Becker, board member of the German-Israeli Society DIG. With its recent decision, the Federal Administrative Court now supports BT3P’s lawsuit against the Bundestag, because it ruled conclusively that public space bans because of support for BDS are illegal.
Ahmed Abed, Lawyer of the Bundestag 3 for Palestine (BT3P)
For more on these German court decisions, read: German Case Law: A coherent Set of Principles for Challenging anti-BDS resolutions.
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