Support Palestinian Rights Advocates in Austria Facing Unjust Lawsuit

Support Palestinian Rights Advocates in Austria Facing Unjust Lawsuit

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European Legal Support Center (ELSC) a lancé cette pétition adressée à Municipality of Vienna

We the undersigned express grave concerns about the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) filed by the Municipality of Vienna against a group of Palestinian rights advocates in Vienna. We urge the Municipality to drop this meritless lawsuit, which contributes to the rising climate of repression in Austria targeting individuals and groups demanding justice and equality for Palestinians.

BDS Austria is part of the Palestinian civil society-led BDS movement. Based on the experience of activists who challenged South-African Apartheid, the movement uses non-violent means to demand the end of the systematic oppression and discrimination of Palestinians, in line with international law and universal human rights principles. What BDS Austria stands for is solidarity and justice, values that we all share.

In August 2021, a poster representing Palestine and stating “visit Apartheid” along with the official logo of the Municipality of Vienna, was placed by unknown persons over a billboard in Vienna. BDS Austria posted a picture of this poster on its social media, ironically commenting on the City’s official acknowledgment of the Israeli Apartheid regime.

Now, a member of the group is facing a lawsuit with legal costs and damages that could amount to €35.000. The Municipality is claiming defamation and is directly referring to its anti-BDS resolution. By suing the advocate over a social media post, the Municipality of Vienna is deliberately targeting BDS Austria in order to silence them.

We are alarmed by efforts to stigmatise human rights defenders and to intimidate them with frivolous lawsuits, which have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression and amount to disinformation. Attempts to silence BDS Austria are part of a broader anti-democratic trend of repression, attacks, and smear campaigns against Palestinian rights advocates. Just like in Germany, increasing efforts to silence critical voices have a common denominator: anti-BDS resolutions. The City of Vienna adopted its resolution in 2018, followed in 2019 by the Graz City Council’s motion. On 27 February 2020, the Austrian Parliament passed a motion condemning the BDS movement and calling on the Federal Government to deny BDS initiatives financial support and the use of public spaces.

These motions lead to discriminatory policies and practices against Palestinian rights advocates and increase the personal and professional risks they face in holding Israel accountable for its human rights abuses. Ultimately, these anti-BDS motions represent an unreasonable, disproportionate and unlawful limitation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly of human rights defenders and should be firmly opposed, as many German Courts already acknowledge. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rejected the criminalisation of boycotts directed against Israel in support of Palestinian rights last year and affirmed BDS as a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression.

We cannot remain silent about this deeply concerning anti-democratic pattern. Therefore:

-        We strongly urge the Municipality of Vienna to drop its lawsuit against the activist of BDS Austria;

-        We call on the Austrian Parliament and local authorities to immediately repeal their anti-BDS resolutions and ensure that Palestinian rights advocates can fully exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

This petition was initiated by the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), the first and only organisation defending and empowering Palestinian rights advocates in Europe. The ELSC is legally supporting the activists of BDS Austria with lawyer Elisabetta Folliero. You can read the case-summary “Municipality of Vienna vs. BDS Austria” on the ELSC website.

This petition is co-sponsored by the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), a network of 43 European organisations and solidarity groups from 18 European countries, dedicated to the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and equality.

0 a signé. Prochain objectif : 2 500 !
Quand elle atteindra 2 500 signatures, cette pétition aura plus de chance d'être reprise par les médias et journaux locaux !