parPARIS (Reuters) - La Cour européenne des droits de l'homme (EHCR) a jugé jeudi qu'une condamnation pénale française contre des militants impliqués dans une campagne de boycott de produits importés d'Israël n'avait pas de motifs suffisants et violait leur liberté d'expression.
The highest court of appeal in France in 2015 confirmed the decisions that condemned activists for inciting racism and anti-Semitism.
Twelve people, who were part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, were sentenced for distributing leaflets in supermarkets in eastern France and wearing T-shirts in 2009 and 2010 calling for a boycott of Israeli goods .
Their legal team argued that the boycott call was a fundamental principle of freedom of expression.
UNHCR said European conventions have few restrictions on political speech and that its very nature must be controversial and virulent until it crosses the line and calls for violence, hatred or intolerance.
“The Court found that the applicants’ conviction had no relevant or sufficient reason,” said the decision.
France was ordered to pay 27,380 euros ($ 31,150) to each activist.
Israel said the BDS movement, sponsored by pro-Palestinian intellectuals and bloggers, was motivated by anti-Semitism and the desire to portray Israel as illegitimate.
The move comes at a time when Israel plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, drawing criticism in Europe. Some countries, including France, say that measures could be imposed on Israel if it went ahead with its plans.
“This is a victory for freedom of expression and civic action,” said Bertrand Heilbronn, president of the France Palestine Solidarité Association. “(We) will continue to develop it (the BDS campaign) as long as Israel does not respect international law and human rights. ”
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Gareth Jones)