A member of BDS Austria – a group of Palestinian rights advocates – is facing a lawsuit by the Municipality of Vienna that aims at silencing him and seriously threatens his fundamental right to freedom of expression. With lawyer Elisabetta Folliero and the support of the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), the advocate is challenging the Municipality of Vienna in Court where a hearing will take place on the 28th of January. Help us fight injustice and intimidation and gather enough money to face the legal costs of the lawsuit and potential damages. These could amount up to €35.000.
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On November 2021, the activist – who decided to remain anonymous – received a legal notice from the Municipality of Vienna, which had filed a lawsuit for a social media post. The group was then amongst those who shared an image (see below) of a “Visit Apartheid” poster stuck to a billboard in August 2021, alongside the sarcastic caption: “We are glad that the City of Vienna also recognizes apartheid and publicly states it”. The Municipality claimed it as defamatory, consequently expressing that the Municipality of Vienna cannot be associated with – no, not apartheid – but with the BDS movement that would “incite to hatred”!
The City based its claim on an anti-democratic resolution that smears the BDS movement and contradicts with European and international Human Rights standards, such as exposed in a legal opinion commissioned by the ELSC and signed by renowned scholars.
Thanks to your donations, we will ensure effective legal support to the advocate until the end of the proceedings, with the aim of denouncing the anti-democratic policies of the Vienna Municipality and pushing it to change its practices.
The poster shared by the activist was an adaptation of the iconic “Visit Palestine” poster designed in 1936 by Austrian marketer, Franz Krausz.
The poster has since come to symbolise the historic context of the struggle for recognition and basic rights for the Palestinian people and was revived and reclaimed by Palestinians. Artists such as Amer Shomali soon gave their creativity free reign and created versions of the poster with direct references to the Israeli Apartheid regime.
The commission of the crime of apartheid by Israeli authorities has now been documented and recognised by many human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Israeli organisations B’Tselem and Yesh Din, and before them Palestinian civil society organisations as well as the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) or Jewish Voice for Peace.
BDS Austria was created in 2014 as 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.
“We at BDS Austria, are people from a wide variety of backgrounds and socializations are involved. ... We are all united by the desire to end the ongoing oppression and discrimination against Palestinians, so that all people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories can live in their homeland with equal rights and dignity, regardless of religious or other affiliations. We are also united by the conviction or belief that the BDS campaign is an effective, peaceful and non-violent means to achieve this goal.”
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 appealed. To add to its shameful affront to democracy and fundamental rights, the Municipality of Vienna has proposed the activist a settlement requesting him to pay more than 17.000 euros - the total amount of damages previously asked plus legal fees!
In May 2022, 4 UN Special Rapporteur also raised their concerns over the lawsuit and recalled the legality and legitimacy of the BDS movement in a communication sent to the Austrian authorities. Read more here: https://elsc.support/news/four-un-special-rapporteurs-address-their-concerns-to-austrian-authorities-about-anti-bds-resolution-and-lawsuit-against-activist
On 14 July 2023, a hearing for the main proceeding is now taking place with the same judge who issued the problematic decision of April 2022, which completely endorsed the anti-Palestinian arguing of the Municipality of Vienna.
In order to succeed the next steps, we need your help and solidarity to secure extra costs related to lawyer fees and Court fees.
How we will use your donation
The total cost of the lawsuit for the activist could amount up to €35.000, depending on the outcomes of the hearing. All funds donated to this case will be used to cover the costs of this case.
As a first step, the activist needs to cover his legal fees that amounts to €5.000.
In addition, following the judgment issued on 6 April 2022, the judge approved the City’s request of damages and of legal fees to be covered by the BDS activist. If this decision if confirmed in the Court of Appeal, the activist will have to:
- pay the damages requested by the City of Vienna: €3.500
- cover the City's legal fees, which, after the second hearing, could amount to € 9.000
In order to protect fundamental rights for Palestinian rights advocates in Austria, we could go up to the European Court of Human rights! Help us protecting our collective rights to freedom of expression!