Swiss Parliament rejects effort to criminalize BDS and commitment to human rights in Israel/Palestine

13.06.2017

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Basel, June 13, 2017 - Today, the Council of States (upper house of the Swiss parliament) clearly rejected an effort to criminalize and ban the financial support of organizations committed to promote human rights and international law in Israel/Palestine. A motion put forward by National Councillor Christian Imark with this intention was adopted in an amended version. Among other things, the demand not to support any organizations calling for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel was discarded. In an earlier meeting with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of States, the Swiss Federal Foreign Office (FDFA) reaffirmed that BDS is not contrary to international law.

The Motion Imark was supported in the National Council (lower house of the Swiss parliament) by the Swiss People's Party and a majority of the Free Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic People's Party. The motion is based on a document by the well known Israeli lobbying organisation NGO-Monitor and is thus to be understood in the context of Israel's aggravated attempts to discredit the rule of international law as well as US institutions and to criminalise NGOs and aid organisations that continue to call for the respect of basic rights, an end of the occupation and blockade of Gaza, equality for Arab citizens of Israel and justice for the refugees to return to their homeland.

Since 2005, a large majority of Palestinian civil society organizations is calling for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until the state complies with international law and guarantees the basic rights of the Palestinian population.

The right to engage for the rights of the Palestinian people through BDS is publicly recognized by the EU as well as the governments of the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden. More than 200 renowned lawyers and legal scholars from several European countries including Switzerland issued a declaration in December 2016 that recognizes considers BDS as “a lawful exercise of freedom of expression.” Robert Kolb, who served as a legal expert with the Swiss Foreign Ministry, commented: “The right of citizens to advocate for BDS is part and parcel of the fundamental freedoms protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.”

BDS Switzerland welcomes the decision of the Council of States to define clear criteria for the allocation of financial resources to NGOs, without interfering them in their legitimate commitment to human rights and international law. The amended motion is now handed back to the National Council which has to vote on the new text – without any possibility to reestablish the original version.

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