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Call for a boycott of Israeli products: France must apply ECHR ruling

EU Reporter Correspondent

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LDH, FIDH and AFPS have referred to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, France’s failure to implement a June 2020 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

In a communication sent on 13 April 2021, the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) referred to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe – which monitors the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) – the highly questionable measures taken by the French government to implement a judgment issued by the ECtHR on 11 June 2020.

In its judgment, the Court condemned France by ruling in favour of 11 Alsatian activists who had been sentenced by French courts for calling for a boycott of Israeli products. The ECtHR ruling specifies that the call for a boycott for political reasons is specifically protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, the only limits to this freedom of expression being in cases of incitement to hatred, violence, or intolerance.

In a "dispatch" sent by the Minister of Justice to prosecutors on 20 October 2020, the French government issued a distorted and biased interpretation: far from recalling the primacy of freedom of expression, it merely asked prosecutors to better substantiate and qualify their prosecutions. It continues to deliberately conflate activist discourse, of which the call for a boycott of Israeli products is a part, with antisemitic speech or actions, which are unacceptable by nature and punishable by law.

Through their communication, LDH, FIDH and AFPS ask the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to intervene so that the French Minister of Justice’s dispatch be fundamentally revised. They also ask for the repeal of the so-called "Alliot-Marie / Mercier" circulars of 2010 and 2012.

Malik Salemkour, president of LDH, declared: "These activists’ civic-minded and peaceful call to boycott Israeli products enjoys protection under the principle of freedom of expression and does not constitute incitement to discrimination or intolerance."

Antoine Madelin, FIDH’s advocacy director, declared: "In France, like in any other country, activists’ expression must be protected as an integral part of necessary democratic discourse."

Bertrand Heilbronn, president of AFPS, declared: "The call to boycott Israeli products is an essential part of activists’ efforts in favour of the rights of the Palestinian people. France must fully comply with the Court’s ruling."

For more information, view the press kit here (in French).

France

COMETE Network acquires capacity to detect B1.617 “Indian variant” of Covid-19 in wastewater

Colin Stevens

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As part of the management of the current public health crisis, France’s COMETE Network, co-founded by the Bataillon de Marins Pompiers de Marseille (BMPM), commanded by Counter Admiral Patrick Augier, and the OpenHealth Company, chaired by Dr. Patrick Guerin, has announced that it is able – thanks to its scientific and industrial partnership with biotechnology laboratory Biosellal - to detect the new E484Q (then L452R) mutations, markers of the "Indian variant", as part of its environmental monitoring system currently being deployed on French territory.

The COMETE Network aims to support municipalities, departments, and regions in their monitoring of the COVID-19 pandemic and to share the operational and scientific techniques developed by the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear and Explosives unit (CBRNE unit) and partner laboratories, in order to remain one step ahead in the battle against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The scientific partnerships initiated several months ago within the COMETE Network make it possible to respond promptly to the virus’s evolution.

According to Dr. Patrick Guerin: "It is by organising the deployment of our operational, technological and industrial know-how that we will reinforce our crisis management capacities. The teams from Biosellal and the CBRN unit of the BMPM have been working for many weeks to adapt the variant screening methods already in use. The COMETE Network is now supported by partners with unique and efficient R&D capacities adapted to the monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 mutations”.

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EU

Le Pen 'is a disturbance to public order' - Goldschmidt

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Commenting on the interview with the party leader of the French right-wing populist Rassemblement National (RN) Marine Le Pen (pictured) published in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), has issued the following statement: “It is not the headscarf that is a disturbance to public order, but Ms Le Pen. This is clearly the wrong signal to the Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities living in France. It expresses Ms Le Pen’s fear of foreigners. She is dividing society instead of uniting it, and in doing so, she is deliberately using the Jewish community, which according to her should refrain from wearing the kippah, as collateral damage in her fight against cultures.

“The supporters of the ban are convinced that they are fighting radical Islam. But how do they define radical Islam? I define radical Islam as Islamism that does not tolerate secular Muslims, Christians and Jews and the European society as a whole. This radical Islam can also walk around in jeans and with uncovered hair. It is this that is the real danger, as France has often so bitterly experienced. Instead of attacking political Islam and its supporters, a religious symbol is being attacked.

“Le Pen’s demand is nothing other than an attack on the fundamental and human right of religious freedom, which people in many places in Europe are now repeatedly trying to restrict. This is an alarming trend for all religious minorities.”

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Brexit

UK sends two navy boats to Jersey after France threatens blockade

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The Mont Orgueil Castle is seen behind an island flag at Gorey Harbour in Jersey, in this February 26, 2008 file photo.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain is sending two navy patrol boats to the British Channel Island of Jersey after France suggested it could cut power supplies to the island if its fishermen are not granted full access to UK fishing waters under post-Brexit trading terms, write Richard Lough and Andrew Macaskill.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged his "unwavering support" for the island after he spoke with Jersey officials about the prospect of the French blockade.

Johnson "stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions," a spokesperson for Johnson said. "As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation."

Earlier, France's Seas Minister Annick Girardin said she was "disgusted" to learn that Jersey had issued 41 licences with unilaterally imposed conditions, including the time French fishing vessels could spend in its waters.

"In the (Brexit) deal there are retaliatory measures. Well, we're ready to use them," Girardin told France's National Assembly on Tuesday (4 May).

"Regarding Jersey, I remind you of the delivery of electricity along underwater cables ... Even if it would be regrettable if we had to do it, we'll do it if we have to."

With a population of 108,000, Jersey imports 95% of its electricity from France, with diesel generators and gas turbines providing backup, according to energy news agency S&P Global Platts.

Jersey's government said France and the European Union had expressed their unhappiness with the conditions placed on the issuance of fishing licences.

Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said the island had issued permits in accordance with the post-Brexit trade terms, and that they stipulated any new licence must reflect how much time a vessel had spent in Jersey's waters before Brexit.

"We are entering a new era and it takes time for all to adjust. Jersey has consistently shown its commitment to finding a smooth transition to the new regime," Horst said in a statement.

The rocky island sits 14 miles (23 km) off the northern French coast and 85 miles (140 km) south of Britain's shores.

The French threat is the latest flare-up over fishing rights between the two countries.

Last month, French trawlermen angered by delays to licences to fish in British waters blocked lorries carrying UK-landed fish with burning barricades as they arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Europe’s largest seafood processing centre.

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