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Update: Administrative Court of Cologne rules in favor of supporters of BDS Movement
22، Oct 2019

On Friday 13 September 2019, the Administrative Court of Cologne ruled that the German-Palestinian Women’s Association (as well as two other Palestinian Solidarity Movements) must be allowed to participate in the Bonn cultural festival (“Vielfalt! – Bonner Kultur - und Begegnungsfest”).[1]

Over the past number of years, the German-Palestinian Women’s Association, the German-Palestinian Society and the Palestinian Community of Bonn, have regularly participated in the annual Bonn Culture and Encounter Festival. However this year, and following the passing of motions by the German Bundestag[2] (20 September 2018) and the parliament of North-Rhine Westphalia (17 May 2019) condemning the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the three organizations were informed that they would not be permitted to participate, due to their support of BDS. 

However on 13 September 2019, the Administrative Court of Cologne found that “the motions of the Bonn City Council, as well as the motions of the parliament of North-Rhine Westphalia (20 September 2018) and the German Bundestag (17 May 2019), do not constitute legislative acts, but are political resolutions or expressions of political will. These motions alone cannot justify, from any legal perspective, the restriction of an existing legal right.” [3]

The Court further found that the conduct of the City of Bonn in preventing participation on the grounds of the organizations’ support for BDS, to be in breach of the principle of equality, as provided for in Article 3 of the German Basic Law, while also violating the right to freedom of expression under Article 5 of the Basic Law.[4] Notably, the Court considered that exclusion on such grounds constitutes “unequal treatment” (“Ungleichbehandlung”), which is “not even remotely” justified.[5]

With its decision, the Administrative Court of Cologne follows two earlier rulings by the Administrative Court of Oldenburg (Case 3 A 3012/16) [6] and the Higher Administrative Court of Lower Saxony in Lüneburg (Case 10 ME 48/19)[7], which also protect access of BDS activists to public facilities, initially denied by local authorities.

Al-Haq welcomes the decision by the Administrative Court of Cologne, and notes that it additionally ensures the protection of the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly, as provided for under Articles 10 and 11 respectively of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and integrated into German Basic Law. The right of individuals to choose to boycott is an important component of the right to freedom of expression and association. For this reason, the EU has explicitly affirmed the necessity to protect the rights to freedom of expression and of association, as enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including with regards to BDS activities throughout EU Member States.[8] Al-Haq considers the protection of these rights as vital to a healthy and vibrant democracy based on international principals of human rights and dignity. 


[1] ELSC, “Another German Court rules in favor of supporters of BDS Movement” (16 September 2019), available at:

[2] German Bundestag (19th parliamentary term), “Resisting the BDS Movement with Determination – Combating Anti-Semitism” (15 May 2019), proposal by the political groups of CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP, and Alliance 90/the Greens.

[3] See Supra 1.

[4] Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, available at:

[5] ELSC (n 1).

[6] “Kommunalrecht - Rechtswidrige Aufhebung des für die Überlassung eines Vortragssaals in einer öffentlichen Einrichtung vorausgesetzten Zulassungsverwaltungsakts” (Fortsetzungsfeststellungsklage) available at:

[7] Verteilung der Darlegungs- und Beweislast bei Ausschluss eines Einwohners von der Nutzung einer öffentlichen Einrichtung der Gemeinde wegen Nichteinstehens für die freiheitlich-demokratische Grundordnung, available at:

[8] European Parliament, Parliamentary Questions, 15 September 2016, Answer given by Vice-President Mogherini on behalf of the Commission, available at: