France’s Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, handed down a judgment on Wednesday rejecting a pro-Palestinian association’s appeal against the French government’s directive to ban pro-Palestine protests, clarifying that local authorities have the power and discretion to prohibit individual demonstrations.
Following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, large-scale protests and demonstrations have occurred worldwide amid the escalating Israeli-Hamas conflict. On October 12, French Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories Gérald Darminin announced a ban on pro-Palestinian rallies, stating that “they are likely to generate disturbances to the public order.” Thousands of demonstrators took to the street in Paris on the same day to denounce the government’s ban and show their support for Palestine.
A French pro-Palestine association, the Palestine Action Committee, subsequently asked the Council of State to overturn the government’s ban on pro-Palestinian protests, stating that it infringed citizens’ right to peaceful protest, which is a fundamental human right recognized under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 12 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Council of State delivered its judgment on Wednesday per the Palestine Action Committee’s request, noting the intention of Minister Darminin’s announcement, which was to remind the “préfets” (representatives of states or regions) that it was within their rights to decide the appropriateness of a protest on a case-by-case basis. A préfet cannot apply a blanket ban on any of such protests by simply referring to the announcement of Minister Darminin.
However, regarding the announcement itself, the Council of State found that, despite the somehow misleading wording, it did not constitute a “serious and manifestly illegal attack on freedom of demonstration and freedom of expression.” In particular, the Council of State agreed with the Interior Minister that, in the current situation, demonstrations in support of Hamas, which is designated by the European Union as a terrorist organization, were indeed likely to lead to disturbances of public order.