Pro-Palestinian demonstrations: Prefects must decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether the risk to public order justifies a ban

Décision de justice
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Today, the Conseil d’État’s urgent applications judge dismissed the case brought by an association against the Interior Minister's telegram banning pro-Palestinian demonstrations. After clarifying the significance that the Minister intended to give to this roughly worded telegram, the judge pointed out that it is up to regional prefects alone to assess whether a demonstration should be banned locally, on the basis of the risk of disrupting public order. A demonstration cannot be banned solely on the basis of this telegram, nor simply because it supports the people of Palestine.

On 12 October 2023, the French Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories sent a telegram to prefects stating that "pro-Palestinian demonstrations" must be banned because of the disturbances to public order they are likely to cause . The Comité Action Palestine association applied to the Conseil d'État's urgent applications judge to suspend the Minister's order as a matter of urgency.

Although the judge noted that the imprecision of telegram’s wording was regrettable, he found that the State's representatives at the hearing, as well as the Minister's public statements, had made his intention clear: to remind prefects that it is their responsibility, in exercising their authority, to ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations that, directly or indirectly, publicly justify or condone acts of terrorism such as those committed in Israel on 7 October 2023 by members of the Hamas organisation.  

The Conseil d’État’s urgent applications judge reiterated that it is for prefects alone to assess, on a case-by-case basis and under the auspices of the administrative judge, whether a demonstration with a direct link to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be banned, regardless of the side in the conflict it is intended to support. Prefects cannot legally decide to ban a demonstration simply by referring to the telegram sent by the Minister or on the sole grounds that the demonstration in question is pro-Palestinian.  On the other hand, in the current circumstances, marked by high international tensions and an upsurge of anti-Semitic offences in France, demonstrations in support of Hamas (an organisation that is condemned as a terrorist group at a European level), or which promote or condone terrorist attacks such as those perpetrated on 7 October 2023, are indeed likely to lead to public order disturbances, as stated in the telegram.

For these reasons, the Conseil d'État’s urgent applications judge took the view that the telegram sent to the prefects did not illegally “seriously and manifestly infringe on the freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate” and dismissed the application by the Comité Action Palestine association.

Read the decision (in French)