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Belgium police shut down conservative conference

Freedom of Speech
16 April 2024
Police outside venue

No 10 Downing Street has said a move by Belgium Police to shut down a Nat Con conference taking place in Brussels is 'extremely disturbing'.

An emergency legal challenge has been filed over the decision by the authorities to prohibit the conservative conference from continuing from 12pm today.

The venue was surrounded by police and speakers and guests were denied entry. Those already inside were told to stay there.

The order was issued by Emir Kir, the mayor of the Saint-Josse-ten-Noode district in Brussels. Among the cited reasons for closing the conference were:

  • the vision of the conference is ethically conservative (e.g. opposed to abortion).
  • speakers at the conference defend national sovereignty which implies a Eurosceptic attitude

The event had to be banned 'to avoid foreseeable attacks on public order and peace'.

ADF International is supporting a legal challenge to the order issued by the mayor. Executive Director Paul Coleman said:

Open dialogue is supposed to be at the core of European politics; yet here in the capital of the EU, a thoughtful exchange on policy has been shut down by unilateral decree. This is a watershed moment where the true censorship crisis in Europe is on full public display. The crushing of political opinions opposed by those in power is something that should be relegated to the darker chapters of European history.

ADF International is supporting an emergency legal challenge against the mayor’s order to shut down the conference, arguing it is contrary to the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly – the pillars of truly democratic societies.
Paul Coleman Executive Director, ADF International

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's spokeswoman said “The Prime Minister is a strong supporter and advocator for free speech and he believes that should be fundamental to any democracy.

“Speaking more broadly to the principle of such events, he is very clear that cancelling events or preventing attendance and no-platforming speakers is damaging to free speech and to democracy as a result. He is very clear that free debate and the exchange of views is vital, even where you disagree.”

The Prime Minister of Belgium has also criticised the mayor's heavy-handed response. In a message on X, Alexander De Croo said,

What happened at the Claridge today is unacceptable. Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy but can never overrule the Belgian constitution guaranteeing the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly since 1830. Banning political meetings is unconstitutional. Full stop.
Alexander De Croo Prime Minister of Belgium

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