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NEW: ADF International backs emergency legal challenge after Brussels police shut down “NatCon” conference citing views on abortion, marriage, and the European Union

  • An emergency legal challenge has been filed against the Brussels authorities responsible for ordering police to shut down peaceful conference because it platformed views that were “ethically conservative 
     
  • Authorities cite pro-life views among the reasons to censor conference; ADF International supports NatCon’s challenge to protect free speech 
Paul Coleman at NatCon in Brussels

BRUSSELS (16th April 2024) – An emergency legal challenge has been filed regarding the decision of authorities to prohibit a conservative conference hosted in Brussels from continuing since 12pm today. The venue has been surrounded by police, and speakers and guests are being denied access. 

The order, issued by Emir Kir, the mayor of the Saint-Josse-ten-Noode district in Brussels, where the conference venue is located, and seen by ADF International, cites the reason for shutting down the conference as including: 

that [NatCon’s] vision is not only ethically conservative (e.g. hostility to the legalisation of abortion, same-sex unions, etc.) but also focused on the defense of “national sovereignty”, which implies, amongst other things, a “Eurosceptic” attitude…”,  

It also states that some of the speakers “are reputed to be traditionalists” and that the conference must be banned “to avoid foreseeable attacks on public order and peace”. 

The National Conservatism conference, which features various elected officials, including former UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and Catholic leader Cardinal Müller from Germany, was cancelled by two venues before securing a third hotel venue near the European Quarter. 

“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.”

"A watershed moment"

ADF International is supporting a legal challenge to the order issued by mayor Emir Kir on the grounds that he acted outside his competence to shut down free and peaceful dialogue based on a politically-motivated justification in violation of freedom of assembly. 

Kir, who complained that the conference hosted personalities from “the conservative, religious right”, was removed from the Socialist Party in Belgium in January 2020 for meeting with members of “far-right” political organisations which support the AKP government in Turkey, responsible for cracking down on religious freedom and expelling Christian residents from the country. 

The following statement may be attributed to Paul Coleman, British lawyer and Executive Director of ADF International, and a speaker at the National Conservatism Conference in Brussels: 

“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.” 

Coleman recorded a statement live from outside of the venue:

Images for free use in print or online in relation to this story only

Pictured: Police surrounding “NatCon” Conference venue; Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International

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