Strasbourg, France: The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday upheld France’s controversial burqa (veil) ban, rejecting arguments that outlawing full-face veils breaches religious freedom.
In a case brought by a 24-year-old French woman with the support of a British legal team, the court ruled that France was justified in introducing the ban in the interests of social cohesion.
“The court emphasised that respect for the conditions of ‘living together’ was a legitimate aim for the measure at issue,” a statement from the ECHR said.
It said the “ban was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face”.
It also emphasised that states should be allowed a degree of discretion “a wide margin of appreciation” on a policy issue which is subject to significant differences of opinion. Her lawyer Ramby de Mello said that the woman was “disappointed by the verdict” but had anticipated it. “She did expect to succeed on some aspects because this judgement calls for living together in principle it is a good thing,” Mr de Mello said.
Two of the 17 judges dissented from the majority view that the ban did not breach the European Convention on Human Rights’ provisions protecting freedom of thought, conscience and religion. But the judges agreed unanimously that the woman had not been a victim of discrimination.