In a 15-2 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights yesterday upheld France’s four year-old ban on full face veils.
According to the justices, the controversial law introduced in 2010 does not exceed the authority granted to states in the European Convention on Human Rights and thus France’s ban on wearing veils like the burqa and niqab in public, doesn’t violate the religious and human freedoms of Muslim women. The ruling was in relation to a case brought by a 24-year-old woman who is a “devout Muslim and she wears the burqa and niqab in accordance with her religious faith, culture and personal convictions.” Her legal team argued that the ban violated her rights to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and a prohibition against discrimination. But judges at the ECHR disagreed. “The Court emphasized that respect for the conditions of ‘living together’ was a legitimate aim for the measure at issue,” a statement from the court said. The court also noted 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.
An estimated five million Muslims live in France, more than in any other western European nation.