The European Court of Human Rights has upheld Belgium’s banning of the burka.
Banning full face veils, such as the niqab, does not violate human rights law, European judges unanimously ruled yesterday, according to The Telegraph.
The European Court of Human Rights found that Belgium’s ban on clothes that partially or fully cover the face in public was legal under the European Convention on Human Rights.
It said it was “necessary in a democratic society”, tried to protect “the rights and freedoms of others” and sought to guarantee the conditions of “living together”.
Sitting in Strasbourg, the chamber of seven judges dismissed a challenge brought by two Muslim women, Samia Belcacemi, a Belgian in the Brussels suburb of Schaerbeek, and Yamina Oussar, a Moroccan from the Belgian city of Liège.
They argued the 2011 veil ban infringed their rights to respect for their private life and freedom of religion. Ms Belcacemi and Ms Oussar said they voluntarily wore the niqab – a veil covering the face except for the eyes – for religious reasons.
After the ban came into force, Ms Belcacemi continued to wear the veil but stopped because she was afraid of being heavily fined or sent to prison.
Ms Ousser told the court that she had simply decided to stay at home and not go out in public.
The judges from Belgium, Iceland, Estonia, Turkey, Montenegro, Monaco and Moldova also found that the ban did not break rules in the international treaty forbidding discrimination.
The European Court of Human Rights is not a European Union institution. Instead, it is part of the Council of Europe, a 47-member state international organisation founded in 1949 with the aim of upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Its members include countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia and EU countries such as Britain and Belgium. Britain will remain part of the Council of Europe after Brexit.
Whether the full-face veil was acceptable in the Belgian public sphere was a matter for state authorities and not an international court, the judges said.
The state had responded to a practice it considered incompatible “with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which were indispensable for life in society”.