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France council advises against complete burqa ban

[JURIST] The French Council of State [official website, in French] on Tuesday advised the French government [report, PDF; in French] that a complete ban on full Islamic veils risks violating the French Constitution [text] and the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The government requested that the council, the country's highest administrative court, review the proposed ban before drawing up legislation. The government has already banned public officials from wearing veils while operating in their official capacity, and also prohibits veils in public schools. The council held that even with the existence of these partial bans, which are based on France's secular principles, it could find no legal basis for a complete ban on veils in public places. The council held that there could be a legal foundation for the ban in situations that require public security and protections against fraud. This includes access to high security areas, the performance of official proceedings such as marriage and voting, and when acquiring identification materials. French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] has been a strong proponent of the full veil ban and stated that legislation may go forward [BBC report] despite the Council's warnings.

The Council of State's review comes weeks after a French parliamentary commission charged with investigating whether to enact laws banning the wearing of burqas [JURIST news archive] or other full veils released its report [text, PDF; in French] calling for a partial ban [JURIST report] that would apply in public facilities, including hospitals, schools, and public transportation, and to any individual attempting to receive public services. While many people in France approve of the proposed legislation [CNN report], such measures have also faced opposition [JURIST comment] from critics who say such a law would alienate France's Muslim minority and violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], of which France is a signatory.

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