France court strikes down Nice burkini ban
France court strikes down Nice burkini ban

A court in Nice, France, on Thursday struck down the ban on full-body “burkini” swimsuits in the city of Nice after the city authorities continued with the ban, defying last week’s ruling [JURIST report] by France’s highest administrative court. The top court of France had struck down the ban on burkinis that was in effect in 30 towns in the south-eastern region of France. However, many of the towns, including Nice, ignored the ruling. The chief lawyer for the city of Nice argued on Wednesday [Guardian report] that burkinis posed a risk of public disorder, even going as far as stating that the city was “almost on the brink of civil war.” But the Nice court rejected this claim stating that burkinis posed no risk to “hygiene, decency or safety when swimming. … In the absence of such risks, the emotions and the concerns resulting from terrorist attacks, and especially from the attack on July 14, are insufficient grounds to legally justify the contested ban.”

Tensions in France have been high since an event in Nice in July in which more than 84 citizens were killed [BBC report] by a truck that drove through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. Nice was one of the first cities [Guardian report] to ban the burkini, with city authorities claiming that wearing the garment was a risk to public order. Tensions were further increased last week when photographs from a Nice beach showing police surrounding a woman in a headscarf [Guardian report] and a long-sleeved top surfaced last week. Nice authorities denied the woman had been forced to remove clothing. At least 30 fines [Guardian report] have been issued in Nice since the burkini ban was introduced during the summer. Last week France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State [official website, in French], overturned [JURIST report] the ban on burkinis in the French city of Cannes. The court held that imposing a burkini ban is an affront to “fundamental freedoms,” including “freedom to come and go,” and “freedom of conscience and personal liberty.” Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile] stated to the press that he would amend the constitution to ban full-body “burkini” swimsuits if re-elected next April. His comments [JURIST report] came after a statement was made by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who said a ban on burkinis would be unconstitutional [La Croix report, in French]. In response, Sarkozy said: “Well, then we change the constitution. We’ve changed it thirty odd times, it’s not a problem.”