The European Court of Human Rights [official website] on Tuesday upheld a Belgian ban on wearing the niqab, a full-face veil, in public spaces. The court dismissed two cases, Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium and Dakir v. Belgium [judgments, in French], that asserted the ban was in violation of Articles 8, 9, 10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Both cases concerned women who chose to wear the veil of their own volition and felt the ban was discriminatory and without a “legitimate aim.” The court rejected the claims that the ban violated a right to private life under the Convention finding [press release] that it “could be regarded as proportionate to the aim pursued, namely the preservation of the conditions of ‘living together’ as an element of the ‘protection of the rights and freedoms of others’.” In Dakir, the court found that the Conseil d’État [official website] had infringed Dakir’s right of access to a court under Article 6 by ruling a previous application to annul the ban inadmissible and awarded her 800EUR for costs and expenses.
Full-coverage veils have been the recent subject of legislation and adjudication in Europe. In April the Constitutional Court of Hungary [official website] repealed a village ban [JURIST report] on the construction of mosques as well as headscarves like burkas and chadors worn by Muslim women. In February Bavaria approved [JURIST report] a partial ban on full-face veils in certain public spaces. Later that month the Turkish Ministry of Defense [official website, in Turkish] announced that female soldiers will be allowed to wear headscarves along with their uniforms. In December German Chancellor Angela Merkel on endorsed [JURIST report] a partial ban on burqas and niqabs, saying that “the full facial veil is inappropriate and should be banned wherever is legally possible.” Also in December the Netherlands legislature voted in favor [JURIST report] of a partial burka ban. However, in July the EU’s highest court ruled in favor [JURIST report] of a French woman who was fired for wearing a head scarf.