The UN Human Rights Committee found Tuesday that French law n ° 2010-1192, which bans full-face coverings such as the niqab or burqa, violates human rights.
The committee found that the 2010 law violated the human rights of Mariana Hebbadj and Sonia Yaker, who brought complaints against the French government claiming violation of the right to religious freedoms protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The law in question states that: “No one may, in the public space, wear an outfit intended to conceal his face.” The women were both convicted under this law for wearing a niqab in public.
The committee found for the women in two separate decisions, citing specifically to Covenant Articles 18 and 26 in their reasoning. The committee held that the law n ° 2010-1192 was in violation of both of these Articles.
Article 18 concerns religious rights of persons; protecting their ability to practice their religion freely and “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” The French government argued that they were able to impose limitations on this rule, and that n ° 2010-1192 was one such limitation. However under article 18, the relevant limitation argued by the government must be “necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” The committee found that imposing this law on Muslim women, who choose to wear the niqab as part of their religion, does not meet the requirement of protecting the rights and liberty of others, and as such that it is in violation of the Article.
Article 26 of the covenant addresses discrimination based on a variety of factors, the two relevant to this case are sex and religion. The Committee noted that this is a “cross-discrimination based on sex and religion,” and that it “disproportionately affects Muslim women.”
The committee held that the French government was to provide the women with “recours utile” or useful remedy: “in particular [the state] must grant full remedies” to the women whose rights were violated under the Covenant.