Monday, January 3, 2022

Banning the Full-Face Veil: Freedom of Religion and Non-Discrimination in the Human Rights Committee and the ECHR

Sarah H. Cleveland has published her article Banning the Full-Face Veil: Freedom of Religion and Non-Discrimination in the Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights in volume 34 of the Harvard Human Rights Journal. The excerpt summarizes that:  

The international human rights to freedom of religion and protection from discrimination on grounds of religion are two such closely related rights. In Yaker v. France and its companion case Hebbadj v. France, before the UN Human Rights Committee, and in S.A.S. v. France, before the European Court of Human Rights, the two bodies reached inconsistent conclusions regarding the compatibility of France’s ban on wearing the fullface veil (the niqab or burqa) in any public space with France’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights, respectively. The French law purported to be religiously neutral, in that it prohibited all apparel concealing the face. However, Article 2 of the French law exempted a large number of face coverings other than the full-face veil, and, in practice, the vast majority of the checks conducted under the Act involved Muslim women wearing the full veil. Sonia Yaker, who was twice subjected to criminal fines for wearing the niqab, and the claimant in S.A.S., who wished to wear the full veil without risk of sanction, separately challenged the Act as, inter alia, violating their right to manifest their religion and constituting indirect discrimination on grounds of religion.

 

Both the Court and the Committee recognized that by imposing criminal penalties on the Muslim women claimants who chose to wear the fullface veil in public, the Act interfered with their ability to manifest their religion under Article 9 of the European Convention and Article 18 of the ICCPR, respectively. The two bodies diverged, however, in their application of the limitations provisions of those articles, as well as the nondiscrimination provisions of the two treaties. This Essay explores the treatment of the claims of religious freedom and religious discrimination by the European Court and the Committee. This case study offers an opportunity to consider the relationship between these two fundamental human rights, as well as the respective doctrinal and institutional roles of the regional Court and the more universal Committee as human rights interpreters.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2022/01/sarah-h-cleveland-has-published-her-article-banning-the-full-face-veil-freedom-of-religion-and-non-discrimination-in-the-hu.html

International, Religion | Permalink

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