UN Rules French Niqab Ban Unlawful

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UN slams France over 'hateful' Niqab ban

The U.N. Human Rights Committee has ruled France’s ban on the niqab is a violation of human rights and has ordered France to pay compensation to two Muslim women. 

In a landmark ruling, the UN ordered French authorities to repay two French women convicted for wearing niqabs in 2012.

Dailymail.co.uk reports: The committee said in a statement that France had failed to make the case for its so-called ‘burqa ban’ and ordered it to review the legislation.

A panel of independent experts who oversee countries´ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said France had 180 days to report back to say what actions it had taken.

The panel’s findings are not legally binding but could influence French courts.

The committee called for the women to be compensated and for a review of the 2010 law that forbids people from publicly wearing clothing that conceals their face.

‘The French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners’ right to manifest their religious beliefs,’ the committee said in a statement.

It added that it was not convinced by France’s claim that the ban was necessary for security and social reasons.

The two French women were convicted in 2012 for wearing the niqab, a veil with an opening for the eyes.

‘The ban, rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalising them,’ the committee said.

The UN Human Rights Committee, made up of independent experts, ensures countries stick to their human rights commitments but it does not have enforcement powers.

It said the French ban was ‘too sweeping’ but that governments could still make people show their faces in specific circumstances.

The committee’s decision reignites a debate that has raged in France for years over Muslim headwear and other religious clothing.

The debate has regularly pitted supporters of the country’s secular constitution against those who argue for religious freedoms.

The 2010 law had strong public support when brought in under former president Nicolas Sarkozy. But many said it targeted the tiny minority of Muslim women in France who wear Islamic veils.

Condemned by critics for pandering to far-right voters but backed by many women rights activists, the law made France the first European country to ban garments that cover the face.

An estimated five million Muslims live in France and women who ignore the ban can be fined up to 150 euros ($170).

Other EU countries, including Denmark, Austria and Belgium, have also implemented similar full-face veil bans.