On October 11, 2010, France enacted a law forbidding citizens to cover their faces in any public space. The law came into effect on April 11, 2011. This law is intended to regulate the burqa
and niqab. It imposes a penalty of a €150 fine and/or mandatory completion of a “citizenship training” course for any person defying the ban. The French prime minister told public employees to forbid entry to all public facilities (e.g. train stations, airports, courts, museums and courts) and to refuse service to those citizens that have their face covered. This is to be done even if the citizen offers to show their face for identification purposes. One year after the ban took effect, the French Ministry of Interior reported that 299 women were fined for wearing a full-face veil.
On the very same day this law took effect, Ms. S.A.S., a French national and a practicing Muslim, filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights. She alleges that the criminalization of the covering of her face while in public space is a violation of Article 3 (the prohibition of degrading treatment), Article 8 (the right to respect for private life), Article 9 (the right to freedom of religion), Article 10 (freedom of expression), Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association), and Article 14 (the prohibition against discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
She declares that she wears the burqa for her faith and personal convictions. She is not under any form of pressure to dress in this manner. This is the way she dresses both in private and in public. She adds that she does not wear the niqab in public all the time. She has no problem agreeing to not wearing the niqab in public all the time. For example, she agrees that it is appropriate that she should remove the face covering for places that require security checks such as an airport. However, she would like to be given the freedom to be able to make the choice of wearing the niqab under certain situations such as for religious events during Ramadan. Under this law, she has no say in the matter and is completely forbidden to cover her face in public. The Grand Chamber will hear this case on November 27, 2013.
How do you think this case will turn out? Is Ms. S.A.S. being unreasonable? How strong is her case? Are there valid reasons for this law? Is this law too restrictive? Unwarranted?