Belkacemi and Oussar v Belgium and Dakir v Belgium: the Court again addresses the full-face veil, but it does not move away from its restrictive approach

By Marcella Ferri, ​Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights Law – ASERI, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan (Italy), and Adjunct Professor of Institutions of Comparative and European Law – module of European Law – University of Bergamo, Bergamo (Italy)

On 11 July 2017, the European Court of Human Rights delivered two similar judgments in the Belkacemi and Oussar v. Belgium and Dakir v. Belgium cases, both concerning the Belgian burqa ban. On 1 June 2011, the Belgian Chamber of Representatives approved a Law criminalising the wearing in public spaces of clothing which partially or totally covers the face. Before the adoption of this Law, the wearing of full-face veils was prohibited by several municipal bans, imposing administrative fines, which have been kept in place by the national ban.  Continue reading

Face veils in Strasbourg (bis): the Belgian cases

By Eva Brems

In the Grand Chamber judgment of SAS v France (2014) the European Court of Human Rights held that France’s ban on face covering in public could be justified under article 9 ECHR as a proportionate measure for the aim of guaranteeing ‘le vivre ensemble’ (living together). Given the storm of protest that this judgment raised among human rights scholars and activists, it may be of interest to note that the second section of the Court recently communicated two applications against the Belgian face covering ban. Indeed, about one year after France adopted its ban, Belgium did the same. Belgium and France are the only two countries that have adopted a general ban on face covering in public (local or regional bans exist in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Switzerland). In Belgium, the nationwide ban was preceded by municipal bans, that continue to be enforced alongside the criminal ban.

While it is unlikely that the Court would overrule a recent and unanimous Grand Chamber judgment, it is not excluded that it might take this opportunity to explain and possibly nuance some of the statements it made in SAS.

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University submitted a third party intervention in one of the Belgian cases.

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