Category Archives: freedom of religion

UN Human Rights Committee Condemns “Burqa Ban,” Countering European Court

Human Rights Committee
Human Rights Committee

Human Rights Committee Chairperson Yuval Shany at the 123rd Session
Credit: UN Web TV

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded that France’s ban on face coverings in public violates the rights of women who wear full-face veils for religious reasons, a conclusion directly at odds with a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment from 2014. Compare Human Rights Committee, Hebbadj v. France, Communication No. 2807/2016, Views of 17 July 2018, UN Doc. CCPR/C/123/D/2807/2016 and Human Rights Committee, Yaker v. France, Communication No. 2747/2016, Views of 17 July 2018, UN Doc. CCPR/C/123/D/2807/2016 with ECtHR, S.A.S. v. France [GC], no. 43835/11, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 1 July 2014. The Committee’s views, published on October 17, 2018, concluded that two women’s criminal convictions under the 2010 ban violated their rights to freedom of religion and to non-discrimination under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Human Rights Committee rejected France’s argument, which had been accepted by the ECtHR, that the ban was proportionate to, and the least restrictive means of achieving, the State interest in promoting the conditions for “living together” in a democratic society. In response to IJRC’s questions, the Human Rights Committee Chairperson, Yuval Shany, also noted that the Committee does not apply the ECtHR’s unique “margin of appreciation” doctrine, which gives European States latitude in balancing individual rights against State interests, particularly in areas where there is little consensus among States on a specific social issue. Read more

News Clips- June 9, 2017

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Cherry X via Wikimedia Commons

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts


  • After the United States President announced last week that the State will leave the Paris Climate Agreement, cities and states in the country announced that they will still comply with the Paris Agreement. [Guardian; Voice of America]
  • This week, the opposition party in Lesotho won a majority of parliamentary seats during a snap election. [Al Jazeera]
  • Last Friday, the Prime Minister of Cambodia announced that opposition parties in the State should not attempt to challenge recent local elections or they could be dissolved. [Washington Post]
  • The United States warned again this week that it may pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the UN body reconsiders how States, particularly those with negative human rights records, become members of the Council. [Washington Post]

Civil Society

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last Friday called for an investigation into the deaths of five protesters in Bahrain. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • After five farmers died at a rally in India, protesters demonstrated on Wednesday, prompting the deployment of troops on Thursday. [Washington Post; ABC News]
  • Detainees in Venezuela, including protesters detained for demonstrating, claim they are being beaten and tortured while in custody. [Miami Herald]
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ECJ: Employer’s Objective Rule, Not Customer Preferences May Prohibit Headscarf

European Court of Justice
Credit: Cédric Puisney via Wikimedia Commons

In two separate opinions issued this week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that while an employer may prohibit a Muslim woman from wearing a headscarf at work through a rule applied consistently to all religious beliefs, an employer may not prohibit a Muslim woman from wearing religious clothing based on a customer’s preferences. These are the first cases before the ECJ that deal with Muslim women employees’ desire to wear an Islamic headscarf at work. The cases involve a woman in Beligum who asserted her desire to wear a headscarf to work despite the company’s internal policy prohibiting religious clothing and symbols and a woman in France who refused to stop wearing a headscarf after her employer prohibited her from doing so in response to a customer’s complaint. See European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber), Samira Achbita et al. v. G4S Secure Solutions NV, Case C-157/15, Request for Preliminary Ruling, Judgment of 14 March 2017; European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber), Asma Bougnaoui et al. v. Micropole SA, Case C-188/15, Request for Preliminary Ruling, Judgment of 14 March 2017. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), a regional human rights court, has previously addressed the issue of religious clothing and symbols in the work place, holding that some public interests, like public health and safety and neutrality, outweigh an individual’s fundamental right to manifest their religious beliefs, while other private interests, like maintaining a corporate image, do not. The judgments of the ECJ come amidst growing anti-immigrant and anti-Islam sentiments in the region. [New York Times] Read more

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