Calling it a violation of civil liberties, France’s highest administrative court has temporarily suspended the burkini ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, saying it “seriously, and clearly illegally, breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom.” The court is likely to make a final decision later on the ban’s legality.
The State Council (Conseil d’Etat) on Friday ruled that mayors overstepped their powers by introducing the controversial ban. According to the judgment, “the emotion and the anxieties resulting from the terrorist attacks, and especially the one committed in Nice on July 14, are not sufficient to legally justify the prohibition.”
The ban, it added, “constituted a serious and manifestly illegal infringement of fundamental liberties”, and that mayors “may only restrict freedoms if there are confirmed risks” to public safety, which the court observed, was not the case with the burkini.
— ✨?✨ (@itsa_talia) August 26, 2016
Welcoming the State Council’s ruling, Amnesty International’s Europe director, John Dalhuisen, said it had “drawn a line in the sand.”
“By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance, today’s decision has drawn an important line in the sand. French authorities must now drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women. These bans do nothing to increase public safety but do a lot to promote public humiliation.”
United Nations’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric termed the ruling “a welcome development.”
“We welcome the decision by the court. I think our opinion was expressed fairly clearly the other day on the need for people’s personal dignity and person to be respected.”
The ban in Villeneuve-Loubet was taken to the State Council by the French Human Rights League (LDH) and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), after a tribunal earlier ruled the burkini ban in the commune of Villeneuve-Loubet as “necessary, appropriate and proportionate” to prevent public disorder. But the human rights groups argued that prohibitions on burkinis were illegal and Islamophobic.
— Alena Jabarine (@AlenaIsabelle) August 26, 2016
In a statement, the LDH welcomed the verdict, but said it will not resolve the “ridiculous debate that has made France the laughing stock of the world.”
“What is at stake here is the division of the men and women who live in France by their origin and religion. We reject this vision of France… This victory has a strong symbolic resonance that will put an end to the onslaught of stigmatizing and Draconian political statements.”
The verdict was expected to set a precedent for about 30 coastal towns in France that have banned the full-body Islamic swimsuit on beaches and in public swimming pools (the burkini bans remain in force elsewhere until challenged through their respective courts).
Instead, the French right, led by the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, stepped up its calls for a complete nationwide ban on burkinis. The ruling was also dismissed by at least three towns, including Nice, which vowed to keep the restrictions in place and continue imposing fines on women who wear the burkini.
“No man, local authority, police or individual should tell a woman what she can and can’t wear. That’s it.” https://t.co/OnkmnzpXZd
— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 26, 2016
David Rachline, the far-right mayor of Frejus, insisted his ban was “still valid” because there was “no legal procedure” against his ruling. Ange-Pierre Vivoni, socialist mayor of the Corsican town of Sisco, said his burkini ban would remain “for the safety of property and people in the town because I risked having deaths on my hands.”
Lionnel Luca, Villeneuve-Loubet’s conservative mayor, reacted by saying that the court ruling was a boost to what he called the “rampant Islamization that is progressing in our country.”
“We need to decide if we want a smiley, friendly version of Sharia law on our beaches or if we want the rules of the French Republic to be implemented. Far from calming, this decision can only heighten passions and tensions, with the risk of trouble we wanted to avoid.”
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) August 26, 2016
Patrice Spinosi, lawyer for Human Rights League, says the group plans to ask all French mayors who banned the burkini to withdraw their orders; and if the mayors refuse to do so, he will systematically take each case to court.
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