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ECtHR / Application no. 37798/13 / Judgement / Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium

Country

BelgiumBelgium

Title

ECtHR / Application no. 37798/13 / Judgement / Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium

View full Case

Year

2017

Decision/ruling/judgment date

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Crime type(s) concerned/related

Discrimination

Related hate bias motivation

Religion

Groups affected

Muslims

Court/Body type

European Court

Court/Body

European Court of Human Rights, ECHR

Key facts of the case

The case concerned the ban on the wearing in public of clothing that partly or totally covers the face.

Ms Belcacemi and Ms Oussar present themselves as Muslims who have decided on their own initiative to wear the niqab on account of their religious convictions.

On 26 July 2011, Ms Belcacemi and Ms Oussar brought actions for the suspension and annulment of the law before the Constitutional Court. Their cases were dismissed by that court.

Main reasoning/argumentation

The Court found in particular that the restriction sought to guarantee the conditions of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others” and that it was “necessary in a democratic society”.

Is the case related to the application of the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia, the Racial Equality Directive?

Key issues (concepts, interpretations) clarified by the case

The Court found that the concern to ensure respect for the minimum guarantees of life in society could be regarded as an element of the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others” and that the ban was justifiable in principle, solely to the extent that it sought to guarantee the conditions of “living together”.
It was a matter of protecting a condition of interaction between individuals which, for the State, was essential to ensure the functioning of a democratic society. The question whether the full-face veil was to be accepted in the Belgian public sphere was thus a choice of society.

Results (sanctions, outcome) and key consequences or implications of the case

The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

no violation of Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights,

and no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Articles 8 and 9.

Key quotation in original language and translated into English with reference details

Secondly, the Court found that the drafting history of the Belgian Law used three aims to justify the
ban in Belgium: public safety, gender equality, and a certain conception of “living together” in society. It noted that, as it had found in S.A.S. v. France2, the concern to ensure respect for the minimum guarantees of life in society could be regarded as an element of the “protection of the
rights and freedoms of others” and that the ban was justifiable in principle solely to the extent that it sought to guarantee the conditions of “living together”.

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