ECtHR / Application no. 43835/11 / S.A.S v. France

Country

FranceFrance

Title

ECtHR / Application no. 43835/11 / S.A.S v. France

View full Case

Year

2014

Decision/ruling/judgment date

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

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– Grand Chamber

Key facts of the case

The case concerned a law from 2010 which states that concealing the face in public arises from radicalisation and extremism, rather than from religious practices and is therefore prohibited.
S.A.S., a Muslim French national, challenged the ban on the basis that it infringed her rights. She asserted that she was not coerced into wearing the burqa and that, although she did not do so 'systematically', her rights under the Convention afforded her the protection to wear them as she chose, albeit accepting the requirement to show her face for security checks. The government, however, believed her rights were not affected in a concrete way.

Main reasoning/argumentation

The Court rejected the government’s preliminary decision on the grounds that the applicant is a member of a category of persons who risk being directly affected by the legislation. The Court rejected the applicant’s allegation of indirect discrimination. Although it could be said that the law had specific negative effects on the situation of Muslim women, the measure had an objective and reasonable justification.

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 emphasised in particular that respect for the conditions of “living together” was a legitimate aim for the measure at issue and that, particularly as the State had a lot of room for manoeuvre (“a wide
margin of appreciation”) as regards this general policy question on which there were significant differences of opinion, the ban did
not breach the Convention.

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

The Court rejected the applicant’s allegation of indirect discrimination. Although it could be said that the law had specific negative effects on the situation of Muslim women, the measure had an objective and reasonable justification.
After the Court's decision, two of the judges delivered a joint partially dissenting opinion finding that the rights of the applicant have been violated.

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

"Furthermore, admittedly, as the applicant pointed out, by prohibiting everyone from wearing clothing designed to conceal the face in public places, the respondent State has to a certain extent restricted the reach of pluralism, since the ban prevents certain women from expressing their personality and their beliefs by wearing the full-face veil in public. However, for their part, the Government indicated that it was a question of responding to a practice that the State deemed incompatible, in French society, with the ground rules of social communication and more broadly the requirements of “living together”. From that perspective, the respondent State is seeking to protect a principle of interaction between individuals, which in its view is essential for the expression not only of pluralism, but also of tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society. It can thus be said that the question whether or not it should be permitted to wear the full-face veil in public places constitutes a choice of society."

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