The French ban on wearing the Muslim full-face veil – the niqab – has been upheld by the European Court of Human Rights.
A case was brought by a 24-year-old French woman, who argued that the ban on wearing the veil in public violated her freedom of religion and expression.
French law says nobody can wear in a public space clothing intended to conceal the face. The penalty for doing so can be a 150-euro fine ($205).
The 2010 law came in under former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.
A breach of the ban can also mean a wearer having to undergo citizenship instruction.
France has about five million Muslims – the largest Muslim minority in Western Europe – but it is thought only about 2,000 women wear full veils.
The court ruled that the ban “was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face”. The Strasbourg judges’ decision is final – there is no appeal against it.
A court statement said the ruling also “took into account the state’s submission that the face played a significant role in social interaction”.
The European Court of Human Rights has upheld the French ban on wearing the Muslim full-face veil (photo Reuters)
“The Court was also able to understand the view that individuals might not wish to see, in places open to all, practices or attitudes which would fundamentally call into question the possibility of open interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, formed an indispensable element of community life within the society in question.”
Some face coverings, including motorbike helmets, are exempted from the French ban.
The woman, identified only by the initials SAS, took her case to the European Court in 2011. She said she was under no family pressure to wear the niqab, but chose to do so as a matter of religious freedom, as a devout Muslim.
France was the first European country in modern times to ban public wearing of the full-face veil. Belgium adopted a similar ban in 2011.
In Spain, the city of Barcelona and some other towns have brought in similar bans, as have some towns in Italy.
The French government argues that the ban has wide public support. The authorities see the full-face veil not only as an affront to French secular values but also as a potential security risk, as it conceals a person’s identity.
In the past, the European Court has sided with French secularism – it also ruled in favor of the government’s ban on headscarves in schools.
Exemptions from ban on public face covering:
Face masks for health reasons
Face covering for sporting or professional activities
Sunglasses, hats etc which do not completely hide the face
Masks used in “traditional activities”, such as carnivals or religious processions
Turkey has been ordered to pay 90 million euros ($123 million) in damages over its 1974 invasion of Cyprus, according to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights.
The judgement is one of the largest ever ordered by the court.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the government of Greece
It said the damages were compensation for losses endured during the invasion and in the subsequent partition.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the government of Greece.
Since then, the northern third has been mainly inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. Turkey still has around 30,000 troops stationed on the island, and it is the only country that recognizes northern Cyprus as a separate entity.
UN peacekeeping forces estimate that 165,000 Greek Cypriots fled or were expelled from the north, and 45,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south, although the parties to the conflict say the figures are higher.
Ukraine’s high court has rejected the appeal by jailed opposition leader and former PM Yulia Tymoshenko against her conviction for abuse of office.
Yulia Tymoshenko, currently in hospital, was jailed last October for seven years – a term confirmed by Wednesday’s ruling.
The former leader was convicted over a gas deal she signed with Russia’s Vladimir Putin while in power in 2009. She says her trial was politically motivated.
The European Court of Human Rights has begun considering her case.
Ukraine's high court has rejected the appeal by jailed opposition leader and former PM Yulia Tymoshenko against her conviction for abuse of office
Yulia Tymoshenko was accused of betraying the national interest in 2010, after her arch-rival Viktor Yanukovych had defeated her in a presidential election. The deal with Russia that she negotiated was deemed to have saddled Ukraine with enormous costs.
Viktor Yanukovych has forged closer ties with Russia, whereas Yulia Tymoshenko and former President Yushchenko sought to bring Ukraine closer to NATO and the EU.
With her distinctive plaited, blonde hair Yulia Tymoshenko was a key figure in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. Since then she has twice served as prime minister.
Many EU politicians have echoed her criticisms of the Ukrainian authorities and in June European leaders boycotted Euro 2012 football matches in Ukraine, to show their displeasure at her detention.
Yulia Tymoshenko argues that her detention was politically motivated and that there has been no judicial review. She also says the authorities neglected her medical needs and kept up round-the-clock surveillance after moving her to a hospital in the eastern city of Kharkiv.