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    Judgement of the full-face veil in public in France

    European Court of Human Rights to give judgement concerning the prohibition on wearing the full-face veil in public in France


    The judgement is naturally disappointing for the client and she will take time to digest and reflect on it. The court does however reject the French government's suggestion that her article 8 and 9 rights were not engaged. They also reject the government's justification based on gender equality and public safety measures and reminds us of the importance of tolerance and pluralism. Ultimately the court has taken the view (not unanimously) that the state has a wide margin of appreciation and that the ban was a proportionate measure to the aims of "living together" and "protecting the rights and freedoms of others". The client will continue to act lawfully as she always has done and respect the court's judgement.

    On Tuesday 1 July 2014 at 11am the Grand Chamber will promulgate its much awaited judgement in the case of S.A.S. v. Republic of France. The case was heard by the full court on Wednesday 27 November 2013 and concerns the complaint of a French national who is a practising Muslim, that she is no longer allowed to wear the full-face veil in public following the entry into force, in April 2011, of a law prohibiting concealment of one’s face in public places.

    The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 11 April 2011. On 28 May 2013 the Chamber to which the case had been allocated relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.

    Sanjeev Sharma solicitor of J.M. Wilson Solicitors LLP, Birmingham

    299-301 Birchfield Road, Perry Barr, Birmingham B20 3BX

    Tel: 0121 356 4556 Fax: 0121 356 4633

    Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Perversely the French ban has heightened racial tensions, brought about

    hostility and made society all the more intolerant.”

    SANJEEV SHARMA (solicitor):

    “This is an international case, the outcome of which will have wide-reaching

    repercussion not just in France but in the UK and across the EU as a whole.”




    Background to the case:

    Madame S.A.S. is a French national who was born in 1990 and lives in France. Under

    Law no. 2010-1192 of 11 October 2010, which entered into force on 11 April 2011, it is

    prohibited for anyone to conceal their face in public places in France. S.A.S. is a devout

    Muslim. She wears the burqa and niqab in accordance with her religious faith, culture

    and personal convictions. She explained to the court that the burqa is a full-body

    covering including a mesh over the face, and the niqab is a full-face veil leaving an

    opening only for the eyes. She emphasised that neither her husband nor any other

    member of her family puts pressure on her to dress in this manner. She added that she

    wears the niqab in public and in private, but not systematically and was thus content not

    to wear the niqab in certain circumstances but wished to be able to wear it when she

    chooses to do so. Lastly, her aim was not to annoy others but to feel at inner peace with


    Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), S.A.S.

    complained that as it is prohibited by law, on pain of criminal sanctions, to wear a

    garment designed to conceal the face in public places, she risks not only incurring such

    a sanction but also suffering harassment and discrimination, if she wears the full-face


    Relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), she also complained

    that the statutory prohibition on the wearing in public places of a garment designed to

    conceal the face prevents her from dressing in public as she chooses.

    Under Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), S.A.S. complained of a

    violation of her right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as a result of the

    same circumstances. In her view, her inability to wear the full-face veil in public places is

    incompatible with the freedom to manifest her religion or belief individually or

    collectively, in public or in private, by worship, teaching, practice and observance of


    Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), she complained of a violation of her

    right to freedom of expression, as a result of the same circumstances and because she is

    thus unable to wear in public a garment that expresses her faith and religious, cultural

    and personal identity.

    Relying on Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association), she further complained of

    a violation of her right to freedom of assembly and association, as a result of the same

    circumstances, and of the fact that she is prevented from assembling with others in

    public wearing the full-face veil.

    Lastly, under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), S.A.S. complained that the

    statutory prohibition on wearing a garment designed to conceal one’s face in public

    places gives rise to discrimination based on gender, religion and ethnic origin, to the

    detriment of women who, like herself, wear the full-face veil.