France Burkini: Highest Court Suspends Ban

BBC, August 26, 2016

The ban in Villeneuve-Loubet “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms”, it found.

The ruling could set a precedent for up to 30 other towns that imposed bans on their beaches, chiefly on the Riviera.

At least three mayors have already said they will keep the bans in their towns.

The court will make a final decision later on the bans’ legality.

Correspondents in France say the court’s decision means that all the bans on burkinis are likely now to be overturned,

But town hall authorities in Nice and Frejus, as well as in the Corsican village of Sisco, have vowed to keep the bans in place.

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Amnesty International welcomed the court’s decision. The human rights group’s Europe director, John Dalhuisen, said it had “drawn a line in the sand”.

He said: “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.”

On Thursday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the burkini as “a political sign of religious proselytising”.

The French Republic was “not at war with Islam”, he argued, but “protecting [Muslims] against discrimination”.

The burkini bans have ignited fierce debate in France and worldwide.

Opinions polls suggested most French people backed the bans, which town mayors said were protecting public order and secularism.

Muslims said they were being targeted unfairly.

The “burkini bans” actually make no mention of the burkini.

The rules simply say beachwear must be respectful of good public manners and the principle of secularism.

The controversy intensified after pictures and video of police appearing to enforce the ban by making a woman take off an item of clothing prompted widespread anger.

The court said local authorities did not have the power to restrict individual liberties in this way without “proven risk” to public order.

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Local leaders have described their actions as appropriate and proportionate.

But the bans are not just a response to a spate of deadly jihadist attacks on French soil. France has long-standing laws on secularism, and the Nice ban focused on “correct dress, respectful of accepted customs and secularism, as well as rules of hygiene and of safety in public bathing areas”.

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