The European Court of Human Rights has upheld the Belgian ban on Islamic burqas and other full-face veils by ruling that it does not violate human rights.
In doing so the Court has held by its position in S.A.S v. France (2014), where it ruled that a similar ban in France was lawful. In these latest cases the Court was asked to rule on the lawfulness of such bans in Belgium, where the applicants argued it was in 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.
This case concerned the compatibility of a Belgian law introduced on 1st June 2011 which banned the wearing in public places of clothing which partially or totally covers the face. The applicants, Samia Belcacemi and Yamina Oussar both claimed that they had chosen to wear the niqab (a veil which totally covers the face except for the eyes) because of their religious beliefs, and that the restriction on doing so had violated their human rights. Ms Oussar in particular argued that since she has decided to stay at home and wear the veil there has been a restriction on her private and social life. Continue reading →
The government changed its policy on the matter amid fears that Conservative MPs were planning on supporting an amendment to the Queen’s speech, put forward by Labour MP Stella Creasy, to provide Northern Irish women with access to free abortions in England; with the new Conservative government’s much reduced majority, Prime Minister Theresa May could not afford to risk a rebellion from her own MPs.
After one leaked manifesto and many accusations of plans to bankrupt the UK, we have finally been presented with the official pledges of the main parties. Indeed, the manifestos appeared to herald good news for the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the Conservative Party have thrown a lifeline.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to reopen its monitoring of Turkey on account of its “serious concerns” regarding respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law there. This will have come as a blow to Turkey; the country has been involved in “post-monitoring dialogue” with the Assembly since 2004 and had high hopes for its negotiations this year to join the EU.
What prompted this?
In the wake of the failed coup attempt last July there have been growing concerns over human rights abuses in Turkey. The vote was prompted in particular by a report from Ingebjørg Godskesen and Marianne Mikko, who are part of the Monitoring Committee and have been co-rapporteurs for the post-monitoring dialogue with the country. Since the coup, Turkey has declared a state of emergency and made large-scale use of decree laws (which bypass parliamentary procedures). While the Monitoring Committee recognised the ongoing trauma and terrorist threats following the coup, it nevertheless registered concern over the large-scale and disproportionate implementation of such measures.
Chemical attacks in the northern Syrian province of Idlib have left at least 80 dead and 100 more injured. It has been reported that in a raid last Tuesday morning Syrian government planes exposed countless civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhun to toxic gas, suspected to be sarin. While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies claims that he is the author of these attacks, outrage has erupted across the world, which culminated in US President Donald Trump commencing airstrikes on Syria.
The EU’s highest court this week held that employers are entitled to ban religious symbols in the workplace, including the Islamic headscarf.
What were the references about?
Two Muslim women, Ms Achbita (Case C‑157/15) and Ms Bougnaoui (Case C‑188/15), claimed to have been victims of discrimination after they were dismissed for refusing to comply with their employers’ stipulations that they not wear the Islamic headscarf.
Theresa May had appeared to have bounced back from the Article 50 Supreme Court case with the relatively smooth passing of the Brexit Bill through the House of Commons.
But her woes were clearly not at an end this week when she suffered defeat at the hands of the House of Lords. The peers voted 358 to 256 in favour of amending the Brexit Bill in order to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK – the amendment drawing support not only from Labour, Liberal, and Crossbench peers, but also 7 Conservative peers.
What’s the issue?
There are currently over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. While we are part of the EU they are allowed to move and work freely in whichever Member State area they choose.
Information leaks have led to some slippery situations for some in recent weeks. Not even David Beckham escaped unscathed, when his disappointment at being overlooked for a knighthood was revealed in a series of expletive-ridden emails by Football Leaks earlier this month, and saw him vilified by the British public for his attitude to charity, tax and Katherine Jenkins.
Donald Trump too found himself insisting at a press conference, and – as ever – on his trusty twitter account, that his former US national security adviser had been a victim of criminal and illegal leaks. Michael Flynn was forced to resign after allegations emerged that he had conducted meetings over diplomatic issues with the Russian ambassador before holding office at the White House, even though it is illegal for private citizens to engage in US diplomacy. These revelations have only increased concerns over the US’ relationship with Russia.
Back in the UK, the issue of intelligence leaks has been a hot topic this month since the Law Commission unveiled its latest consultation paper which seeks to reform the Official Secrets Act. The paper was conducted in an effort to modernise UK legislation, with the Official Secrets Act harking back to 1911. Many have argued that it is in dire need of reform in the technology age of the 21st century, and there has been particular pressure for this to occur since the disclosures by Edward Snowden. Continue reading →
Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment held by a majority of 8 to 3 that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union. This blog has covered the case in some detail – see Dominic Ruck-Keene’s post on the central issue in the appeal here, Jim Duffy’s post regarding the court’s findings on the status of the Sewel Convention here, and Rosie Slowe’s guest post on the enduring relevance of the question of the irrevocability or otherwise of an Article 50 notification here.
Trump’s inauguration trumped…but what now?
Donald Trump’s inauguration was met with a rather lukewarm reception on 21st January 2017 when almost 5 million people took to the streets to join the globally organised Women’s March.
The event is estimated to have attracted approximately 4.8 million people across 673 marches. It was organised in support of all those who had been targeted during Trump’s election campaign: not just women, but migrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQ, people of racial minorities, and people with disabilities.
Trump himself seems untroubled by the protests, and responded the following day with a purportedly liberal and tolerant tweet: ‘Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views’.
Moreover, in no way has he been deterred from his objectives regarding certain women’s rights. Continue reading →
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