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.
Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium
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
Women from Northern Ireland who travel to the UK seeking abortions will now be able to access the procedure without charge on the NHS. See the Supreme Court decision on this, posted by Rosalind English, which brought the whole matter to light. You can hear a discussion of the various issues in this case on our new podcast series.
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.