THE HAGUE – The UN Human Rights committee has condemned the French’ niqab ban, described it as a violation of human rights, demanding compensation for Muslim women who were “confined at home and marginalized.”
“The French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners’ right to manifest their religious beliefs,” the committee said in a statement cited by The Daily Mail.
It added that it was not convinced by France’s claim that the ban was necessary for security and social reasons.
“The ban, rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them,” the committee said.
In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, October 23, the UN moved to support wearers of the full-body Islamic veil and ordered France to repay two French women convicted for wearing niqabs in 2012.
A panel of independent experts who oversee countries´ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said France had 180 days to report back to say what actions it had taken.
Though the UN ruling is not legally binding, it could influence French courts.
It said the French ban was ‘too sweeping’ but that governments could still make people show their faces in specific circumstances.
The 2010 law was brought in under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, with many saying it targeted the tiny minority of Muslim women in France who wear Islamic veils.
In 2010, French-Algerian businessman Rachid Nekkaz announced that he was setting up a fund of 1 million euros that he would use to pay any fines given to women wearing the veil, which gave him the title “Zorro of the niqab.”
An estimated five million Muslims live in France and women who ignore the ban can be fined up to 150 euros ($170).
Other EU countries, including Denmark, Austria and Belgium, have also implemented similar full-face veil bans.
The canton of St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland has become the second in the European country to vote in favor of banning the burqa in public in a referendum held on Sunday, September 23.