Amnesty slams French face veil ban

13th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International condemned a vote by French lawmakers to ban the wearing of face-covering veils in public, saying on Tuesday it violated the rights to freedom of expression and religion.

The London-based human rights group had written to all French parliamentarians urging them to reject the bill, which now goes to the Senate in September.

"A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burka or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty's expert on discrimination in Europe.

"As a general rule, the rights to freedom of religion and expression entail that all people should be free to choose what -- and what not -- to wear.

"These rights cannot be restricted simply because some -- even a majority -- find a form of dress objectionable or offensive."

A ban could mean women who wear full-face veils could become confined to their homes, less able to work, he said.

"Governments should instead be looking to strengthen efforts to combat the discrimination faced by Muslim women, both in their communities and in the broader societies in which they live," Dalhuisen said.

"Legitimate security concerns can be met by targeted restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined high risk locations."

France's 577-seat National Assembly lower house voted by 335 votes to one for a total ban.

© 2010 AFP

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