French court overturns ‘burkini ban’ laws after public outcry

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Protesters demonstrated against France’s ban of the burkini outside the French Embassy in London on Aug. 25, 2016. Photo by REUTERS/Neil Hall

The controversial ban on “burkinis” — a full-body swimsuit preferred by some Muslim women — has been overturned for the town of Villeneuve-Loubet by France’s highest administrative court.

“The emotion and concerns arising from the terrorist attacks, notably the one perpetrated in Nice on July 14, cannot suffice to justify in law the contested prohibition measure,” the Council of State’s ruling stated. “The contested decree has thus brought a serious and manifestly illegal infringement on basic freedoms such as the freedom to come and go, freedom of conscience and personal freedom.”

The decision is likely to set a legal precedent for the dozens of other French towns that have enacted such bans.

Lawyer Patrice Spinosi, representing the Human Rights League — one of the organizations that issued the legal challenge to the burkini ban — said that Friday’s decision sets a legal precedent for the rest of the country, the Associated Press reported.

“Today all the ordinances taken should conform to the decision of the Council of State. Logically the mayors should withdraw these ordinances. If not legal actions could be taken [against those towns],” Spinosi said.

But there is still resistance, in spite of the Council of State’s decision.

The Telegraph reported that the mayor of Sisco, Ange-Pierre Vivoni, has vowed to enforce his town’s burkini ban.

“This judgment does not affect us here because we had a fight over it [the burkini],” Vivoni said, referring to an Aug. 13 altercation on a Sisco beach that preceded the ban.

Proponents of the ban say it protects secularism, especially in the wake of jihadist attacks.

The Council of State’s decision comes a day after Nicolas Sarkozy, former French president and current French presidential candidate, said he would be in favor of a nationwide burkini ban.

He said in a TV interview on Wednesday that the full-body swimsuit is a “provocation,” adding, “We don’t imprison women behind fabric.”

France still has a national ban on full-face veils, according to a law adopted in 2010 that banned “the covering of the face in public spaces.”

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