PARIS (UPI) — France’s top administrative court on Friday scuttled a controversial ban on Islamic-style beachwear for women, known as burqinis, in one coastal town on the French Riviera — and advocates hope several others will follow.
The Conseil d’État in Paris struck down the ban in Villeneuve Loubet, which enacted its ban on Aug. 5, and rejected the notion that they are too closely associated with terrorism.
Bans on the conservative swimwear were implemented by more than two dozen coastal towns after the terrorist attack in Nice, in the French Riviera, on July 14. Some municipal officials claimed the full-body bathing suits were provocative intrusions into a serene recreational region.
Friday, France’s top administrative court, which operates as legal adviser to the executive branch and the supreme court for administrative justice, disagreed with those arguments and temporarily suspended the ban in Villeneuve Loubet.
The attempts to ban burqinis, the judges ruled, insulted “fundamental freedoms” such as the “freedom of conscience and personal liberty.” The court also ruled that the controversial swimwear does not impose restrictions on or insult Muslim women.
The court issued the ruling after a request from the Human Rights League and a Muslim advocacy group to overturn the controversial bans, which sparked global criticisms recently when photos circulated of French police forcing a woman to remove her burqini in full public view.
Judges said officials can only ban the swimwear if it constitutes a “proven risk” to the public.
The panel also ruled that the bans “seriously, and clearly illegally, breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom.”
The court’s decision Friday rejected a lower Nice court’s ruling on Monday that the burqini ban was “necessary, appropriate and proportionate.”
“Today the state of law is that these ordinances are not justified,” Human Rights League attorney Patrice Spinosi said. “They violate fundamental liberties and they should be withdrawn.”
The ban’s suspension is only temporary, though, and only applies to Villeneuve Loubet — at least until the matter can be fully settled in French court over the next few weeks. However, advocates hope other courts and towns will follow by striking down their prohibition on burqinis.
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