France’s highest Administrative Court has ruled that the Burkini bans in French resorts are illegal; the verdict came on Friday in a landmark judgement after a challenge by rights groups.
In the verdict, the State Council upheld the argument of the human rights groups that the ban in the Riviera resort of Villeneuve-sur-Loubet city has infringed personal freedoms of Muslim women. This ruling is likely to set a legal precedent for 29 other towns that have banned the garment.
The state council ruled that the mayor did not have the right to issue a burkini ban – stating that local authorities could only restrict individual liberties if there was a “proven risk” to public order. It believed that proven risk had not been demonstrated. The ban “constituted a serious and manifestly illegal infringement of fundamental liberties, ” the State Council said in its judgement.
A lower court had ruled on Monday that the Villeneuve-Loubet ban was necessary to prevent public disorder. But the State Council found that this did not hold up under French law.
In France, the first European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in 2010, religion and public life are strictly separated. The burkini bans have prompted a row over the French principle of laïcité – secularism – amid accusations that politicians are twisting and distorting this principle for political gain, and using it to target Muslims.