France violated an international pact (UN)

France has violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by banning a woman from wearing the veil during continuing education for adults organized in a high school, according to a UN committee.

“It is an important decision which shows that France has efforts to make in terms of human rights and in particular on the question of respect for religious minorities, and more particularly the Muslim community”, declared to the AFP the plaintiff’s lawyer, Sefen Guez Guez.

The decision of the Human Rights Committee, adopted in March but sent to the lawyer on Wednesday, follows a complaint filed in 2016 by a French national born in 1977 (her lawyer does not want her name to be published).

The facts date back to 2010, when the complainant enrolled in vocational training for adults (Greta).

After passing the interview and the entrance test, she went to the Lycée Langevin Wallon where the training should take place but the principal denied her access because of the prohibition on wearing signs of belonging. religion in a public educational institution.

According to the Human Rights Committee, “the restriction imposed on the author (of the complaint, editor’s note) prohibiting her from participating in her continuing education while wearing a headscarf constitutes a restriction infringing her freedom of religion in violation (…) of the Covenant”.

The Committee recalls that “the freedom to manifest one’s religion encompasses the wearing of distinctive clothing or headgear”, and “considers therefore that the ban imposed on the author constitutes a restriction on the exercise of her right freedom to manifest one’s religion”.

It also notes that the woman “provided testimonies, not disputed by the State party, in which other trainees were able to receive the training while wearing an Islamic veil and rubbing shoulders with high school students subject to the restriction imposed by law. of March 15, 2004 without this causing public order disturbances or obstructing the proper functioning of the centre”.

The law prohibits students from wearing conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, colleges and high schools.

The complainant had in particular seized the Administrative Court of Melun (65 km south-east of Paris) which, according to the UN committee, had recognized that the law does not apply in her case but that the proper functioning of the establishment was such as to justify the restriction concerning it.

In its conclusions, the committee indicates that France has stressed in particular that “it is necessary to reconcile the freedom to manifest one’s religion, from which the person concerned benefits, and the requirements for the preservation of order and proper functioning of the public school concerned”.

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