Barrister battles to beat “Burqa Ban” at ECHR

Tue, 10 Dec 2013

A barrister from No5 Chambers was in the Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights at the end of November, representing his client who wishes the ECHR to recognise that the French ban on wearing full-face veils is discriminatory.

Ramby De Mello argued on behalf of his client, known by her initials S.A.S., that the ban of the full face veil breached her right to privacy, freedom to manifest her religious belief and that the law prohibiting the wearing of the veil is discriminatory on grounds of gender and religion. 

S.A.S., a French-born Muslim with family in Birmingham, did not attend court. She testified in writing that she is not pressurised to wear the veil and that she will readily remove it in circumstances where security requires her to.  Mr De Mello told the court that France’s secular law made S.A.S. feel that she was “a prisoner in her own country” and that the burqa was “as much part of her identity as our DNA is of ours”.

The French law was implemented in 2011.  Any woman found to be wearing a full-face veil in a public space is liable for a fine of up to €150.

Judgment in SAS-v-France is expected to be handed down in 2014.

Ramby De Mello is an acknowledged and highly regarded practitioner in the field of human rights.  He has represented clients in the Supreme Court, the European Court of Justice and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.  Ramby appears regularly in the UK Courts in test cases involving human rights.

Anyone requiring information about the expertise available from No5 Chambers’ Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Group should click here or telephone 0845 210 5555.

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