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Editor's blog | the face covering conundrum

Will communities really benefit from the Strasbourg challenge to the French ban on face coverings?

1 June 2012

Just over a year ago France adopted a law that criminalises the wearing of face coverings in public. As the ministerial order makes clear, the law applies to all garments making it impossible to identify the individual – such as masks and balaclavas – but it is generally accepted that the burqa is the main target.

On the day the new rules came into force a Muslim woman brought a claim against the French government in Strasbourg challenging their compatibility with the human rights convention.

The procedure is exceptional. For a case to be referred to Strasbourg an applicant must first have exhausted domestic remedies. Only in cases where the court is persuaded that the justice system in the defendant state would not meet fundamental procedural requirements does it allow direct applications.

That’s not the only unusual feature in this case. More than a...

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