Top French court overturns controversial burkini ban

France's highest administrative court on Friday overturned a controversial ban on wearing the full-body burkini swimsuit following a legal challenge.

Security concerns after recent terrorism attacks across France were not enough to justify the law, the Council of State said, adding that there's no evidence the swimwear disturbs public order and that the bans are a violation of basic freedoms.

The council had heard an appeal by two groups - the French Human Rights League and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France - who sought to strike down a ban in the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet.

Although the lawsuit centres on one local ordinance, the ruling by the judges in Paris sets a legal precedent for about 30 other municipalities that have similar prohibitions.

The conservative mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet said the court's ruling will only serve to inflame the debate surrounding the burkini. "The Islamization of our country is progressing," Lionnel Luca added.

Burkinis are designed to cover women's heads, arms and legs while bathing, in keeping with Islamic standards of modesty.

The uproar over the garment ignited following of a slew of recent deadly Islamist terrorist incidents in France, including an attack in July when a cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowd in the city of Nice.

Proponents of the bans say that burkinis violate France's strict laws on secularism and also pose a security threat. Opponents call the laws discriminatory against Muslims.

The debate intensified as pictures began circulating online earlier in the week that show a woman surrounded by four policemen removing her long-sleeved top on a beach in Nice.

Marwan Muhammad, the director of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, called the high court's decision a "Pyrrhic victory."

"The damage is done," he said.

Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for Human Rights League, said the ruling meant that the mayors of other municipalities must scrap the bans.

"These ordinances are not legitimate, they violate freedoms and must be withdrawn," he said.

There are disagreements within the French government over the issue, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls claiming the burkini symbolizes the enslavement of women and Education Minister Najat Vallaut-Belkacem arguing that forbidding them opens a gateway for racial discrimination.

The ruling was embraced by many outside of France.

The United Nations welcomed the court's decision, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, noting that the UN stood for "the need for people's personal dignity and person to be respected."

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe Director, said: "By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance, today's decision has drawn an important line in the sand."

In depth coverage

Protesters don beachwear in Berlin to fight French ban on burkinis

Dozens of people equipped with beach towels, water pistols and swim goggles throw a party in front of the French Embassy in Berlin to protest bans on the full-body bathing suits.

Read more
Last update: Thu, 25/08/2016 - 22:00

Tension in French government over burkini as top court deliberates

There were tensions in the French government over the controversial burkini ban on some beaches as the country's top court deliberated Thursday whether the ban is discriminatory.

Read more
Last update: Thu, 25/08/2016 - 18:36

Burkini allows women to have freedom and fun, says Australian creator

Invented in 2004 by an Australian woman, the burkini has come under attack in Germany and France. Banning the full-body swimwear would rob many women of the freedom to have fun in public, says its creator.

Read more
Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 11:48

Minister says burkini bans not right for Italy

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano doesn't see the ban on burkinis in some areas of France as a model for his country, according to statements made in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Read more
Last update: Wed, 17/08/2016 - 18:32
Last update: Fri, 26/08/2016 - 21:08
Author: 

More from Europe

Merkel's deputy seeks economic pivot to Asia with Trump in office

German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel has called for a new economic policy towards Asia following the...

Vienna on high alert after police arrest terrorism suspect

A terrorist attack in Vienna was averted Friday when police arrested a suspect, according to the country's interior...

Woman, four children pulled from Italian avalanche-struck hotel

A woman and four children were extracted alive from the rubble of an Italian hotel Friday, days after it was struck...

Merkel not watching Trump inauguration, as US-German business warns

The American Chamber of Commerce in Germany warned incoming US president Donald Trump on Friday against leading the...

Report: Eight survivors, two children found in Italy hotel

Italian rescuers located a total of eight survivors, including two girls, at a central Italian hotel that was...