U.N. rights office urges French towns to repeal burkini bans

Tue Aug 30, 2016 7:53am EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights office has called on French beach resorts to lift their bans on the burkini, calling them a "stupid reaction" that did not improve security but fueled religious intolerance.

France's highest administrative court last Friday suspended one seaside town's ban on the full-body swimsuit sometimes worn by Muslim women, on the grounds it violated fundamental liberties.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein welcomed the decision by the Conseil d'Etat against the Mediterranean resort of Villeneuve-Loubet, his spokesman Rupert Colville said. A dozen other towns also have such bans.

"We call on the authorities in all the other French seaside towns and resorts that have adopted similar bans to take note of the Conseil d’Etat’s ruling that the ban constitutes a grave and illegal breach of fundamental freedoms," he told a briefing.

"We urge all remaining local authorities which have adopted similar bans to repeal them immediately."

The "highly discriminatory" bans should be repealed before the summer holiday season ends, Colville said.

Bans have been defended on the grounds that burkinis violate French principles of secularism.

They come after mass killings by Islamist militants in France over the past 20 months. Colville said the U.N. rights office understood the grief and anger generated by the attacks.   Continued...

A woman wearing a burkini walks in the water August 27, 2016 on a beach in Marseille, France, the day after the country's highest administrative court suspended a ban on full-body burkini swimsuits that has outraged Muslims and opened divisions within the government, pending a definitive ruling.  REUTERS/Stringer