The applicants, Samia Belcacemi (a Belgian national) and Yamina Oussar (a Moroccan national), were born in 1981 and 1973 respectively and live in Schaerbeek and Liège (Belgium). The case concerns the Belgian law of 1 June 2011 banning the wearing in public places of clothing which partially or totally covers the face.
Ms Belcacemi and Ms Oussar present themselves as Muslims who have decided on their own initiative to wear the niqab – a veil covering the face except for the eyes – on account of their religious convictions.
Following the enactment on 1 June 2011 of the law in question, Ms Belcacemi initially decided to continue wearing the veil in the street. However, under pressure, she subsequently decided to remove her veil temporarily, being afraid that she might be stopped in the street and then heavily fined or even sent to prison. Ms Oussar, for her part, states that she decided to stay at home, with the resulting restriction on her private and social life.
On 26 July 2011 Ms Belcacemi and Ms Oussar brought an action for the suspension and annulment of the law before the Constitutional Court. Their cases were dismissed by that court in October 2011 (application for suspension) and in December 2012 (application for annulment).
Relying on Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life), 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), and 10 (freedom of expression), taken separately and together with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Ms Belcacemi and Ms Oussar complain about the ban on wearing the full veil.
Ms Belcacemi and Ms Oussar also rely on Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security), 11 (freedom of assembly and association) and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement) to the Convention, taken separately or together with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention.
Press release ECHR 230 (2017) 07/07/2017