France’s top administrative court has overturned a town burkini ban amid shock and anger worldwide after some Muslim women were ordered to remove body-concealing garments on French Riviera beaches.
The ruling by the Council of State Friday specifically concerns a ban in the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the binding decision is expected to set a legal precedent for all the 30 or so French resort municipalities that have issued similar decrees.
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Lawyers for two human rights groups challenged the legality of the ban to the top court, saying the orders infringe basic freedoms and that mayors have overstepped their powers by telling women what to wear on beaches.
Mayors had cited concern about public order after deadly Islamic extremist attacks this summer, and many officials have argued that burkinis oppress women.
Lawyer Patrice Spinosi, representing the Human Rights League, told reporters that other mayors who have banned burkinis must conform to Friday’s decision regarding the town of Villeneuve-Loubet.
‘Mayors should withdraw’
He also said women who have already received fines can protest them based on Friday’s decision.
“It is a decision that is meant to set legal precedent,” he said. “Today all the ordinances taken should conform to the decision of the Council of State. Logically the mayors should withdraw these ordinances. If not, legal actions could be taken” against those towns.
“Today the state of law is that these ordinances are not justified. They violate fundamental liberties and they should be withdrawn.”
Human Rights League was among the groups that brought the lawsuit against the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, saying the orders infringe basic freedoms.
Corsican mayor won’t lift ban
The mayor of Sisco in northern Corsica said he won’t lift his ban on the burkini despite the ruling by France’s top administrative court.
Ange-Pierre Vivoni had banned the burkini after an Aug. 13 clash on a beach in Sisco.
He told BFM-TV Friday: “Here the tension is very, very, very strong, and I won’t withdraw it.”
He conceded he doesn’t know whether a woman was actually wearing a burkini the day a clash occurred that set a group of sunbathers of North African origin, from another town, against villagers from Sisco.
It took days to untangle the events leading to the violence that many immediately assumed was over a burkini sighting.
Corsica has been part of France since the 18th century.