The European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg has condemned a Belgian rules which disallowed a woman to take part in a court case because she was wearing a Muslim headscarf. The woman was awarded €1,000 damages.
The woman was a civil party in a case relating to the killing of her brother in 2003 in Simonis in Brussels, but when she appeared in court wearing the hijab, she was forbidden to appear by the chief justice, and when she refused to remove the head-dress, she was even forbidden to sit among the public.
She appealed the decision to a higher-level court in Belgium before bring the case to Strasbourg.
“The Court rules that the exclusion of the woman, an ordinary citizen not represented by the state, is an exclusion on the basis of her religious faith”, the court ruled in a statement.
The Belgian court had ruled the woman’s wear a sign of an affront to public order. However the European Court saw things otherwise.
The woman, the court ruled, “has shown no disrespect when she entered the court, and gave no show of disrespect to the good order of the proceedings”.
However, the judgement takes account of her proper behaviour, and leaves it open to judges in future to exclude other participants who behaviour otherwise.