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On June 19th 2009, the French prime minister Fillon issued an executive order 2009-724 forbidding citizens to cover their faces in an area where a gathering is taking place. Covering his own face without a “legitimate reason” and if there is risk of “a breach of public order” carries a penalty of a €1,500 fine (art. R645-14 of the penal code).

On April 11th 2011, Act 2010-1192 entered into force. It forbids citizens to cover their faces in any area open to the public unless the covering is legally required, work-related, on health ground, to practice sport or during artistic and “traditional” events. Under this law, covering his own face illegally carries a penalty of a €150 fine.

The prime minister Fillon requested public employees to forbid entrance to all public facilities (train stations, metro stations, airports, courts, prisons, police stations, museums, schools, universities, hospitals, stadiums, libraries, town-halls, polling stations, driving license offices, immigration and asylum offices…) and to refuse service to citizens on the ground that their face is covered (note PRMC1106214C) even though the citizen is offering to show his face for identification purpose. In Paris, two women covering their face were arrested by male plainclothes police officers preventing them to express their opinions to journalists and to demonstrate peacefully (see below video).

On the same day Ms. S.A.S a Muslim woman, filed an application to the ECHR on the ground that the criminalization of the covering of her face when she is in areas open to public, is a violation of her right to privacy (art.8), her freedom of religion (art.9), her freedom of expression (art.10) and her freedom to peaceful assembly (art.11). She added that the ban from public facilities, the refusal of service and the risk to be fined were degrading treatments in violation of article 3. She stated that these discriminatory policies were also in violation of article 14 of the Convention.

On February 1st 2012, the application was communicated to the agent of the French Republic with questions to be answered within 16 weeks. The applicant is represented by Mr. Sanjeev Sharma (Birmingham, UK).

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