One of France’s most controversial and intense national scandals that caused heightened international outrage – the burkini ban – has been overturned.
France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’État, on Friday overturned the burkini ban in a coastal area of the south of France.
The ban imposed in the name of secularism, is currently affecting 25 French towns and cities besides Villeneuve-Loubet.
The court had prohibited Muslim women from wearing full-bodied bathing suits designed to respect traditional codes of modesty on the beach.
France’s highest administrative court has now ruled that “burkini bans” being enforced on the country’s beaches are illegal and a violation of fundamental liberties.
The State Council (Conseil d’Etat) was specifically examining laws brought in by the commune of Villeneuve-Loubet but its verdict sets a legal precedent for France.
It was announced on Friday that three senior judges said the ban “has dealt a serious and clearly illegal blow to fundamental liberties such as the freedom of movement, freedom of conscience and personal liberty”.
They found that no evidence produced in favour of the prohibition proved a risk to public order was being caused by “the outfits worn by some people to go swimming”.
The ruling was closely watched in France and around the world, after photos of armed police surrounding a Muslim woman as she removed her top on a beach in Nice sparked outrage this week.
A tribunal in the coastal city previously ruled a burkini ban in the commune of Villeneuve-Loubet was “necessary, appropriate and proportionate” to prevent public disorder.
Conservative Mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet, Lionnel Luca said that “Far from calming, this decision can only heighten passions and tensions, with the risk of trouble we wanted to avoid”.
Mr Luca, also an MP, said that now only a law can now stop troubles since mayors cannot do so. He suggested he would take action when Parliament returns from its summer leave – but did not say what kind of law he would seek.