Bosnia and Herzegovina must reject Burqa ban

Amnesty International is urging the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reject a draft law prohibiting wearing in public clothes which prevent identification set to be debated tomorrow. Amnesty has also opposed similar legislation in France, Belgium and other European countries.

Amnesty International Bosnia and Herzegovina researcher Marek Marczynski said:

“If adopted, such a law would violate the human rights of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who choose to wear a full-face veil as an expression of their religious, cultural political or personal identity or beliefs.

“It would violate their right to freedom of expression and religion.

“At the same time, a general ban on wearing full-face veils in public could result in some Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights being confined to their homes and unable to participate in public life.”

The draft law envisages imposing penalties ranging from fines through to imprisonment for up to seven days. The law’s advocates have argued that its adoption is needed in order to address security concerns, though they have failed to identify them. Amnesty believes that Bosnia and Herzegovina already has a legal framework which is able to address this issue.

Under international human rights law the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and to manifest religious belief can only be restricted when necessary and proportionate. This may include certain clearly defined restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils if that is shown to be necessary for a legitimate purpose such as protecting public safety.

Marek Marczynski added:

“Any such measures must be the least restrictive to achieve that purpose. For example, a requirement to show ones face in demonstrably high-risk locations or to lift a veil when requested by a police officer for a necessary identity check.”

Amnesty is also concerned that the law may have a negative impact on inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina as it may be perceived by some Muslim citizens as an attack on their identity.

It has also been asserted that some Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights may be wearing a full face veil under pressure from their families or communities. States are obliged under international law to protect Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights against pressure or coercion in their homes or communities to wear full-face veils. However, they should do this by taking steps to combat gender stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes and, where appropriate, by intervening in individual cases through criminal or family law.

Marek Marczynski added:

“The authorities and politicians representing all nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina must work together to resolve all political issues in ways which are consistent with human rights standards.

“Imposing bans on what people choose to wear is neither going to address the stated security concerns, nor will it help to combat gender discrimination in the country.”

The draft law has been proposed by the Serbian Alliance of Independent Social Democrats. It comes ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 3 Octobe

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