Supongo que todos estaremos de acuerdo en que un peinado estrafalario o una vestimenta o tocado excéntricos no habrían de pasar -en su caso- del reproche social, sin alcanzar lo jurídico. Avancemos un poco más. ¿Debe prohibirse que un sujeto se pasee con un casco puesto? ¿Y con un pasamontañas? ¿Y si se trata de una mujer con burka? ¿Tampoco con un niqab? De esto es lo que se ha ocupado la Sentencia del TEDH 1 de Julio de 2014, de la que a continuación damos cuenta.
- Tambien ha suscitado controversia el uso por parte de las mujeres del hiyab u otro tipo de vestimentas tradicionales que no velan el rostro, más o menos relacionadas con su profesión religiosa. Como también la existencia de un crucifijo en una escuela o la utilización de otros símbolos religiosos por profesores -o funcionarios públicos-, empleados -de una empresa pública o privada- o ciudadanos reunidos en un espacio público abierto. De esto, propiamente, no trata la Sentencia del TEDH 1 de Julio de 2014.
- Tampoco trata la Sentencia del TEDH 1 de Julio de 2014 de otras cuestiones que aún -hasta donde conocemos- no se han planteado abiertamente en dicha alta instancia: ¿Podría una muchacha lucir por la calle su pecho al descubierto? ¿Y si su intención fuera pasear completamente desnuda?
La Sentencia del TEDH 1 de Julio de 2014 evidencia un pluralismo imperfecto en nuestra sociedad -rectius, en la sociedad francesa-. Es un hecho, no una valoración. A lo que de su tenor resulta (dado que a la prohibición del velo integral no reserva el carácter de ratio ultima), más por falta de voluntad social que por impotencia. Anclada en la coexistencia, la sociedad francesa parece renunciar a la convivencia, a la amalgama de culturas e ideas, a la integración y entendimiento mutuo.
La tolerancia, más allá del orden público (en general, la seguridad nacional, la seguridad pública, el bienestar económico del país, la defensa del orden y la prevención del delito, la protección de la salud o de la moral), ¿ha de tener un límite? Decididamente sí: la protección de los derechos y las libertades de los demás (cfra. arts. 8 y 9 del Convenio para la Protección de los Derechos Humanos y de las Libertades Fundamentales, hecho en Roma el 4 de noviembre de 1950). La cuestión es entonces, ¿tienen los demás -la mayoría, la sociedad en general- stricto sensu derecho a no verse impactados o irritados por otros modelos culturales o religiosos distintos a los suyos -léase, los tradicionales-? Las dos jueces diconformes se expresan a este respecto de manera contundente: «there is no right not to be shocked or provoked by different models of cultural or religious identity«.
La sentencia de referencia considera que no infringe el Convenio de Roma la prohibición establecida por la Ley francesa de 11 octobre 2010, que prohibe la ocultación del rostro en lugares públicos. Esta sentencia causa al tiempo preocupación (amplía la capacidad de la mayoría y de lo Público para cercenar las libertades individuales) y frustración, sensación de límite y fracaso en nuestra voluntad y/o capacidad de pluralismo, tolerancia y amplitud de miras.
La Sentencia del TEDH 1 de Julio de 2014
Esta sentencia, recaída en el caso S.A.S. v. Francia, ha sido objeto de amplia controversia. Se discutía entonces la prohibición de ocultación del rostro que, con carácter general, la Ley Francesa nº 2010-1192, de 11 de octubre, había decretado en los lugares públicos. Como era de prever, la polémica surgió no por la prohibición del uso de un casco de moto o de un pasamontañas, sino por la del velo integral femenino -burka y niqab-.
Loi n° 2010-1192, du 11 octobre 2010, interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l’espace public
Article 1. Nul ne peut, dans l’espace public, porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage.
Article 2. I. ― Pour l’application de l’article 1er, l’espace public est constitué des voies publiques ainsi que des lieux ouverts au public ou affectés à un service public. II. ― L’interdiction prévue à l’article 1er ne s’applique pas si la tenue est prescrite ou autorisée par des dispositions législatives ou réglementaires, si elle est justifiée par des raisons de santé ou des motifs professionnels, ou si elle s’inscrit dans le cadre de pratiques sportives, de fêtes ou de manifestations artistiques ou traditionnelles.
Aparte otras posibles violaciones del Convenio para la Protección de los Derechos Humanos y de las Libertades Fundamentales, hecho en Roma el 4 de noviembre de 1950, estaba en juego la interpretación de la expresión «la protección de los derechos y las libertades de los demás« contenida en el segundo párrafo de sus artículos 8 y 9.
Convenio para la Protección de los Derechos Humanos y de las Libertades Fundamentales, hecho en Roma el 4 de noviembre de 1950, y enmendado por los Protocolos adicionales números 3 y 5, de 6 de mayo de 1963 y 20 de enero de 1966, respectivamente
Art. 8. 1. Toda persona tiene derecho al respeto de su vida privada y familiar, de su domicilio y de su correspondencia. 2. No podrá haber injerencia de la autoridad pública en el ejercicio de este derecho, sino en tanto en cuanto esta injerencia esté prevista por la ley y constituya una medida que, en una sociedad democrática, sea necesaria para la seguridad nacional, la seguridad pública, el bienestar económico del país, la defensa del orden y la prevención del delito, la protección de la salud o de la moral, o la protección de los derechos y las libertades de los demás.
Art. 9. 1. Toda persona tiene derecho a la libertad de pensamiento, de conciencia y de religión; este derecho implica la libertad de cambiar de religión o de convicciones, así como la libertad de manifestar su religión o sus convicciones individual o colectivamente, en público o en privado, por medio del culto, la enseñanza, las prácticas y la observancia de los ritos. 2. La libertad de manifestar su religión o sus convicciones no puede ser objeto de más restricciones que las que, previstas por la ley, constituyen medidas necesarias, en una sociedad democrática, para la seguridad pública, la protección del orden, de la salud o de la moral públicas, o la protección de los derechos o las libertades de los demás.
_ La demandante, S.A.S., una francesa de origen paquistaní, opinaba que en el caso sometido a la consideración del Tribunal no se daba supuesto alguno que legitimase la injerencia o restricción por parte del Estado -francés- en sus libertades reconocidas en los referidos arts. 8 y 9. El Estado francés opinaba lo contrario.
106. The ban on wearing clothing designed to conceal the face, in public places, raises questions in terms of the right to respect for private life (Article 8 of the Convention) of women who wish to wear the full-face veil for reasons related to their beliefs, and in terms of their freedom to manifest those beliefs (Article 9 of the Convention)… 110. As the Court has already pointed out.., the Law of 11 October 2010 confronts the applicant with a dilemma..: either she complies with the ban and thus refrains from dressing in accordance with her approach to religion; or she refuses to comply and faces criminal sanctions.
113. The Court reiterates that the enumeration of the exceptions to the individual’s freedom to manifest his or her religion or beliefs, as listed in Article 9 § 2, is exhaustive and that their definition is restrictive… For it to be compatible with the Convention, a limitation of this freedom must, in particular, pursue an aim that can be linked to one of those listed in this provision. The same approach applies in respect of Article 8 of the Convention.
114. … The applicant took the view that the interference with the exercise of her freedom to manifest her religion and of her right to respect for her private life, as a result of the ban introduced by the Law of 11 October 2010, did not correspond to any of the aims listed in the second paragraphs of Articles 8 and 9. The Government argued, for their part, that the Law pursued two legitimate aims: public safety and “respect for the minimum set of values of an open and democratic society”. The Court observes that the second paragraphs of Articles 8 and 9 do not refer expressly to the second of those aims or to the three values mentioned by the Government in that connection.
116. As regards the second of the aims invoked – to ensure “respect for the minimum set of values of an open and democratic society” – the Government referred to three values: respect for equality between men and women, respect for human dignity and respect for the minimum requirements of life in society. They submitted that this aim could be linked to the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, within the meaning of the second paragraphs of Articles 8 and 9 of the Convention.
118. First, the Court is not convinced by the Government’s submission in so far as it concerns respect for equality between men and women… 120. Secondly, the Court takes the view that, however essential it may be, respect for human dignity cannot legitimately justify a blanket ban on the wearing of the full-face veil in public places… 121. Thirdly, the Court finds, by contrast, that under certain conditions the “respect for the minimum requirements of life in society” referred to by the Government – or of “living together”, as stated in the explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill… – can be linked to the legitimate aim of the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
_ El Tribunal considera de partida discutible la cuestión, y entra a deliberar sobre ella.
122. The Court takes into account the respondent State’s point that the face plays an important role in social interaction. It can understand the view that individuals who are present in places open to all may not wish to see practices or attitudes developing there which would fundamentally call into question the possibility of open interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, forms an indispensable element of community life within the society in question. The Court is therefore able to accept that the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face is perceived by the respondent State as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialisation which makes living together easier. That being said, in view of the flexibility of the notion of “living together” and the resulting risk of abuse, the Court must engage in a careful examination of the necessity of the impugned limitation.
128. Pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness are hallmarks of a “democratic society”. Although individual interests must on occasion be subordinated to those of a group, democracy does not simply mean that the views of a majority must always prevail: a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair treatment of people from minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position…
129. … The national authorities have direct democratic legitimation and are… in principle better placed than an international court to evaluate local needs and conditions. In matters of general policy, on which opinions within a democratic society may reasonably differ widely, the role of the domestic policy-maker should be given special weight… This is the case, in particular, where questions concerning the relationship between State and religions are at stake… As regards Article 9 of the Convention, the State should thus, in principle, be afforded a wide margin of appreciation in deciding whether and to what extent a limitation of the right to manifest one’s religion or beliefs is “necessary”…
130. … the Court pointed out that… it was… not possible to discern throughout Europe a uniform conception of the significance of religion in society and that the meaning or impact of the public expression of a religious belief would differ according to time and context. It observed that the rules in this sphere would consequently vary from one country to another according to national traditions and the requirements imposed by the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others and to maintain public order. It concluded from this that the choice of the extent and form of such rules must inevitably be left up to a point to the State concerned, as it would depend on the specific domestic context…
131. This margin of appreciation, however, goes hand in hand with a European supervision embracing both the law and the decisions applying it. The Court’s task is to determine whether the measures taken at national level were justified in principle and proportionate…
_ Comienza por analizar casos anteriormente sometidos a su consideración, en los que también los límites de los derechos reconocidos en los arts. 8 y 9 del Convenio habían sido objeto de controversia.
132. The Court has had occasion to examine a number of situations in the light of those principles.
133. It has thus ruled on bans on the wearing of religious symbols in State schools, imposed on teaching staff (see, inter alia, Dahlab, decision cited above, and Kurtulmuş v. Turkey (dec.), no. 65500/01, ECHR 2006-II) and on pupils and students (see, inter alia, Leyla Şahin, cited above; Köse and Others v. Turkey (dec.), no. 26625/02, ECHR 2006-II; Kervanci v. France, no. 31645/04, 4 December 2008; Aktas v. France (dec.), no. 43563/08, 30 June 2009; and Ranjit Singh v. France (dec.) no. 27561/08, 30 June 2009), on an obligation to remove clothing with a religious connotation in the context of a security check (Phull v. France (dec.), no. 35753/03, ECHR 2005-I, and El Morsli v. France (dec.), no. 15585/06, 4 March 2008), and on an obligation to appear bareheaded on identity photos for use on official documents (Mann Singh v. France (dec.), no. 24479/07, 11 June 2007). It did not find a violation of Article 9 in any of these cases.
134. The Court has also examined two applications in which individuals complained in particular about restrictions imposed by their employers on the possibility for them to wear a cross visibly around their necks, arguing that domestic law had not sufficiently protected their right to manifest their religion. One was an employee of an airline company, the other was a nurse (see Eweida and Others, cited above). The first of those cases, in which the Court found a violation of Article 9, is the most pertinent for the present case. The Court took the view, inter alia, that the domestic courts had given too much weight to the wishes of the employer – which it nevertheless found legitimate – to project a certain corporate image, in relation to the applicant’s fundamental right to manifest her religious beliefs. On the latter point, it observed that a healthy democratic society needed to tolerate and sustain pluralism and diversity and that it was important for an individual who had made religion a central tenet of her life to be able to communicate her beliefs to others. It then noted that the cross had been discreet and could not have detracted from the applicant’s professional appearance. There was no evidence that the wearing of other, previously authorised, religious symbols had had any negative impact on the image of the airline company in question. While pointing out that the national authorities, in particular the courts, operated within a margin of appreciation when they were called upon to assess the proportionality of measures taken by a private company in respect of its employees, it thus found that there had been a violation of Article 9.
135. The Court also examined, in the case of Ahmet Arslan and Others (cited above), the question of a ban on the wearing, outside religious ceremonies, of certain religious clothing in public places open to everyone, such as public streets or squares. The clothing in question, characteristic of the Aczimendi tarikati group, consisted of a turban, a sirwal and a tunic, all in black, together with a baton. The Court accepted, having regard to the circumstances of the case and the decisions of the domestic courts, and particularly in view of the importance of the principle of secularism for the democratic system in Turkey, that, since the aim of the ban had been to uphold secular and democratic values, the interference pursued a number of the legitimate aims listed in Article 9 § 2: the maintaining of public safety, the protection of public order and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. It found, however, that the necessity of the measure in the light of those aims had not been established.
The Court thus noted that the ban affected not civil servants, who were bound by a certain discretion in the exercise of their duties, but ordinary citizens, with the result that its case-law on civil servants – and teachers in particular – did not apply. It then found that the ban was aimed at clothing worn in any public place, not only in specific public buildings, with the result that its case-law emphasising the particular weight to be given to the role of the domestic policy-maker, with regard to the wearing of religious symbols in State schools, did not apply either. The Court, moreover, observed that there was no evidence in the file to show that the manner in which the applicants had manifested their beliefs by wearing specific clothing – they had gathered in front of a mosque for the sole purpose of participating in a religious ceremony – constituted or risked constituting a threat to public order or a form of pressure on others. Lastly, in response to the Turkish Government’s allegation of possible proselytising on the part of the applicants, the Court found that there was no evidence to show that they had sought to exert inappropriate pressure on passers-by in public streets and squares in order to promote their religious beliefs. The Court thus concluded that there had been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention.
136. Among all these cases concerning Article 9, Ahmet Arslan and Others is that which the present case most closely resembles. However, while both cases concern a ban on wearing clothing with a religious connotation in public places, the present case differs significantly from Ahmet Arslan and Others in the fact that the full-face Islamic veil has the particularity of entirely concealing the face, with the possible exception of the eyes.
_ Llega así al quid de la cuestión debatida: ¿hasta donde alcanza «la protección de los derechos o las libertades de los demás»? Pese a su anterior alegato en favor del pluralismo, tolerancia y amplitud de miras («pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness are hallmarks of a democratic society«), el Tribunal de Estrasburgo termina por concluir que la prohibición decretada por la ley francesa del uso en lugares públicos de cualquier objeto que oculte el rostro, es una injerencia o restricción en los derechos individuales con cabida en los referidos arts. 8 y 9.
138. … the Court must verify whether the impugned interference is “necessary in a democratic society” for public safety (within the meaning of Articles 8 and 9 of the Convention…) or for the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”…
139. As regards the question of necessity in relation to public safety, within the meaning of Articles 8 and 9…, the Court understands that a State may find it essential to be able to identify individuals in order to prevent danger for the safety of persons and property and to combat identity fraud. It has thus found no violation of Article 9 of the Convention in cases concerning the obligation to remove clothing with a religious connotation in the context of security checks and the obligation to appear bareheaded on identity photos for use on official documents… However, in view of its impact on the rights of women who wish to wear the full-face veil for religious reasons, a blanket ban on the wearing in public places of clothing designed to conceal the face can be regarded as proportionate only in a context where there is a general threat to public safety. The Government have not shown that the ban introduced by the Law of 11 October 2010 falls into such a context. As to the women concerned, they are thus obliged to give up completely an element of their identity that they consider important, together with their chosen manner of manifesting their religion or beliefs, whereas the objective alluded to by the Government could be attained by a mere obligation to show their face and to identify themselves where a risk for the safety of persons and property has been established, or where particular circumstances entail a suspicion of identity fraud. It cannot therefore be found that the blanket ban imposed by the Law of 11 October 2010 is necessary, in a democratic society, for public safety, within the meaning of Articles 8 and 9 of the Convention.
140. The Court will now examine the questions raised by the other aim that it has found legitimate: to ensure the observance of the minimum requirements of life in society as part of the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”…
141. The Court observes that this is an aim to which the authorities have given much weight. This can be seen, in particular, from the explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill, which indicates that “[t]he voluntary and systematic concealment of the face is problematic because it is quite simply incompatible with the fundamental requirements of ‘living together’ in French society” and that “[t]he systematic concealment of the face in public places, contrary to the ideal of fraternity, … falls short of the minimum requirement of civility that is necessary for social interaction” (see paragraph 25 above). It indeed falls within the powers of the State to secure the conditions whereby individuals can live together in their diversity. Moreover, the Court is able to accept that a State may find it essential to give particular weight in this connection to the interaction between individuals and may consider this to be adversely affected by the fact that some conceal their faces in public places (see paragraph 122 above).
142. Consequently, the Court finds that the impugned ban can be regarded as justified in its principle solely in so far as it seeks to guarantee the conditions of “living together”.
_ Esto sentado, entra el Tribunal a continuación a debatir acerca de la proporcionalidad de la medida -prohibición-. Tras exponer los argumentos en contra y a favor de ella, se decanta por estos últimos.
143. It remains to be ascertained whether the ban is proportionate to that aim.
144. Some of the arguments put forward by the applicant and the intervening non-governmental organisations warrant particular attention.
145. First, it is true that only a small number of women are concerned. It can be seen, among other things, from the report “on the wearing of the full-face veil on national territory” prepared by a commission of the National Assembly and deposited on 26 January 2010, that about 1,900 women wore the Islamic full-face veil in France at the end of 2009, of whom about 270 were living in French overseas administrative areas (see paragraph 16 above). This is a small proportion in relation to the French population of about sixty-five million and to the number of Muslims living in France. It may thus seem excessive to respond to such a situation by imposing a blanket ban.
146. In addition, there is no doubt that the ban has a significant negative impact on the situation of women who, like the applicant, have chosen to wear the full-face veil for reasons related to their beliefs. As stated previously, they are thus confronted with a complex dilemma, and the ban may have the effect of isolating them and restricting their autonomy, as well as impairing the exercise of their freedom to manifest their beliefs and their right to respect for their private life. It is also understandable that the women concerned may perceive the ban as a threat to their identity.
147. It should furthermore be observed that a large number of actors, both international and national, in the field of fundamental rights protection have found a blanket ban to be disproportionate. This is the case, for example, of the French National Advisory Commission on Human Rights…, non-governmental organisations such as the third-party interveners, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe… and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe…
148. The Court is also aware that the Law of 11 October 2010, together with certain debates surrounding its drafting, may have upset part of the Muslim community, including some members who are not in favour of the full-face veil being worn.
149. In this connection, the Court is very concerned by the indications of some of the third-party interveners to the effect that certain Islamophobic remarks marked the debate which preceded the adoption of the Law of 11 October 2010 (see the observations of the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University and of the non-governmental organisations Liberty and Open Society Justice Initiative, paragraphs 98, 100 and 104 above). It is admittedly not for the Court to rule on whether legislation is desirable in such matters. It would, however, emphasise that a State which enters into a legislative process of this kind takes the risk of contributing to the consolidation of the stereotypes which affect certain categories of the population and of encouraging the expression of intolerance, when it has a duty, on the contrary, to promote tolerance…
150. The other arguments put forward in support of the application must, however, be qualified.
151. Thus, while it is true that the scope of the ban is broad, because all places accessible to the public are concerned (except for places of worship), the Law of 11 October 2010 does not affect the freedom to wear in public any garment or item of clothing – with or without a religious connotation – which does not have the effect of concealing the face. The Court is aware of the fact that the impugned ban mainly affects Muslim women who wish to wear the full-face veil. It nevertheless finds it to be of some significance that the ban is not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it conceals the face. This distinguishes the present case from that of Ahmet Arslan and Others (cited above).
152. As to the fact that criminal sanctions are attached to the ban, this no doubt increases the impact of the measure on those concerned. It is certainly understandable that the idea of being prosecuted for concealing one’s face in a public place is traumatising for women who have chosen to wear the full-face veil for reasons related to their beliefs. It should nevertheless be taken into account that the sanctions provided for by the Law’s drafters are among the lightest that could be envisaged, because they consist of a fine at the rate applying to second-class petty offences (currently 150 euros maximum), with the possibility for the court to impose, in addition to or instead of the fine, an obligation to follow a citizenship course.
153. Furthermore, admittedly, as the applicant pointed out, by prohibiting everyone from wearing clothing designed to conceal the face in public places, the respondent State has to a certain extent restricted the reach of pluralism, since the ban prevents certain women from expressing their personality and their beliefs by wearing the full-face veil in public. However, for their part, the Government indicated that it was a question of responding to a practice that the State deemed incompatible, in French society, with the ground rules of social communication and more broadly the requirements of “living together”. From that perspective, the respondent State is seeking to protect a principle of interaction between individuals, which in its view is essential for the expression not only of pluralism, but also of tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society… It can thus be said that the question whether or not it should be permitted to wear the full-face veil in public places constitutes a choice of society.
154. In such circumstances, the Court has a duty to exercise a degree of restraint in its review of Convention compliance, since such review will lead it to assess a balance that has been struck by means of a democratic process within the society in question. The Court has, moreover, already had occasion to observe that in matters of general policy, on which opinions within a democratic society may reasonably differ widely, the role of the domestic policy-maker should be given special weight…
156. This is particularly true as there is little common ground amongst the member States of the Council of Europe… as to the question of the wearing of the full-face veil in public. The Court thus observes that… there is no European consensus against a ban. Admittedly, from a strictly normative standpoint, France is very much in a minority position in Europe: except for Belgium, no other member State of the Council of Europe has, to date, opted for such a measure. It must be observed, however, that the question of the wearing of the full-face veil in public is or has been a subject of debate in a number of European States. In some it has been decided not to opt for a blanket ban. In others, such a ban is still being considered… It should be added that, in all likelihood, the question of the wearing of the full-face veil in public is simply not an issue at all in a certain number of member States, where this practice is uncommon. It can thus be said that in Europe there is no consensus as to whether or not there should be a blanket ban on the wearing of the full-face veil in public places.
157. Consequently, having regard in particular to the breadth of the margin of appreciation afforded to the respondent State in the present case, the Court finds that the ban imposed by the Law of 11 October 2010 can be regarded as proportionate to the aim pursued, namely the preservation of the conditions of “living together” as an element of the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. 158. The impugned limitation can thus be regarded as “necessary in a democratic society”. This conclusion holds true with respect both to Article 8 of the Convention and to Article 9. 159. Accordingly, there has been no violation either of Article 8 or of Article 9 of the Convention…
_ Existen dos votos particulares en contra a este respecto, el de las jueces Nussberger y Jäderblom. Como en ocasiones ocurre, algunos encontrarán su argumentación más convincente que la de la mayoría.
… 4 … the majority see a legitimate aim in ensuring “living together”, through “the observance of the minimum requirements of life in society”, which is understood to be one facet of the “rights and freedoms of others” within the meaning of Article 8 § 2 and Article 9 § 2 of the Convention… We have strong reservations about this approach.
5. The Court’s case-law is not clear as to what may constitute “the rights and freedoms of others” outside the scope of rights protected by the Convention. The very general concept of “living together” does not fall directly under any of the rights and freedoms guaranteed within the Convention. Even if it could arguably be regarded as touching upon several rights, such as the right to respect for private life (Article 8) and the right not to be discriminated against (Article 14), the concept seems far-fetched and vague.
7… it has to be stressed that there is no right not to be shocked or provoked by different models of cultural or religious identity, even those that are very distant from the traditional French and European life-style. In the context of freedom of expression, the Court has repeatedly observed that the Convention protects not only those opinions “that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also … those that offend, shock or disturb”, pointing out that “[s]uch are the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no ‘democratic society’” (see, among other authorities, Mouvement raëlien suisse v. Switzerland [GC], no. 16354/06, § 48, ECHR 2012, and Stoll v. Switzerland [GC], no. 69698/01, § 101, ECHR 2007‑V). The same must be true for dress-codes demonstrating radical opinions.
9. It is true that “living together” requires the possibility of interpersonal exchange. It is also true that the face plays an important role in human interaction. But this idea cannot be turned around, to lead to the conclusion that human interaction is impossible if the full face is not shown. This is evidenced by examples that are perfectly rooted in European culture, such as the activities of skiing and motorcycling with full-face helmets and the wearing of costumes in carnivals. Nobody would claim that in such situations (which form part of the exceptions provided for in the French Law) the minimum requirements of life in society are not respected. People can socialise without necessarily looking into each other’s eyes.
10. We cannot find that the majority have shown which concrete rights of others within the meaning of Article 8 § 2 and Article 9 § 2 of the Convention could be inferred from the abstract principle of “living together” or from the “minimum requirements of life in society”.
11. In so far as these ideas may have been understood to form part of “public order”, we agree with the majority that it would not be appropriate to focus on such an aim (see paragraph 117), as the “protection of public order” may justify limitations only on the rights guaranteed by Article 9, but not on the rights under Article 8, whereas the latter provision is undoubtedly also infringed by the restrictive measure in question.
12. Thus it is doubtful that the French Law prohibiting the concealment of one’s face in public places pursues any legitimate aim under Article 8 § 2 or Article 9 § 2 of the Convention.
13. If it is already unclear which rights are to be protected by the restrictive measure in question, it is all the more difficult to argue that the rights protected outweigh the rights infringed. This is especially true as the Government have not explained or given any examples of how the impact on others of this particular attire differs from other accepted practices of concealing the face, such as excessive hairstyles or the wearing of dark glasses or hats. In the legislative process, the supporters of a blanket ban on the full-face veil mainly advanced “the values of the Republic, as expressed in the maxim ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’”… The Court refers to “pluralism”, “tolerance” and “broadmindedness” as hallmarks of a democratic society… and argues in substance that it is acceptable to grant these values preference over the life-style and religiously inspired dress-code of a small minority if such is the choice of society…
14. However, all those values could be regarded as justifying not only a blanket ban on wearing a full-face veil, but also, on the contrary, the acceptance of such a religious dress-code and the adoption of an integrationist approach. In our view, the applicant is right to claim that the French legislature has restricted pluralism, since the measure prevents certain women from expressing their personality and their beliefs by wearing the full-face veil in public… Therefore the blanket ban could be interpreted as a sign of selective pluralism and restricted tolerance. In its jurisprudence the Court has clearly elaborated on the State’s duty to ensure mutual tolerance between opposing groups and has stated that “the role of the authorities … is not to remove the cause of tension by eliminating pluralism, but to ensure that the competing groups tolerate each other” (see Serif v. Greece, no. 38178/97, § 53, ECHR 1999-IX, cited by the majority in paragraph 127). By banning the full-face veil, the French legislature has done the opposite. It has not sought to ensure tolerance between the vast majority and the small minority, but has prohibited what is seen as a cause of tension.
19. Third, it is difficult to understand why the majority are not prepared to accept the existence of a European consensus on the question of banning the full-face veil... The fact that 45 out of 47 member States of the Council of Europe, and thus an overwhelming majority, have not deemed it necessary to legislate in this area is a very strong indicator for a European consensus (see Bayatyan v. Armenia [GC], no. 23459/03, § 103, 108, ECHR 2011, and A, B and C v. Ireland [GC], no. 25579/05, § 235, ECHR 2010). Even if there might be reform discussions in some of the member States, while in others the practice of wearing full-face veils is non-existent, the status quo is undeniably clear. Furthermore, as amply documented in the judgment, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.., as well as non-governmental organisations.., are strongly opposed to any form of blanket ban on full-face veils. This approach is fortified by reference to other international human rights treaties, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Although the Human Rights Committee has not made any pronouncement as regards a general ban on the wearing of the full-face veil in public, it has concluded, for example, that expelling a student wearing a hijab from university amounted to a violation of Article 18 § 2 of the Covenant (see paragraph 39) The Committee has stated that regulations on clothing for women may involve a violation of a number of rights (see paragraph 38).
24. Furthermore, the Government have not explained why it would have been impossible to apply less restrictive measures, instead of criminalising the concealment of the face in all public places. No account has been given as to whether or to what extent any efforts have been made to discourage the relatively recent phenomenon of the use of full-face veils, by means, for example, of awareness-raising and education. The legislative process shows that much less intrusive measures have been discussed. The above-mentioned report “on the wearing of the full-face veil on national territory” devised a four-step programme with measures aimed at releasing women from the subservience of the full-face veil, without recommending any blanket ban or criminal sanctions (see paragraph 17). The National Advisory Commission on Human Rights also recommended “soft” measures and called for the strengthening of civic education courses at all levels for both men and women (see paragraph 19).
25. In view of this reasoning we find that the criminalisation of the wearing of a full-face veil is a measure which is disproportionate to the aim of protecting the idea of “living together” – an aim which cannot readily be reconciled with the Convention’s restrictive catalogue of grounds for interference with basic human rights. 26. In our view there has therefore been a violation of Articles 8 and 9 of the Convention.
Más que incidir en lo que nos divide, expresando una opinión (al fin y al cabo otra opinión más -por comparación, de dudosa cualificación-) conforme con la mayoría o los dos jueces disidentes, juzgo conveniente destacar la preocupación que el abogado de la demandante S.A.S. expresó tras conocer la decisión judicial: “no se argumenta sobre ese bien superior de la convivencia y pone en peligro los derechos de las minorías, por lo que las consecuencias pueden ir más allá del debate del burka”.
😎 Si es cierto que los problemas de la democracia sólo se resuelven con más democracia (una variante del motto de Willy Brandt, «wir wollen mehr Demokratie wagen» -¡aventuremos más democracia!-), ¿cómo pretender que los problemas de la tolerancia se resuelvan mediante la intolerancia y la prohibición? Algo falla.
🙄 El objetivo legítimo de Francia, afirma el TEDH, es «preservar las condiciones de vida en común»: expresión abiertamente inconcreta, ¿verdad?; ni la más mínima referencia a un concreto derecho o libertad, de los reconocidos en el Convenio de Roma de 1950, que se tienda a preservar («living together” does not fall directly under any of the rights and freedoms guaranteed within the Convention). Por si ello fuera poco, dadas las circunstancias (pretendida falta de consenso sobre la cuestión a nivel europeo y también interno), la prohibición enjuiciada entra dentro del «amplio margen de apreciación» del que gozan los Estados a la hora de imponer este tipo de medidas en beneficio de la «convivencia» -siempre según esta sentencia-. Todo ello, porque supone concentración de poder, escasez de control y afectación inmediata a los derechos y libertades de los individuos, inquietante: como la propia sentencia reconoce, un estado que adopta este tipo de legislación corre el riesgo de avivar la intolerancia («a State which enters into a legislative process of this kind takes the risk of contributing to the consolidation of the stereotypes which affect certain categories of the population and of encouraging the expression of intolerance, when it has a duty, on the contrary, to promote tolerance«).
Mayoría versus minorías, eventualmente, contra el individuo. Hoy la suerte quizás te favorezca. Ahora bien, en la indefinición, ¿quien te garantiza que precisamente mañana no te encontrarás en el lado débil? Con los mimbres de esta sentencia, prácticamente cualquier limitación es factible. Más que de la Ley, del Gobierno y mayoría de turno -en el país de que se trate- y en último término, de la composición y sensibilidad -acerca de la proporcionalidad de la injerencia o restricción que para preservar el «living together» se le ofrezca en cada caso- de la Sala TEDH, dependerá tu suerte.
😯 Ley de Defensa de la República española de 1931 (más aquí), la Ley para solucionar los peligros que acechan al Pueblo y al Estado (Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich) de 1933 (más aquí) y la Patriot Act americana de 2001 (más aquí)… Hay quienes en las tres creen vislumbar un mismo hilo conductor: plenos poderes -más o menos amplios-, conferidos -de forma más o menos matizada- democráticamente, en atención a una situación emergente, con carácter provisional. Propiamente, no es el caso que nos ocupa. Sirve empero a ilustrarnos sobre el riesgo siempre latente de pérdida de libertades que todo desbordamiento del régimen legal ordinario acarrea.
En nuestro caso, ¿ostenta la mayoría derecho a no verse impactada o confrontada por otros modelos de identidad cultural o religiosa? Y si no es el caso («there is no right not to be shocked or provoked by different models of cultural or religious identity«), ¿entonces cómo es que la preservación de las condiciones de “living together” forma parte de la protección de los derechos y las libertades de los demás?
«… Arrastrar la voluntad del pueblo a los deseos de los líderes es siempre fácil, tanto en una democracia, como en en una dictadura fascista, comunista o en un parlamento. Todo lo que tienes que hacer es decir al Pueblo es que está siendo atacado, reprochar a los pacifistas su falta de patriotismo y afirmar que ponen al país en peligro. Funciona igual para todos los países». La cita es de H. Göering (es ist immer leicht, das Volk zum Mitmachen zu bringen, ob es sich nun um eine Demokratie, eine faschistische Diktatur, um ein Parlament oder eine kommunistische Diktatur handelt. […] Das ist ganz einfach. Man braucht nichts zu tun, als dem Volk zu sagen, es würde angegriffen, und den Pazifisten ihren Mangel an Patriotismus vorzuwerfen und zu behaupten, sie brächten das Land in Gefahr. Diese Methode funktioniert in jedem Land»)
🙁 No parece reservarse a la prohibición -afectante a derechos fundamentales- su carácter democrático de ratio ultima. Lo que evidenciaría más una falta de voluntad que de capacidad para, por otros medios no coercitivos, (particularmente educación y concienciación en este ámbito), lograr idéntico objetivo.
Es claro que al TEDH no le toca legislar sobre el particular, ni tampoco juzgar si podría -o no- haberse hecho con mayor acierto («It is admittedly not for the Court to rule on whether legislation is desirable in such matters). Eso sí, al menos hasta donde las dos jueces disidentes apuntan, no reserva a una prohibición tan importante como la sometida a su consideración carácter de «ratio ultima» («24… the Government have not explained why it would have been impossible to apply less restrictive measures«).
Sea como fuere, por falta de voluntad o impotencia, nuestra democracia -rectius, de momento, la sociedad francesa- no alcanza a lograr -en el ámbito que ahora tratamos- el pluralismo, la tolerancia y la amplitud de miras. Nuestra democracia, ¿no da para más?, ¿no es capaz de integrar y amalgamar en su seno estos elementos provenientes de otras culturas y religiones? Compréndase bien: no se trata de orden público (así lo afirma la sentencia del TEDH 1 de Julio de 2014) sino de un inconcreto «living together». Decepcionante.
Se equivoca quien crea conjurado con esta sentencia definitivamente el peligro. Otros «peligros», otras posibles intolerancias, aguardan. Como en el caso de la muchacha a la que nos referíamos al comienzo de esta entrada. Decididamente, convendrá recordar que no todo lo no prohibido es lícito (más aquí): uno puede no estar de acuerdo con diversas prácticas (las que ahora tratamos, la prostitución, el matrimonio homosexual, el aborto), y sin embargo -al menos en cierta medida- tolerarlas.
La permeabilidad y espíritu receptivo a lo que de partida le es ajeno permite a una sociedad ampliar sus miras, descubrir sus propias flaquezas y progresar. La inmigración -legal- en sí no es mala, siempre que se acierte a canalizarla debidamente. Como en el caso de EEUU o Israel. ¿De verdad crees que el extranjero nada te puede aportar? ¿Seguro que le diste su oportunidad?
The driving force behind our increasing diversity is a new, large wave of immigration. It is changing the face of America. And while most of the changes are good, they do present challenges which demand more both from new immigrants and from our citizens. Citizens share a responsibility to welcome new immigrants, to ensure that they strengthen our nation, to give them their chance at the brass ring.
In turn, new immigrants have a responsibility to learn, to work, to contribute to America. If both citizens and immigrants do their part, we will grow ever stronger in the new global information economy.
More than any other nation on Earth, America has constantly drawn strength and spirit from wave after wave of immigrants. In each generation they have proved to be the most restless, the most adventurous, the most innovative, the most industrious of people. Bearing different memories, honoring different heritages, they have strengthened our economy, enriched our culture, renewed our promise of freedom and opportunity for all.
Of course, the path has not always run smooth. Some Americans have met each group of newcomers with suspicion and violence and discrimination. So great was the hatred of Irish immigrants 150 years ago that they were greeted with signs that read, «No Dogs Or Irish.» So profound was the fear of Chinese in the 1880s that they were barred from entering the country. So deep was the distrust of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe at the beginning of this century that they were forced to take literacy tests specifically designed to keep them out of America.
Eventually the guarantees of our Constitution and the better angels of our nature prevailed over ignorance and insecurity, over prejudice and fear.
But now we are being tested again – by a new wave of immigration larger that any in a century, far more diverse than any in our history. Each year, nearly a million people come legally to America. Today, nearly one in ten people in America was born in another country; one in five schoolchildren is from immigrant families. Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time.
What do the changes mean? They can either strengthen and unite us, or they can weaken and divide us. We must decide.
President Clinton’s Speech on Diversity -1998-