Freedom of religion. Religious symbols. Islamic headscarf. Exclusion from the courtroom on account of the applicant’s refusal to remove the hijab during the hearing.
Art. 9 ECHR
1. Wearing the hijab (headscarf covering the hair and neck while leaving the face uncovered) could be regarded as an act motivated or inspired by a religion or religious belief.
2. The exclusion from the courtroom of the applicant (civil party in a criminal trial) justified on the basis of her refusal to remove the hijab during the hearing, amounts to a restriction on the exercise of her right to manifest her religion. In order to be compatible with art. 9 ECHR, this measure must be provided by the law, inspired by the pursuit of legitimate objectives and necessary in a democratic society on the ground of a proportionality criterion between the measures undertaken and the objectives pursued (case in which the Strasbourg Court considered the applicant's removal from the courtroom illegitimate because of her refusal to remove the hijab. The measure was not necessary for the protection of public order, since the applicant had not manifested any disrespectful or threatening behavior towards the court or other subjects present at the trial).
In the grounds for the judgment, the Strasbourg Court observed that the applicant was a mere citizen and not a representative of the State engaged in public office and therefore could not be bound, on account of any official status, by a duty of discretion in the public expression of her religious beliefs.