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S.A.S. v. France, No. 43835/11, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 1 July 2014

Type Judgment
Case number 43835/11


“Anti-veil” law in France. Prohibition to wear clothing suitable for concealing the face. Non-violation of Articles 8 and 9 of the ECHR, as well as Article 14, read in conjunction with those provisions.


Normative references

Art. 8 ECHR
Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 14 ECHR


1. Personal choices as to an individual’s desired appearance, whether in public or in private places, relate to the expression of his or her personality and thus fall within the notion of private life. That being said, in so far as individuals argue that they are prevented from wearing in public places clothing that the practice of their religion requires them to wear, an application mainly raises an issue with regard to the freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs.

2. 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. Pursuing the legitimate aim of the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others” 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. Consequently, a ban to wear clothing which conceal the face can be regarded as justified in its principle solely in so far as it seeks to guarantee the conditions of “living together”.

3. When a 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. 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. In other words, the State has a wide margin of appreciation.