France’s top administrative court has overturned the burkini ban, which sparked shock and anger worldwide.
The ruling by the Council of State Friday specifically concerns a ban in the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the binding decision is expected to set a legal precedent for all the 30 or so French resort municipalities that have issued similar decrees.
The ruling comes in the wake of an uproar over photographs of a woman lying on a Nice beach, surrounded by four armed police officers and being urged to remove some of her clothing in order to comply with the burkini ban.
Lawyers for two human rights groups challenged the legality of the ban to the top court, saying the orders infringe basic freedoms and that mayors have overstepped their powers by telling women what to wear on beaches, The Associated Press reported.
Mayors had cited concern about public order after deadly Islamic extremist attacks this summer, and many officials have argued that burkinis oppress women.
Lawyer Patrice Spinosi, representing the Human Rights League, told reporters that the decision should set a precedent, and that other mayors should conform to it. He also said women who have already received fines can protest them based on Friday’s decision.
Spinosi said: “It is a decision that is meant to set legal precedent,” he said. “Today all the ordinances taken should conform to the decision of the Council of State. Logically the mayors should withdraw these ordinances. If not legal actions could be taken” against those towns.
“Today the state of law is that these ordinances are not justified. They violate fundamental liberties and they should be withdrawn.”
However, the mayor of Sisco in northern Corsica, Ange-Pierre Vivoni, says he won’t lift his ban on the burkini despite a ruling by France’s top administrative court regarding a similar ban in another town.
Vivoni, who banned the burkini after an Auguse 13 clash on a beach in Sisco, told BFM-TV: “Here the tension is very, very, very strong and I won’t withdraw it.”