Thursday, July 19, 2018

Australian Court Bans Niqab In Spectator's Gallery

In Australia, a judge in the Victoria Supreme Court has refused to allow the wife of a terrorism defendant to wear a niqab (a full-face veil) in the court's public spectator gallery during her husband's trial.  In The Queen v. Chaarani, (VSC, July 18, 2018), the court said in part:
... Australia is obviously a multicultural society and I agree that religious dress should be accommodated as much as possible, but the right of religious freedom and the right to participate in public life are not absolutes....
Criminal proceedings in the trial division of the Supreme Court are often highly stressful experiences, not only for the accused but for those close to the accused. Likewise for those close to any victims. As a consequence of that stress, incidents happen from time to time in court.... Spectators whose faces are uncovered are likely to appreciate that, if they misbehave, it will not be too difficult to establish their identity, even if they manage to get away from the court....
A requirement that spectators have their faces uncovered is not to force anyone to act immodestly.  First, the exposure of one’s face in a court room cannot reasonably be viewed as an immodest act: subjective views to the contrary cannot rule the day, or the management of a court room. Second, if someone feels strongly that it would be improper for them to uncover their face in court, they can choose not to attend. If that is Ms Al Qattan’s choice, arrangements will be made for live streaming of the proceedings to a remote facility within the court building so that she can still view the trial.
The Guardian reports on the decision.