Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Canadian Case Raises Issue of Defendant's Right To Have Accuser Remove Niqab

In Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeals today hears oral arguments in a case in which defendants facing sexual assault charges say that the right to face their accuser means that the victim should be required to remove her niqab when she is questioned. Today's Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the case attracted a number of intervenors on both sides. The Muslim Canadian Congress argued that women wearing the full-face veil often do not make the choice to do so freely, so the court should examine the woman's motives carefully before permitting her to testify with her face covered. The Criminal Lawyers Association argued that a cross-examiner needs to examine subtle body language and facial expressions. On the other side, the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund argued that requiring removal of the veil will deter Muslim women from seeking protection of the justice system by humiliating and intimidating them. The Canadian Civil Liberties Union adds that this will also deter women from coming forward as witnesses.