Belgium: senate gives green light to veil ban

Belgium was set Wednesday to become the second European Union country to enforce a ban on public wearing of Islamic face veils, as its senate failed to raise objections against the provision passed last month by the lower chamber of parliament.

The Chamber of Deputies approved the so-called burqa ban law on April 28. The senate had 15 days to interfere with it, but declined to do so, the Belga news agency said, quoting sources from the Belgian Parliament.

Belgian lawmakers had already voted to ban Islamic face veils last year, but the law did not get into the statute books as parliament was dissolved in the wake of a government crisis fueled by a row between the country’s French and Dutch-speaking politicians.

“This time it should go through,” Belga wrote, indicating that the law is set to be enforced ten days after its publication in the country’s official journal.

The measure is supported by all political parties except French- and Dutch-speaking Greens, which either opposed it or abstained in last month’s chamber vote.

The law would punish anyone caught in public places with their face completely or partially covered –thus preventing their identification – with fines between 15 to 20 euros (21 to 35 dollars) and/or up to seven days’ imprisonment.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have criticized it, arguing that it “would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion” of affected women.

DPA, 25 May 2011