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Amnesty again Slams Belgian Burqa Ban as it Advances in Parliament

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TEHRAN, April 30 (ICANA) – The leading human rights organization Amnesty International on Friday reiterated its condemnation of an attempt to ban Islamic face veils in Belgium, after the parliament in Brussels approved a draft law on the matter for the second time in one year.
Saturday, April 30, 2011 2:10:24 PM
Amnesty again Slams Belgian Burqa Ban as it Advances in Parliament

Amnesty had first argued that the ban would be disproportionate almost exactly one year ago, when the Chamber of Deputies - Belgium's lower house of parliament - first backed the proposal, dpa reported.

But that version was then thwarted when parliament was dissolved due to a government crisis fueled by a row between the country's French and Dutch-speaking politicians.

At the time, the law outlawing burqas and other kinds of face veils would have been the first in Europe. France has since implemented a similar measure.

The Belgian proposal was revived this year by the centre-right French-speaking Movement Reformateur, which stressed the need for a national burqa ban after judges in January scrapped a local ban imposed in Etterbek, a district of Brussels.

The Chamber of Deputies re-issued its seal of approval for the proposal late Thursday. The legislation is now headed to the upper chamber of parliament, the Senate.

'It's still the same law. The arguments we made a year ago are still valid,' Eva Berghmans, a spokesman for Amnesty in Belgium, said on Friday.

At the time, Amnesty had argued that the ban 'would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion' of affected women.

It also argued that it would be preferable to intervene 'through criminal or family law systems' in individual cases when women are forced to wear burqas and other types of traditional Islamic veils by their relatives or by their communities.

The Belgian law instead seeks to 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.

French and Dutch-speaking Green parties have called for Belgium's top administrative court to review the constitutionality of the proposed ban.

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