The Cabinet supports the draft Law On Restriction of Face-Coverings 22.08.2017
On Tuesday, 22 August, the Cabinet supported the draft law “Law On Restriction of Face-Coverings”, elaborated by the Ministry of Justice, the purpose of which is to ensure existence of a unified and harmonious society, protection of the Latvian and European cultural space as well as open mutual communication and living together between members of society, facilitating the public security in general. The Saeima will decide on further processing of the draft law.
The draft law provides for restrictions on covering of a face in public places thus determining the basic values for open public.
Restrictions of the law will refer to all public groups, regardless of gender, age, religious or philosophical opinion, race and ethnicity of persons. They will refer to any kind of face covering, such as a mask, a helmet, covering the face, including face-covering clothing (burqa or niqab).
The Ministry of Justice emphasizes that a face may be considered as covered, when identification of a person is limited or impossible, the possibility to see facial appearance of a person is limited to such extent, prohibiting to recognize the outer appearance of a person, for example, when only eyes or only chin is visible. Besides, the restriction shall not refer to such head-coverings, which cover only hair and do not cover face, as well as cases, when a person wears glasses (including sun glasses).
Face-covering in public places will be permitted in cases, when face-covering is necessary:
- for fulfilment of requirements prescribed by regulatory enactments;
- performance of professional duties;
- participants of sports classes and events;
- participants of art events;
- participants of the national or traditional events and cultural events;
- due to weather conditions;
- due to health condition.
Within the framework of the draft law temples of religious organisations, prayer houses, premises, where religious activities take place as well as closed private events, taking place in public place (such as lease of premises for a private event) shall not be considered as a public place. Besides, the restriction shall not refer to the immovable property owned by a natural person, where the owner is determining the rules and order for use of the immovable property. In case of failure to comply with the restriction, the relevant person will be called to administrative justice, in accordance with the procedure set by regulatory enactments. The amount of the administrative responsibility will be determined, when discussing the draft law in the Saeima.
Latvia is not the first country, where introduction of the restriction is being discussed in relation to face-covering in public places. The restriction to wear face-covering clothing has introduced on the national level in several European countries or certain regions thereof.
The restriction to cover face in public places is introduced in France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Netherlands, Austria, Germany as well as certain municipalities of Switzerland, Spain and Italy. In France and Belgium the restriction is introduced in all public places, while in other countries it is prohibited to cover a face in certain public places (hospitals, schools, public transportation etc.). Introduction of the restriction is being discussed in Estonia.
Judgements of the European Court of Human Rights show that the way of acting of countries by introducing a restriction of full covering of a face in public places is being in compliance with the European Convention for Human Rights:
- S.A.S. v. France (application No.43835/11), judgement of the Grand Chamber of 1 July 2014
- Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium (application o. 37798/13), judgement of 11 July 2017
It is possible to become acquainted with the annotation of the draft law HERE!
In August 2015 the President Raimonds Vējonis commenced a discussion on the need to restrict wearing of the face-covering clothing in public places, on 10 November of the same year the Cabinet assigned the Ministry of Justice together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior to perform general assessment on the need to introduce restrictions to wear face-covering clothing in public places and the minister of justice to submit the draft legal act elaborated as a result of the assessment to the Cabinet for review.