Bosnia and Herzegovina: Witness, fined for courtroom refusal to remove Muslim skullcap, wins Strasbourg judges’ backing

Human rights judges ruled today that Bosnia Herzegovina was wrong to convict  a witness of contempt of court for refusing to remove his skullcap.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Hamidović v. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application no. 57792/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, by six votes to one, that there had been:

a violation of Article 9 (freedom of religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Bosnia and Herzegovina was to pay the applicant, Husmet Hamidović, 4,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

In 2012, Hamidović, a witness in a criminal trial, was expelled from the courtroom, convicted of contempt of court and fined for refusing to remove his skullcap.

The court found that there had been nothing to indicate that Hamidović had been disrespectful during the trial. Punishing him with contempt of court on the sole ground that he had refused to remove his skullcap, a religious symbol, had not therefore been necessary in a democratic society and had breached his fundamental right to manifest his religion.

The court pointed out in particular that Hamidović’s case had to be distinguished from cases concerning the wearing of religious symbols and clothing at the workplace, notably by public officials.

Public officials, unlike private citizens such as Mr Hamidović, could be put under a duty of
discretion, neutrality and impartiality, including a duty not to wear religious symbols and clothing while exercising official authority.


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