"As societies build walls of separation between communities,
ICAAD works to remove each brick to illuminate our common humanity"

UPR: France, 15th Session, 2013

United Nations Human Rights Council
Universal Periodic Review: France

The International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) submits its analysis on Law No. 2004-22 of Mar. 15, 2004 (also known as the French Headscarf Ban) as a contribution to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of UNHRC member-state France.

(I)Executive Summary/ General Statement on French Law No. 2004-22 of Mar. 15, 2004

(2) Law No. 2004-22 of Mar. 15, 2004, although couched in language that applies broadly to all religious denominations, has a disproportionate impact on minorities and has deleteriously affected members of the Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish communities. Children of these minority communities have been deterred from freely practicing their faith and have been forced to make the untenable choice between practicing their faith or obtaining a proper education.

(3) Cases filed at the UN Human Rights Committee, French Courts, and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) make it apparent that specific minority communities have been affected by Law No. 2004-22. Thus, the danger of preserving Law No. 2004-22 is the continued marginalization of vulnerable communities and the further psychological and societal instability created within these communities because of a loss of religious identity.

(4) Any country seeking to restrict religious manifestation must show that the law is necessary to protect public safety, public order, health, or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. This international human rights principle intentionally sets a high bar for the State to meet, and additionally, the State must show that the law is legitimate, proportional, and non-discriminatory. During the 2008 UPR cycle, eight States specifically Recommended that France address issues of minority rights and religious freedoms, including the repeal of Law No. 2004-22.

(5) When laws have a disparate or disproportionate impact on minority communities, although couched in language that is of general and neutral application, they cease to uphold principles of secularism, pluralism, and democracy because in practice these laws are discriminatory, even if the result is indirect.


On May 17, 2019, ICAAD Advisor Erin Thomas’ publication: Compacts of Free Association in FSM, RMI, and Palau: Implications for the 2023-2024 Renewal Negotiations (hrbrief.org/2019/03/compacts-of-free-association-in-fsm-rmi-and-palau-implications-for-the-2023-2...) was cited by the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr., in an op-ed published in The Hill (thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/444291-pacific-defense-pact-renewal-vital-to-the-u...). In her piece, Erin points to critical issues stakeholders have raised regarding human trafficking, adoption policies, and COFA migrant rights among other important human rights issues.

Some of the above-mentioned policy gaps span several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly 10 (reduced inequalities) and 17 (partnership for the goals). Holistically, the existing COFA agreements represent the type of inequity that SDG 10 seeks to address. SDG 17 promotes inclusive and participatory decision-making at the international, national, and local levels. Developing transparency on both sides will allow for a more equitable process and outcome for the renewal negotiations.

The issues within the existing agreements also involve SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) and limited access to justice regarding redress for nuclear testing and environmental destruction. This impacts targets and indicators including SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 3 (good health and well-being). Finally, SDG 10 and 8’s targets for responsible migration policies are important considering the limited provisions for COFA migrants in the U.S. and U.S. territories.
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