International support for Danish headscarf ban

The Danish prohibition on judges wearing headscarves has been met with support from two international judge associations

Two international judge associations have declared their support for the Danish ban against female judges wearing headscarves, saying that justices should not bear religious apparel in court.

The International Association of Judges (IAJ), encompassing judges from 70 countries, and the European Association of Judges (EAJ) representing 35 European nations, have made their stance clear on the matter.

'A citizen who enters a courtroom should feel secure standing before a judge who symbolises society's laws with the complete neutrality and impartiality that it encompasses,' said Maja Tratnik, chairwoman of the IAJ. 'Therefore, all form of attire signalling either religious or political beliefs cannot be allowed on a judge.'

The chairman of the EAJ, Virgilijus Valancius, concurred, saying that judges must appear 'neutral in the citizen's eyes'. He also added that the Danish debate would likely be a topic at the association's meeting in Finland later this week.

'It's the first time a country has discussed whether a judge should be allowed to wear a headscarf,' Valancius said.

When the matter first appeared in Danish media several weeks ago, the Danish Court Administration, an independent body under the Justice Ministry, ruled that a judge could wear 'headscarves, turbans or similar headwear as long as the face was not covered'.

However, a political stir ensued and MPs intervened, with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the lead stating: 'It is important that judges are not only neutral, but appear neutral.'

The court administration's chairman, Jørgen Lougart, said the administration had not specifically commented on headscarves.

'There are differing views among judges on whether one can appear neutral wearing a headscarf,' he said.

'But we think that such a case could have been dealt with by the court and would have preferred to avoid political intervention.' (LYT)

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