January 13, 2012 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Bobigny, France (12 January, 2012): The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has concluded that France had violated the religious freedom of 76 year old Ranjit Singh when he was asked to remove his turban for his ID photograph. This was disclosed today at a media conference, in Bobigny (near Paris), by the United Sikhs legal team, who had filed a communication on behalf of Ranjit Singh to the UNHRC in December 2008.
The media conference was told that the UNHRC observed that “even if the obligation to remove the turban for the identity photograph might be described as a one-time requirement, it would potentially interfere with the author’s (Ranjit Singh’s) freedom of religion on a continuing basis because he would always appear without his religious head covering in the identity photograph and could therefore be compelled to remove his turban during identity checks.”
The Committee said that France had failed to explain how the Sikh turban hindered identification since the wearer’s face would be visible and he would be wearing the turban it at all times, therefore, the regulation constituted a violation of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was entered into force for France on 4 February 1981. You may read the Committees views in full here. The views were adopted at the 102nd session of the Committee’s sitting.
“I had faith that truth and justice would prevail and I patiently waited for this day. I pray that France will now fulfil its obligation and grant me a residence card bearing my photo without baring my head,” said Ranjit Singh, who despite his ill-health has had no access to the public health-care system or to social benefits since 2005 because his residence card was refused due to his refusal to remove his turban.
“United Sikhs is heartened by the Committee’s observations that France is under an obligation to provide Ranjit Singh with an effective remedy, including a reconsideration of his application for a renewal of his residence permit and a review of the relevant legislative framework and its application in practice. France, the Committee noted, is also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, United Sikhs Legal Director, who addressed the media conference.
“We now look to France to fulfil its treaty obligations under International law and its moral duty to ensure that the freedom of religion and belief is upheld for everyone who lives within its territory,” she added.
“We are very pleased with the views that the Committee adopted and we welcome France’s compliance with these findings. We also look forward to a similar resolution for Shingara Singh, whose case is still pending before the Committee,” O’Melveny & Myers, a New York law firm engaged by United Sikhs, said in a statement through their attorneys who spoke during a telephone interview. A decision is still awaited for Shingara Singh, whose passport has not been renewed by France because he refused to remove his turban for his ID photograph.
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