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2008-06-19 - Council of State, n. 3076

Public space · Italy · Dress code · Full veil

Act of 22 May 1975 on protection of public order does not allow a general ban on items preventing identification

Key facts of the case - Article 5 of Act no. 152 of 22 May 1975 on protection of public order prohibits the use of safety helmets and any other item liable to render the identification of a person difficult, in a public place or a place open to the public, without a reasonable justification. Relying on a strict interpretation of Article 5 of Act no. 152/1975, a number of municipalities (including Azzano Decimo, Drezzo, Cantú, Camerata Cornello, Costa Volpino, Treviso, Alassio e Varallo Sesia) have adopted municipal ordinances prohibiting the wearing of fullface veils in public places.
The municipal ordinance adopted by Azzano Decimo was declared illegitimate by the Regional Administrative Court of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the judgment no. 645 of 16 October 2006. According to the Court, the ordinance had not merely called for the respect of an existing legal provision, but had in fact produced law, by imposing its own peculiar interpretation of Article 5 of Act no. 152/1975. The prohibition to wear burqas and chadors may only be enforced by a clear legal provision expressly forbidding them. The municipality of Azzano Decimo has subsequently lodged an application with the Council of State.

Main reasoning of the court - The Council of State has nonetheless rejected it. Article 5 of Act no. 152/1975 only prohibits the use of items expressly aimed to prevent identification. A prohibition of all items rendering identification difficult may only be enforced on specific occasions, such as large gatherings of people in a public place (with the exception of sport events). In all other cases, prohibition shall be enforced only when there is a justified reason. Burqas and niqabs are not items aimed to prevent identification, but they express the tradition of certain peoples and cultures. Article 5 of Law no. 152/1975 thus allows the wearing of a veil for religious or cultural reasons, provided that the concerned person, when necessary, agrees to remove the veil to be identified.

See the decision: 2008-06-19 - Council of State, n. 3076.