UN human rights office calls French burkini bans "a stupid reaction" to extremism


A spokesman for the United Nations' human rights office has condemned local burkini bans in France as a "stupid reaction" to extremism.

A woman in a burkini sits on a beach with friends
A burkini is a body-covering swimsuit worn by some Muslim women such as Nesrine Kenza on the left here (AP)(

Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has asked for the bans to be lifted immediately. He said the bans do not aid security and "fuel religious intolerance and the stigmatisation of Muslims".

Last week a French high court officially struck down a burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet, a Mediterranean beach resort, in effect invalidating others similar, many bans are still being enforced.

The mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet Lionnel Luca denounced "rampant islamisation" in France and said: "Far from calming, this decision can only heighten passions and tensions, with the risk of trouble we wanted to avoid".

The local bans have become a subject of controversy as images online circulate of Muslim women being ordered to remove clothing French Riviera beaches. Some have also received fines for wearing the clothing.

Activists outside French embassy
Many activists took to the streets of London to protest against the bans outside the French embassy (Frank Augstein/AP)

Local mayors have cited security concerns amongst a variety of reasons for the bans. However, France's Council of State ruling stated "emotion and concerns arising from the terrorist attacks" could not justify such bans.

Women who have already received fines for wearing burkinis may now appeal against them. Lawyer Patrice Spinosi said "it is a decision that is meant to set legal precedent", asserting any French mayor refusing to lift a ban would be taken to court.

The UN released an official appeal on its Twitter page to have the bans removed.