Convicting a witness of contempt of court for refusing to remove his skullcap was not justified

In Chamber judgment (5/12/2017) in the case of Hamidović v. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application no. 57792/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, by six votes to one, that there had been: a violation of Article 9 (freedom of religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In 2012 Mr Hamidović, a witness in a criminal trial, was expelled from the courtroom, convicted of contempt of court and fined for refusing to remove his skullcap.
The Court found that there had been nothing to indicate that Mr Hamidović had been disrespectful during the trial. Punishing him with contempt of court on the sole ground that he had refused to remove his skullcap, a religious symbol, had not therefore been necessary in a democratic society and had breached his fundamental right to manifest his religion.
The Court pointed out in particular that Mr Hamidović’s case had to be distinguished from cases concerning the wearing of religious symbols and clothing at the workplace, notably by public officials. Public officials, unlike private citizens such as Mr Hamidović, could be put under a duty of discretion, neutrality and impartiality, including a duty not to wear religious symbols and clothing while exercising official authority.

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