Sikhs Take Turban Rights Case to United Nations

December 16, 2008

Author: Claudia Parsons

Source: The Australian,25197,24807079-12335,00.html

A Sikh rights group asked a UN human rights committee to declare that France violated a student's rights by expelling him for wearing a turban and to recommend repealing the law that led to it.

France passed a law in 2004 banning children in state primary and secondary schools from wearing conspicuous religious symbols, including Muslim headscarves, Jewish yarmulkes, large Christian crosses and Sikh turbans.

Bikramjit Singh was 18 when he was expelled from school in France in 2004 for refusing to remove his turban, according to a group called United Sikhs, which held a civil rights Conference in New York near the United Nations.

Stephen Grosz, a lawyer for the group, said United Sikhs had filed an official communication with a General Assembly committee dealing with human rights about Mr Singh and two other Sikhs who have been unable to renew French identity documents because they refused to remove their turbans for photographs.

"What we're asking the committee to do is to find that the French state has violated Bikramjit Singh's rights and to recommend that measures be taken to rectify the decision," Mr Grosz said.

"That effectively would mean a repeal of the law and its replacement by something else," he said.

The rights committee passes only non-binding motions or recommendations which carry only moral weight.