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Kervanci v. France, No. 31645/04, ECtHR (Fifth Section), 4 March 2009


The disciplinary measure of expulsion from school for repeated refusal of the student to remove the veil during the hours of physical education does not breach art. 9 of the ECHR nor art.2 of the first additional Protocol of the ECHR.

Normative references

Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 2 Prot. 1 ECHR


1. The term law referred to in Article 9 paragraph 2 of the ECHR, as a prerequisite for any limitation of the freedom of manifestation of one's religion must not be understood in a formal sense, that is to say as a text voted by parliament, but in material sense. Any requirement of a general and impersonal nature, as long as it is accessible, understandable and allows citizens to reasonably know the consequences of a specific act can, therefore, be qualified as a law under the ECHR.

2. Individual or collective security needs are purposes that legitimately can justify the limitation of the freedom of manifestation of one's religion and, therefore, the choice made by the national school authorities to prohibit wearing the veil during the hours of physical education for health and safety reasons must be considered reasonable.

3. The right to education does not in principle exclude the use of disciplinary measures, including temporary or permanent exclusion from an educational establishment in order to ensure compliance with the internal rules of the establishments. The application of disciplinary sanctions is one of the processes by which the school strives to achieve the purpose for which it was created, including the development and shaping of the character and mind of students. As regards of choice of the national school authorities to apply the most serious disciplinary sanction of expulsion, when the ways and means of ensuring respect for internal rules are concerned, it is not within the province of the Court to substitute its own vision for that of the disciplinary authorities which, being in direct and continuous contact with the educational community, are best placed to evaluate local needs and conditions or the requirements of a particular training.