Landmark ruling sees Muslim women in Canada allowed to wear niqab' while testifying in courts
The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that women are allowed to wear a religious veil that covers their face while testifying in court, according to a report.
The court announced the ruling in a split decision in a landmark case that pitted religious freedom against an accused person's right to a fair trial.
The case involved a Muslim woman who sought to wear the veil known as a niqab, which leaves only the eyes exposed, while testifying against her uncle and a cousin whom she claims sexually assaulted her when she was a child, the New York Daily News reports.
According to the report, the two accused claimed that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms act allowed them to confront their accuser and observe her facial expressions as she testifies.
However, the woman's lawyers said facial expressions could be misleading. They said Muslim sexual assault victims would hesitate to go to police if they're barred from wearing a niqab while testifying in court, the report said.
In the rare 4-2-1 split decision, the Canadian Supreme Court referred the matter back to an Ontario trial judge, the report added.
The high court outlined considerations that trial judges must consider: Would requiring the witness to remove the niqab while testifying interfere with her religious freedom; would permitting the witness to wear the niqab while testifying create a serious risk to trial fairness, and if there is a way to accommodate both rights, the report concluded.