Lachiri v. Belgium  | 2018

Legal code changed after a woman was excluded from a courtroom for wearing a hijab

It was about time that Belgium complied with its obligations and amended this completely outdated code.

Patrick Charlier, director of the independent public institution Unia, quoted in Le Soir


Hagar Lachiri was in court to plead that the man accused of her brother’s death should stand trial for murder and not a lesser offence.

It was a difficult day for the bereaved family, made worse by the court’s attitude towards Hagar’s hijab, the headscarf she chooses to wear as a practising Muslim.

A magistrate took exception to the headscarf before Hagar came into the room, indicating to her that, by law, she could not enter unless she removed it.

Hagar refused to take off her hijab. She was told to leave.

In response, Hagar took legal action, claiming that her rights had been violated. The Belgian courts ultimately rejected her complaint.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that Belgium had violated Hagar’s religious freedom.

The authorities’ aim in restricting Hagar’s right to freely show her religion was to protect public order. This was the Belgian magistrate’s interpretation of the country’s judicial code, which stated: “Whoever attends a [court] hearing shall stand uncovered, respectful and silent."

But since Hagar had not been disrespectful and posed no threat to the Belgian court, there could be no justification for the restriction imposed on her, the European court concluded.


In response to the European court’s judgment, Belgium changed its judicial code in 2021. By deleting the word “uncovered”, a definitive solution was found for the issue raised in Hagar’s case, as well as for the wearing of head coverings for medical reasons during court hearings.


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