A panel of seven judges found that freedom of religion had been “interfered with” but that the move was legitimised by the aim of “social integration”. They were ruling on a legal challenge brought by two Swiss-Turkish parents from Basel, Aziz Osmanoǧlu and Sehabat Kocabaş, who refused to send their daughters to mixed swimming lessons on the grounds “that their beliefs prohibited them from allowing their children to take part”. Education officials in the canton of Basle Urban advised the couple they could be fined up to 1,000 Swiss francs (£813) each but despite mediation attempts by the girls’ school, they continued not to attend the compulsory classes. Mr Osmanoğlu and Ms Kocabaş were ordered to pay a fine of CHF 350 per parent and child – a total of CHF 1,400 (£1,138) – for “acting in breach of their parental duty”. The Basel court of appeal dismissed their claim the following year, and another appeal was thrown out by Swizerland’s federal court in 2012. The couple then lodged their case with the ECHR, alleging that the requirement to send their daughters to mixed swimming lessons violated Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR unanimously threw out their complaint, finding there had been no violation of freedom of religion, and that Switzerland’s right to facilitate “successful social integration according to local customs and mores” took precedence over parents’ wish to refuse. Swiss, Swedish, Spanish, Serbian and Slovakian judges were among the panel who delivered Tuesday’s ruling, which found that although freedom of religion had been “interfered with”, the move was legitimate as it was “seeking to protect foreign pupils from any form of social exclusion”. “The Court observed that school played a special role in the process of social integration, and one that was all the more decisive where pupils of foreign origin were concerned,” a statement said. “The children’s interest in a full education, thus facilitating their successful social integration according to local customs and mores, prevailed over the parents’ wish to have their children exempted from mixed swimming lessons.” independent.co.uk]]>

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