"There will be no peace in our world without an understanding of the place of religion within it." — Tony Blair
This site is dedicated to reporting and commenting upon issues involving freedom of conscience, religion, or belief throughout the member states of the Council of Europe, with particular focus on the work of the European Court of Human Rights and its predecessor tribunal, the European Commission of Human Rights. We are working to make this site the definitive source of information for scholars and others interested in understanding and having some influence upon the work of the Court in this vital area. Since the decisions on the important issues pending before the Court will shape the basic contours of freedom of religion or belief for years to come, not only throughout Europe, but throughout the world as the Court and its opinions become increasingly influential, the kind of work envisioned by, and carried out by, the Strasbourg Consortium is particularly critical.
We welcome you to our site, and encourage you to investigate its possibilities to determine how it may serve you, and how you might contribute to its success.
Professor Torfs holds licentiate degrees from KU Leuven in law (1979), notary sciences (1980), and canon law (1981). In 1987, he successfully defended a doctorate in canon law. He was appointed lecturer of canon law at KU Leuven in 1988 and was promoted to full professor in 1996. He was Dean of the KU Leuven Faculty of Canon Law from 1994-2003. He has in addition been since 2000... more
David Kirkham, USA, at the 2013 LARSN conference
On 14 May 2013, the annual conference of the Law and Religion Scholars Network (LARSN) was held at Cardiff Law School, University of Cardiff, Wales. The conference was attended by law and religion scholars from throughout the United Kingdom and numerous foreign countries, including the US, Brazil, and Singapore. Professor Norman Doe, Director of Cardiff Law School's Centre for Law and Religion, and Dr. Javier Oliva of the University of Manchester oversaw the proceedings, with assistance from John Duddington (Editor, Law and Justice), Helen Hall (Cardiff University) and Sharron Alldred (Cardiff Law School, post-grad administrator).
Writes David Pocklington, Law & Religion UK: "The papers ranged over an extremely wide field: from Adina Radicanu of Karl Franzens University on the debate in the Orthodox Christian community about... more
Professor David M. Kirkham, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Brigham Young University, and Professor Ivan Strenski, University of California, Riverside, delivered the keynote addresses at the conference "Models of Relationship of State and Church: Contemporary Tendencies," which took place 10-11 May 2013 at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan. Sponsored by the Collaboration for Democracy Centre under the direction of Stepan Danielyan, and with the support of the US Embassy in Armenia, the conference was the first of its kind in the country in which scholars focused almost entirely on challenges posed by traditional church-state relationships... more
20-22 May 2012. The Impact of Religion: Challenges for Society, Law and Democracy, An interdisciplinary conference at Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden.
21 May 2013. Christopher McCrudden (Queen’s University Belfast), 'Freedom of Religion and Public Reason', Oxford Journal of Law and Religion Lecture Series (Trinity Term): 'Changing Nature of Religious Rights under International Law – 30 Years after the 1981 Declaration'. Public lectures, Tuesdays 5.00 pm, Regent's Park College.
23-24 May 2013. International Symposium on Iraq, 'Human Rights and Justice in Iraq', Istanbul, Turkey. The symposium is sponsored by the International Jurists Union, Istanbul University, Istanbul Sehir University, Istanbul Yeni Yüzyil University, Association of Researchers on The Middle East and Africa (ORDAF), and Lawyers' Association.
6 June 2013. Human Rights in North Korea, MEP Anna Rosbach in collaboration with NKDB and Human Rights Without Frontier,... more
The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion Lecture Series is announced for Trinity Term 2013. Public lectures on the theme "Changing Nature of Religious Rights under International Law–30 Years after the 1981 Declaration" are held on Tuesdays throughout the term at 5.00 pm at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. Organized by the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, Regent's Park College, FORBFocus, Brunel Law and Religion Research Group, Bristol Centre for the Study of Law and Religion, and the Oxford Society for Law and Religion.
- David H. McIlroy : Locke and Rawls on Religious Toleration and Public Reason
- V. Bradley Lewis : Religious Freedom, the Good of Religion and the Common Good: The Challenges of Pluralism, Privilege and the Contraceptive Services Mandate
- Alice Donald : Advancing Debate about Religion or Belief, Equality and Human Rights: Grounds for Optimism?
X and Others v. Austria (application no. 19010/07) – Grand Chamber Judgment 19 February 2013. The first applicant and the third applicant are two women living in a stable relationship. The second applicant is the third applicant’s son. He was born out of wedlock and his mother has sole custody of him. The applicants live in a common household and the first and third applicants jointly care for the second applicant. The case concerns the inability of the first applicant to adopt the second applicant under Austrian law.
The applicants complain under Article 14 of... more
Gross v. Switzerland (no. 67810/10) – Chamber Judgment 14 May 2013. From the Court's press release: The case concerned the complaint of an elderly woman, who wishes to end her life but does not suffer from a clinical illness, that she was unable to obtain the Swiss authorities’ permission to be provided with a lethal dose of a drug in order to commit suicide.
In finding a violation of ECHR Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life)urt held in particular that Swiss law, while providing the possibility of obtaining a lethal dose of a drug on medical... more
Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and Jeremias Izsak-Bacs v. Hungary and 8 other applications (no. 79045/11) - Communicated 27 September 2012. The applicants are religious communities and individuals living or operating in Hungary. On 30 December 2011 the Hungarian Parliament enacted Act no. Act CCVI of 2011 on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and the Legal Status of Churches, Denominations and Religious... more
Dean Spielmann, Judge elected on behalf of Luxembourg, assumed his term of office as President on the Court on on 1 November 2012, succeeding Sir Nicolas Bratza of the United Kingdom. Judge Spielmann has been a judge at the Court since 2004, was Section President beginning in 2011, and Vice-President from summer 2012 until he assumed the presidency.
Judge Spielmann holds Bachelor's Law Degree Catholic University of Louvain (1988) and a Master of Laws from Cambridge University (1990). He has been Barrister and Senior Barrister (Luxembourg), partner in a law firm, University lecturer, member of the Advisory Human Rights Commission, Luxembourg and the European Union Network of Independent Experts in Fundamental Rights, and is full member of the Institut Grand-Ducal.
Josep Casadevall, elected in respect of Andorra in 1996, continues to serve as Vice-President of the Court, a position he has held since November 2011. He... more
AFP (31.01.2013) - The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled Thursday in favour of three sects - including the Mandarom de Castellane - bringing a judgement against France for violation of freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The decision in Strasbourg invalidated tax procedures brought against the sects, ordering France to pay 3 599 551 euros to the religious association Temple Pyramide, a sect known by the name Mandarom, for "property damage", 387 722 euros to the Evangelical Missionary Church and Eric Salaûn and 36 886 euros to the Chevaliers... more
Asserting that the "right to manifest religion at work is protected but must be balanced against rights of others", the European Court of Human Rights announced its judgment in the consolidated cases Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom (nos. 48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10 and 36516/10). In its ruling of 15 January 2013, the Court held
- by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 9 (freedom of religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned Ms Eweida
The Court held its annual press conference on 24 January 2013. On this occasion, Dean Spielmann, the President of the Court, reviewed the Court’s activities in 2012, which he described as an exceptional year for the Court, and presented its annual report.
Analysis of statistics
Videos showing how to use the simple and advanced search functions of the new HUDOC database have been published by the European Court of Human Rights, in both English and French. To access the videos, click the links below:
(L-r) Professor W. Cole Durham, a member of ODIHR’s Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Robert-Jan Uhl, ODIHR’s Adviser on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and Floriane Hohenberg, the Head of ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-Discrimination
Religious and belief communities should be granted quick, simple and non-discriminatory access to legal personality, said participants at a meeting on the margins of the OSCE's annual human rights conference in Warsaw on 2 October 2012.
Representatives of civil society and religious communities at the meeting noted that in the 1975 Helsinki Document, all participating States committed themselves to "recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief".
"Although this means that religious or belief communities are not obliged to seek official recognition for their activities, they do often need recognition of their legal personality as a practical matter: to be able to open bank accounts, enter into contractual obligations and purchase real estate, for example," said Robert-Jan Uhl, ODIHR's Adviser on Freedom... more
4 September 2012. WEBCAST of the HEARING. The Court held a Chamber hearing in the cases of Chaplin v. the United Kingdom, Eweida v. the United Kingdom, Ladele v. the United Kingdom and McFarlane v. the United Kingdom. The applicants, four practising Christians, complained that domestic law failed to adequately protect their right to manifest their religion.
See discussion of the cases in the press, below:
Britons take workplace religion fight to Europe rights court (MoneyControl.com - Reuters, Paris)
The European Centre for Law and Justice organized a seminar on the recent case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and of the USA Supreme Court on Church autonomy, in cooperation with the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Européennes: Religion et Société (Bruxelles - CERERS), the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) and the Strasbourg Consortium on Freedom of Conscience and Religion at the European Court of Human Rights. ... more
Organised by the United Kingdom in the context of its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Brighton Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights took place in Brighton, UK, on 19-20 April 2012. The Conference aimed to achieve agreement on a political declaration on a package of reforms of the Court, between Ministers of the 47 member States of the Council of Europe.
At previous High-Level conferences held in Interlaken (2010) and Izmir (2011), the member States of the Council of Europe, while recognising the extraordinary contribution of the Court to the protection of human rights in Europe, agreed unanimously that reform of the Court is needed in order to... more
The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion was introduced to the Oxford Journals collection in early 2012. The first issue appeared in print on 1 April 2012, followed by the second issue on 1 October. These issues, along with advance access to the third issue, are available free of charge on the Journal's website.
The new journal was developed "in response to the recent proliferation of research and writing on the interaction of law and religion cutting across many disciplines." The launch of the Journal was marked by Oxford Journal of Law and Religion Colloquium, hosted by the Religion and International Relations Programme of the Centre for Christianity and Culture and held 19 April 2012 at Regent's Park College, Oxford, UK.... more
L-R: Julian Rivers, Malcolm Evans, Cole Durham, Silvio Ferrari, Gerhard Robbers, Peter Petkoff
The Oxford Journal of Law and Religion Colloquium, held on the occasion of the publication of the first issue of the Journal, convened on Thursday, 19 April 2012, at Regent's Park College, Oxford, UK, hosted by the Religion Law and International Relations Programme of the Centre for Christianity and Culture.
Session I of the Colloquium featured a Welcome and Introduction, "Harmony in Dissonance — Directions of the Law and Religion Studies," by Peter Petkoff, Director of Religion, Law and International Relations Programme, Regent's Park College, and Managing Editor of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion.... more
Three new handbooks have just been published by the Justice and Legal Co-operation Department for the attention of legal professionals who wish to deepen their knowledge of the European Convention on Human Rights. They focus on the right to a fair trial, the right to respect for private and family life and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
These handbooks have been conceived as practical tools to support judges and prosecutors to apply the Convention at national level and assist lawyers to use Convention-based arguments in national litigation. They are based on the most updated case law of the European Court of Human Rights. The authors include an academic, a national... more
Katharina Von Schnurbein (Adviser, BEPA) and Jean-Claude Thébault (Director-General of BEPA)
Brussels - 30 March 2012
On 30 March 2012 the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) participated at the European Commission to the Dialogue-Seminar on "Freedom of Religion: A Fundamental Right in a Rapidly Changing World." This Dialogue Seminars is co-organised by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and the Church & Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) together with the Bureau of European Policy Advisors of the European Commission (BEPA).... more
Donald B. Holsinger, Ph.D. & Ellen S. Holsinger - Geneva
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, will visit Cyprus from 29 March to 5 April 2012. His fact-finding mission will be the first ever to the island by an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council. "I will try to identify any existing or emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the freedom of religion or belief in Cyprus and present specific recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles. I will also highlight any good practices,"... more
Uploaded by European Court of Human Rights on 9 February 2012
The "Conscience of Europe", which is currently available in 25 languages, is a film about the Court. This documentary, intended for the general public, shows specific examples of cases examined by the Court and considers its prospects over the forthcoming years and the challenges facing it.
The Court's judicial year was formally opened on Friday 27 January 2012. Some 200 leading judicial figures from across Europe were invited to participate in a seminar on the topic "How to ensure greater involvement of national courts in the Convention system?"
The Court held its annual press conference on Thursday 26 January 2012. On this occasion, Nicolas Bratza, the President of the Court, presented a summary of the Court's activities and its statistics for 2011. He said that the European governments must assume their part of the shared responsibility for the protection of human rights across the continent. In connection with this press conference, the Court released its Annual Report 2011 and 2011 Facts and Figures. On 27 January the... more
26 January 2012 - David Peterson, reporting from Brussels
In a solemn ceremony at the European Parliament on January 24th, marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the newly elected President of the Parliament, Martin Shulz (MEP Germany), spoke movingly to more than three hundred Jewish community representatives from throughout Europe, and the world, about the Holocaust tragedy. He stated: "I am deeply touched that one of my first official engagements as President will be opening the International... more
Religion isn't dying, nor should it, said Tony Blair in a 2 January 2012 blogpost "Faith in a Globalized Age," published on New Europe Online. The former British Prime Minister note that "for years, it was assumed, certainly in the West, that, as society developed, religion would wither away. But it hasn't, and, at the start of a new decade, it is time to take religion seriously." To that end Blair has created a Faith Foundation, "to create greater understanding between the faiths."
The European Court of Human Rights has compiled two series of factsheets providing information about its case law, including pending cases. A series of "country profiles" provides wide-ranging State-specific information for each the forty-seven European countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, touching upon the human rights issues dealt with by the Court for each State. A compilation of "Stastistics on judgments by State" is also available, offering charts showing the subject matter of judgments for each State. In addition, a series thematic factsheets summarizes the Court's case work by topic. It is hoped that these resources will help make the Court's work and case-law better known and more accessible.
The European Court of Human Rights has produced and made available on its website several helpful manuals and reports, including the following:
- The Court in Brief
- Country Fact Sheets 1959-2010
- The European Court of Human Rights in Facts and Figures 2010
- Text of the European Convention on Human Rights in the languages of participating states
- "Who can bring a case to the Court?"
- "What are the conditions of admissibility?"
- "What is the difference between a Chamber and a Section?"
- "Do judges sit in cases concerning their own country?"
- "Can the Court's composition vary from one case to another?"
- "When does a Grand Chamber hear a case?"
- "What are the different stages of proceedings before the Court?"
- "What is a pilot case?"
- "How are the Court's judgments enforced"?
To answer such questions, the European Court of Human Rights has produced the online handbook The ECHR in 50 Questions. Some answers are better suited to scholars of and practitioners before the Court than to casual readers, but the publication is helpful for anyone concerned with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and with the Court (also ECHR, or, to avoid confusion, ECtHR).