Recent Decisions, Judgments, and Hearings
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Hamidović v. Bosnia and Herzegovina (no 57792/15) - Fourth Section Judgment 5 December 2017. The applicant, an adherent of a group advocating the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi/Salafi version of Islam, was summoned to appear as a witness in a trial involving other adherents of the group, who attacked the US Embassy in Sarajevo in October 2011. During the trial the applicant refused to remove his cap in the courtroom as ordered and was exelled from the courtroom. An Appeals Chamber reduced the fine charged but otherwise found the order reasonable, holding that the requirement to remove any and all headgear at the premises of public institutions was one of the basic requirements of the life in society and that in a secular State, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, any manifestation of religion in the courtroom was forbidden. The fine was converted into a prison term of 30 days. The Constitutional Court found no breach of ECHR Articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 14 (discrimination), and the applicant brought these complaints to the ECtHR.  It its judgment of 5 December 2016, the Court held be six votes to one that there had been a violation of Article 9 and that there was no need to examine the case from the standpoint of Article 14.

Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese v. Macedonia (no. 3532/07) - First Section Judgment 16 November 2017. The applicant is a religious organization not granted official status at the national level. It appealed the refusal to register it to the Court, saying that the decision violated its rights under Articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 11 (freedom of association), and that its members were put in disadvantaged positions in relation to members of recognized churches. In its judgment of 16 November 2017 the Court found, unanimously, that Macedonia's refusal to register the association as a religious entity violated the applicant's rights under Article 11 interpreted in the light of Aritcle 9.  "It could not be said that the reasons provided by the national authorities, taken as a whole, were 'relevant and sufficient' to justify the interference and the manner in which the domestic authorities refused the recognition of the applicant association as a religious organisation could not be accepted as necessary in a democratic society."

Ratzenböck and Seydl v. Austria (no 28475/12) - Fifth Section Judgment 26 October 2017. The case concerned the complaint by a heterosexual couple about being denied access to a registered partnership, a legal institution only available to same-sex couples. The applicants maintained that they were discriminated against based on their sex and sexual orientation. The Court, by five votes to two, found no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life). The Court found in particular that there were no more substantial differences between marriage and registered partnership in Austria. Their access to marriage satisfied the applicants’ principal need for legal recognition, and they had not claimed to have been specifically affected by any difference in law between the two institutions.

Adyan and Others v. Armenia (no. 75604/11) - First Section Judgment  12 October 2017. Applicants are Armenian nationals and members of Jehovah's Witnesses who complained that the alternative form of service allowing for their religious conscientious objection to military conscription was punitive in naature as it lasted 42 months. Normal military conscription is 24 months. The Court held the length of the alternative labor service was significanlty longer than the maximum period of one and a half times the length of armed military service laid down by the European Committee of Social Rights. Such a significant difference in duration of service must have had a deterrent effect and could be said to contain a punitive element. The Court found there was an Article 9 violation and awarded applicants EUR 12,000 each in respect to non-pecuniary damage. 

Lyublino Local Church of Evangelical Christians and Fedichkin v. Russia (no. 38744/11) - Third Section Committee Decision 26 September 2017. The applicants are a local religious organization and its pastor who complained that the legal-entity status of their church was denied for failure to notify the government of a change in its banking details to tax authorities. On 15 June 2012 the Simonovskiy District Court ordered the tax authority to reinstate the legal-entity status of the applicant church. On 25 December 2012 that decision was given effect. The applicants did not submit their observations on the admissibility and merits of the case within the established time-limit. The Court considers that the applicants may be regarded as no longer wishing to pursue their application. The Court strikes the application out of its list of cases. 

Gabunia and Others v. Georgia (no. 37276/05) - Fifth Section Committee Decision 19 September 2017. Applicants are Georgian nationals who complained of a breach of their right to freely practice their religion.  The Government of Georgia was given notice of the complaint in March 2017.  After unsuccessful negotiations, the Government of Georgia regretfully acknowledged a violation of the applicants freedom of religion and awarded teh applicants pecuniary and non pecuniary damages of EUR 800 and costs and expenses of EUR 2000.  The Court strikes this application from its list of cases based on this implied friendly settlement between the parties. 

Jula v. Romania (no. 46167/09) -  Fourth Section Committee Decision 5 September 2017. Applicant is a Romanian national who complained under Articles 9 and 14 of the Convention and Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention that religious education was denied to children belonging to the Greek Catholic church, including his own children.  On 20 December 2007 the National Council against Discrimination dismissed the complaint.  It found that the situation described by the applicant did not constitute discrimination because any religion, including the Orthodox, should be represented by a sufficient number of children in order to trigger an entitlement to religion classes.  In the applicant's application to the ECtHR the applicant sent letters making serious defamatory and groundless accusations about the integrity of the Romanian judge who was serving his mandate at the time.  The Court determined that this conduct was contrary to the purpose of the right of the individual petition, as provided for in Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention and that it constituted an abuse of the right of application within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.  The Court declared the application inadmissible. 

Belkacem v. Belgium (no. 3467/14) [judgment in French only] - Second Section Admissibility Decision 20 July 2017. [From the Court's Press Release:] [From the Court's Press Release:] The case concerned the conviction of the leader and spokesperson of the organisation "Sharia4Belgium", which was dissolved in 2012, for incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence on account of remarks he made in YouTube videos concerning non-Muslim groups and Sharia. The Court noted that in his remarks Mr Belkacem had called on viewers to overpower non-Muslims, teach them a lesson and fight them. The Court considered that the remarks in question had a markedly hateful content and that Mr Belkacem, through his recordings, had sought to stir up hatred, discrimination and violence towards all non-Muslims. In the Court's view, such a general and vehement attack was incompatible with the values of tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination underlying the European Convention on Human Rights.With reference to Mr Belkacem's remarks concerning Sharia, the Court observed that it had previously ruled that defending Sharia while calling for violence to establish it could be regarded as "hate speech", and that each Contracting State was entitled to oppose political movements based on religious fundamentalism. The Court therefore rejected the application, finding that it was incompatible with the provisions of the Convention and that Mr Belkacem had attempted to deflect Article 10 of the Convention from its real purpose by using his right to freedom of expression for ends which were manifestly contrary to the spirit of the Convention.

Belcacemi and Oussar v. Belgium (no. 37798/13) [judgment in French only] - Second Section Judgment 11 July 2017. One of two cases unanimously ruling against applicants (Mulsim women) challenging Belgium laws prohibiting the wearing of partial or full face coverings in public. In June of 2011, a new law went into effect in Belgium that prohibited wearing clothing which totally or principally conceals the face "in places accessible to the public." The applicants complain of indirect discrimination. They argue that as Muslim women who wish to wear the full veil in a public space on religious grounds they belong to a category of persons particularly vulnerable to the prohibition in question and to any attached sanctions. They claim the prohibition is much less restrictive for other people who are not Muslims and does not at all touch their exercise of fundamental freedoms. The Government claims the law was not discriminatory, since it did not specifically refer to whether a man or woman wore the clothing that covered their face in public or whether the motive is religious or otherwise. The Court emphasized that a general policy or measure which has disproportionately prejudicial effects on a group of persons may be considered discriminatory even if it does not specifically target that group and if there is no intention discriminatory. This, however, is the case only if the policy or measure lacks "objective and reasonable" justification, if it does not pursue a "legitimate aim" or if there is no “reasonable relationship of proportionality " between the means employed and the aim pursued. In the present case, as the Constitutional Court noted, even if the prohibition imposed by the Act of 1 June 2011 has more restrictive consequences for the exercise by certain Muslim women of the fundamental freedoms, this measure has an objective and reasonable justification for the same reasons as those previously developed by the Court in SAS v. France. There has accordingly been no violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Articles 8 and 9.

Dakir v. Belgium (no. 4619/12) [judgment in French only] - Second Section Judgment 11 July 2017.  The second of two cases unanimously ruling against applicants (Mulsim women) challenging Belgium laws prohibiting the wearing of partial or full face coverings in public. For a discussion of both cases see Frank Cranmer, "Strasbourg upholds Belgian niqab ban: Belcacemi and Dakir" in Law & Religion UK, 12 July 2017.

Perelman v. Germany (no. 32745/17) - Fifth Section Admissibility Decision 6 July 2017. The applicants are French nationals living in Germany. They retained membership of their "liberally-oriented Jewish community in France" and submitted a registration form in Germany listing their religion as "Mosaic". The Jewish community of Frankfurt/Main welcomed them by letter as new members. The applicants wrote back rejecting membership, but the community did not accept the rejection. As a precaution, the applicants resigned membership, which the community accepted. When the Frankfurt tax office nevertheless levied church tax on the applicants' income for the period before they resigned their membership, the applicants complained to the German courts.  Their claim was dismissed by the Federal Administrative Court, and while their appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court was still pending, they brought action in the ECtHR, complaining under Articles 9 and 11 of the domestic courts’ acknowledgement of the applicants’ membership of a religious community which was not based on their consent. They emphasised that they had not declared their willingness to become members of the Jewish community of Frankfurt/Main, which was of orthodox orientation and did not represent the applicants’ liberal and progressive beliefs. From their perspective it could not have been foreseen that the information provided in the registration form would be interpreted as such a declaration of willingness, in particular in view of the fact that they had not been asked for their religious affiliation but for their religion. A unanimous Court found the complaint inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.

Gard and Others v. United Kingdom (no. 39793/12) - First Section Admissibility Decision 3 July 2017. The Court endorsed the decision of the courts of the United Kingdom in ruling that it would be lawful for a treating hospital to withdraw artificial ventilation for an infant suffering from a rare congenital condition when the child's parents desired to find further, experimental treatment for the baby in the United States. Bearing mind the government's wide margin of appreciation, the Court declared the parents' application inadmissible.

Bayev and Others v. Russia (nos. 67667/09, 44092/12, 56717/12) - Third Section Judgment 20 June 2017. The applicants are three Russian nationals who were fined when, as gay activists, they staged demonstrations in front of a secondary school, a children's library, and an administrative building to protest Russian laws banning "propaganda of homosexuality", as in their view such laws constitute a virtually full prohibition on nearly any public mention of homosexuality.  In particular, the Code of Administrative Offences was amended in 2013 to specifically ban "the promoting of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors, … creating a distorted image of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships". They complained to the Court of a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) and of Article 14 (discrimination) in conjunction with Article 10. [From the Court's Press Release:] The Court found in particular that, although the laws in question aimed primarily at protecting minors, the limits of those laws had not been clearly defined and their application had been arbitrary. Moreover, the very purpose of the laws and the way they were formulated and applied in the applicants’ case had been discriminatory and, overall, served no legitimate public interest. Indeed, by adopting such laws the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society.

Metodiev and Others v. Bulgaria (no. 58088/08) [judgment in French only] - Fifth Section Judgment 15 June 2017. The applicants are of Ahmadiyan faith, a religious movement derived from Sunni Islam founded in Punjab in the late 19th century by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.The applicants were denied registration as a new worship association under the Worship Act in May of 2007 by the Sofia City Court because the statutes of the religious association did not specify the group’s beliefs but merely reproduced the objectives and activities mentioned in the law on non-profit legal entities.  Further the Sofia City Court held that the group distinguished itself from the Muslim religion and was likely to provoke a schism within the Muslim community in Bulgaria. The applicants allege that the courts' refusal to register their religious association under the Religious Worship Act infringed their right to freedom of religion under Article 9 of the Convention. The Court held that the alleged lack of precision in the description of the beliefs and rites of the religious association in the statutes of the Ahmadiyan applicant was not such as to justify the refusal of religious registration.  There was a violation of Article 9 viewed in conjunction with Article 11.  The respondent State is to pay applicant EUR 4,000. 

Dimitras v. Greece (no. 26108/11) [in French only] - Notice of Settlement and First Section Decision to strike 23 May 2017.  The applicant complained that he was obliged to reveal his religious beliefs during the procedure for taking the oath and the absence of an effective remedy in this respect.  An agreement was reached between the Government and applicant.  Applicant would receive 500 euros and the applicant waived all further claims against Greece in respect of the facts giving rise to his application. The court recognized the agreement and struck the case off their list.

National Turkish Union and Kungyun v. Bulgaria (no. 4776/08) [judgment in French only] - Fifth Section Judgment 8 June 2017 The case concerned the refusal of the Bulgarian authorities to register an association promoting the rights of the Muslim minority in Bulgaria. Referring back to its case-law, the Court found that there was no "pressing social need" to require any association wishing to pursue political aims to constitute a political party if it was not the intention of the founders to take part in elections. The Court further noted that the domestic courts had not referred to any action of the association or its members which might have compromised the territorial integrity or unity of the nation, or any action or speech which might have been regarded as a call to hatred or violence. It concluded that the refusal to register the applicant association had not been "necessary in a democratic society". The Court therefore held, unanimously, that there had been violation of the applicants' rights to freedom of assembly and association under ECHR Article 11.

Molla Sali v. Greece (no. 20452/14) - First Section Relinquishment to Grand Chamber 8 June 2017. The case concerns the application by the Greek courts of Islamic religious (Sharia) law to a dispute concerning inheritance rights over the estate of the late husband of Ms Molla Sali, a Greek national belonging to the country’s Muslim minority. Thd Court's First Section relinquished jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber on 8 June 2017.

Moroz v. Ukraine (no. 5187/07) - Fifth Section Judgment 2 March 2017. Detained for shooting another man, the applicant complained before the Court that the proceedings against him had been unfairin violation of Article 6 and that in particular he had not been allowed to have a private discussion with his lawyer in the police station before his police interview there; and that he had also been denied a lawyer when first questioned about the shooting at the scene. Relying on Article 8 he complained that while in pre-trial detention, he had not been allowed to see his family or send correspondence to them. He also relied on Article 9 to complain that during his pre-trial detention he had not been allowed to meet with a priest or visit the SIZO chapel, and that his religious literature and other religious items had been seized by SIZO staff. The Court found no violations articles 6, 8, and 9, and ordered just satisfaction of EUR 4,000 in non-pecuniary damage.

Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség [Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood] v. Hungary (no. 54977/12) – Fourth Section Judgment 25 April 2017.  Just satisfaction awarded in church registration case. "The Court noted that there was no dispute between the parties on the issue of compensation for the damage..., notably for the loss of personal income tax donations and the corresponding supplementary state subsidy, the loss of state subsidies intended to support the Brotherhood's social and educational institutions, the loss of subsidies for religious teaching and the loss of salary supplement payable to staff employed by church institutions providing public-interest services. It therefore agreed unanimously to award the Brotherhood a lump sum of €3,000,000 for its financial loss, covering the damages already acknowledged by the Government and the Brotherhood’s loss of opportunities, and €2,250 for costs and expenses."

Klein and Others v. Germany (nos.1 0138/11, 16687/11, 25359/11, 28919/11) - Fifth Section Judgment 6 April 2017.  Taxes and fees imposed by churches did not violate religious freedom

Genov v. Bulgaria (no 40524/08) [judgment in French only] - Fifth Section Judgment 23 March 2017. The applicant is president of the Bulgarian branch of an Indian religious movement which applied for official recognition but was turned down. The government agency which rejected the request claimed that the organization's name was too similar to another group. The applicant asserted before the Court violations under Articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 11 (freedom of association). In its decision of 23 March 2017 the Court's Fifth Section considered that refusing to allow the applicant to register the association interfered with the exercise of his Article 9 rights, interpreted in the light of Article 11.

Osmanoğlu and Kocabaş v Switzerland (no. 29086/12) [judgment in French only] - Third Section Judgment 10 January 2017. A Muslim husband and wife, Swiss nationals with Turkish nationality, refused to permit their young daughters to attend compulsory mixed swimming classes at school, citing violation of their religious beliefs, and were fined for acting in breach of their parental duty. Their appeals in the Swiss courts were denied.  In its decision of 10 January 2017 the Court foun no violation of the applicants' Article 9 rights, holding that though the applicants’ right to manifest their religion was in issue, "the authorities’ refusal to grant them an exemption from swimming lessons had been an interference with the freedom of religion, that interference being prescribed by law and pursuing a legitimate aim (protection of foreign pupils from any form of social exclusion)." However, the "school played a special role in the process of social integration, particularly where children of foreign origin were concerned."  The Court found, accordingly, that by giving precedence to the children’s obligation to follow the full school curriculum and their successful integration over the applicants’ private interest in obtaining an exemption from mixed swimming lessons for their daughters on religious grounds, the domestic authorities had not exceeded the considerable margin of appreciation afforded to them in the present case, which concerned compulsory education."

Savda v. Turkey (No 2) (no. 2458/12) [judgment in French only] - Second Section Judgment 15 November 2016. From the Court's Press Release:  The case concerned the criminal conviction of a Turkish national, Mr Savda, for having read out a statement to the press entitled "We are in solidarity with the Israeli conscientious objectors". On 1 August 2006 five individuals, members of the Anti-Militarist Platform, met in front of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, in support of Israeli conscientious objectors. In the course of the gathering Mr Savda read out a statement for the attention of the press. Criminal proceedings were brought against him and in August 2008 he was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence on the ground that he had incited the population to evade military service by means of a public statement; the court noted in particular that Mr Savda was a conscientious objector and that he had called on persons who did not define themselves as conscientious objectors to evade military service. The Court of Cassation upheld that judgment in November 2010. Relying in particular on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mr Savda complained about his conviction in criminal proceedings for having read out a statement to the press.  In its judgment of 15 November 2016, the Court found the application admissible and ruled that a violation of Aritlce 10 had occured, ordering just satisfaction of EUR 2,500 in non-pecuniary damages to the applicant.

Berghea and Turan v. Romania (nos. 7242/14, 7853/140) [judgment in French only] - Fourth Section Judgment 8 November 2016. Two prisoners — one Jewish, one Muslim — complained, inter alia, of violations of their Article 9 rights to practice their religion while in prison. The Court found these complaints inadmissible for failure to exhaust domesttic remedies, as they should have (as the Court had already rule in a similar case against Romania) addressed their complaints to the sentencing judge, invoking laws already judged sufficient to provide effective remedy. As to the complaints of the Muslim inmate, Mr Turin, that the physicial conditions of his detention breached Article 3, the Court found this complaint admissible and rule that such a violation did exist.

Travaš v. Croatia (no. 75581/13) - Second Section Judgment 4 October 2016. A Croatian national working as a lay teacher of ecclesiastical education in two state schools civilly divorced his wife (whom he had married in a religious service), and then married someone else in a civil ceremony. Because the applicant was still considered to be married to his first wife by some religious leaders, the Rijeka Archdiocese withdrew the applicant's canonical mandate and he lost his job. He challenged the decision under Article 8, claiming interference with his private and family life. In its decision of 4 October 2016, the Court found that, as the termination of the applicant's employment was entirely lawful, there was no violations of his Article 8 rights.

Papavasilakis v. Greece  (no. 66899/14[judgment in French only] - First Section Judgment 15 September 2016. The Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 9 in the Greek authorities’ refusal to grant the applicant the status of conscientious objector and to allow him to do alternative civilian work instead of military service. In particular, the Greek authorities had failed in their duty to ensure that the interviewing of conscientious objectors by the Special Board took place in conditions that guaranteed procedural efficiency and the equal representation required by domestic law. Mr Papavasilakis had been interviewed by a Board made up primarily of servicemen, two of the civilian members of the Board being absent but not replaced; that the Minister of Defence’s final decision, on the basis of a draft ministerial decision following the Board’s proposal, did not afford the requisite safeguards of impartiality and independence; that the scrutiny of the Supreme Administrative Court concerned only the lawfulness of the decision, not the merits, and was based on the assessments of the Special Board

Taddeucci and McCall v. Italy  (no. 51362/09) [judgment in French only] - First Section Judgment 30 June 2016. From the Court's Press Release: The case concerned a refusal by the Italian authorities to grant a residence permit to a gay couple on family grounds. The Court found in particular that the situation of the gay couple could not be understood as comparable to that of an unmarried heterosexual couple. As they could not marry or, at the relevant time, obtain any other form of legal recognition of their situation in Italy, they could not be classified as "spouses" under national law. The restrictive interpretation of the notion of family member constituted, for homosexual couples, an insuperable obstacle to the granting of a residence permit on family grounds. That restrictive interpretation of the concept of family member, as applied to Mr McCall, did not take due account of the applicants’ personal situation and in particular their inability to obtain a form of legal recognition of their relationship in Italy. In deciding to treat homosexual couples in the same way as heterosexual couples without any spousal status, the State had breached the applicants’ right not to be subjected to discrimination based on sexual orientation in the enjoyment of their rights under Article 8 of the Convention.

Janusz Wojciechowski v. Poland (no. 54511/11) -  Fourth Section Judgment 28 June 2016. The applicant is a prisoner who complained that prison authorities provided him with inadequate medical care and put unreasonable restrictions on his right to practice his religion, breaching Article 3 ECHR (inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 9 (thought, conscience, and religion). The Court held the complaint in respect of inadequate conditions during the applicant’s detention admissible, and found a violation of Article 3. The remainder of the application was inadmissible.

Eze v. Romainia (no. 80529/14) - Fourth Section Judgment 21 June 2016. The applicant is a Nigerian national serving a 13-year sentence in Giurgiu Prison (Romania) for drug-trafficking offences. His complaint arises from the time he was detained in Rahova Prison for two years before his transfer to Giurgiu Prison in July 2014, involving in particular inhuman and degrading treatment due to prison overcrowding and lack of hygiene, in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), and violation of Article 9 in that, "as Muslim, he was not provided with an appropriate diet in prison, namely one without pork, while he was also not allowed to receive food from his family." The Court found a violation of Article 3 and awarded just satisfaction of EUR 5,000 in non-pecuniary damage. As to the Article 9 complaint, the applicant did not repond to the Government's suggestion that the application was inadmissible on this point for failure to exhaust domestic remedies, and the Court considered that in light of its finding under Article 3, it was not necessary to examine either the admissibility or the merits of the Article 9 complaint.

Fourkiotis v. Greece (no. 74758/11)  [judgment in French only] - First Section Judgment 16 June 2016. A father of two children, who had been judicially separated from their mother, was refused contact with the children despite a court order granting him access rights. (He asserted that a factor in the separation was his wife's affiliation with a religious sect.) He complained of lack of action on the part of Italian officials in enforcing the access order. The First Section found a violation of Article 8 (respect for family and private life).

R.D. v. France (no. 34648/14) [judgment in French only] - Fifth Section Judgment 16 June 2016.  A Guinean national married to a Christian and facing violent reprisals from her Muslim father and brothers sought asylum in France in 2014, where she was arrested and served with an order for immediate return to Guinea. Her asylum application was fast-tracked but was rejected. The ECtHR directed the French Government not to deport her for the duration of the Court's proceedings. The Court held that there would be a violation of Article 3 (torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment) in the event of her removal to Guinea but that there had been no violation of Article 13 taken in conjunction with Article 3 in regards to lack of effective rememdy in the French courts.

Enver Aydemir v. Turkey (no. 26012/11) [judgment in French only] - Second Section Judgment 7 June 2016. The applicant's objection to military service in a secular republic (he would have served under a system based on and subject to the rules of the Qur'an) did not violate his Article 9 rights to manifest freedom of religion or belief through worship, teaching, practice or observance, and the evidence before the Court did not suggest that the applicant's stated beliefs included a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or to the bearing of arms. He was, however, subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 in the investigation of charges brought against him and mistreatment of him during confinement. 

Association for Solidarity with Jehovah Witnesses and Others v. Turkey (nos. 36915/10, 8606/13) - Second Section Judgment 24 May 2016. Refusal to provide the Mersin and İzmir Jehovah’s Witnesses with an appropriate place of worship breached the right to freedom of freligion.

Nasr and Ghali v. Italy (no. 44883/09) - Fourth Section Judgment 23 February 2016. The case concerned an instance of extrajudicial transfer (or "extraordinary rendition"), namely the abduction by CIA agents, with the cooperation of Italian officials, of the Egyptian imam Abu Omar (Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr), who had been granted political asylum in Italy, where he subsequently married Ms Ghali. The Court found that Nr Nasr's subsequent transfer to Egypt, where he was held in secret for several months, had been undertaken with the awareness of the Italian authorities that the applicant had been a victim of an extraordinary rendition operation which had begun with his abduction in Italy and had continued with his transfer abroad. The CIA's infringed the applicants' rights (Articles 3, 5, 8, and 13) under the Convention.

Pajić v. Croatia (no. 68453/13) - Second Section Judgment of 23 February 2016. [From the Court's Press Release:] The case concerned the complaint by a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who is in a stable same-sex relationship with a woman living in Croatia, of having been discriminated against on the grounds of her sexual orientation when applying for a residence permit in Croatia. The Court found in particular that Ms Pajić had been affected by a difference in treatment between different-sex couples and same-sex couples introduced by the Aliens Act, which reserved the possibility of applying for a residence permit for family reunification to different-sex couples. The Croatian Government had not shown that that difference in treatment was necessary to achieve a legitimate aim or that it was justified by any other convincing reason.

Sodan v. Turkey (no. 18650/05) Second Section Judgment of 2 February 2016.  [From the Court's Press Release:] The case concerned the applicant’s transfer from his senior post within the governor’s office in the capital to a similar post in the provinces following a report on his conduct pointing out that his wife wore an Islamic veil and that he himself had an introverted personality. The Court found in particular that the decision to transfer Mr Sodan to an equivalent post in a city which was less important in administrative terms had been based on reasons relating to his private life. Even supposing that that interference had been prescribed by law and pursued one of the legitimate aims set out in Article 8 of the Convention, the Court considered that it had not been necessary in a democratic society. The Court observed that the impugned proceedings had lasted in excess of six years and two months, which period of time did not meet the "reasonable time" requirement. A unanimous Court found a of the Article 8 right to respect for private and family life and the Article 6 § 1 right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.

Süveges v. Hungary (no. 50255/12) - Fourth Section Judgment of 5 January 2016.  "The applicant, a multiple recidivist, complained about criminal proceedings against him on, among other offences, aggravated murder, armed robbery and illegal possession of firearms and explosives, as well as his related pre-trial detention and house arrest. He alleged, inter alia, under Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) that the proceedings concerning his motions for release had been unfair and (relying on Articles 8 and 9) that contact with his family had been restricted and that he had been unable to attend mass while under house arrest. The Court found a violation of Article 5 § 3 (entitlement to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial), but no violations of either religious freedom or family life.

Z.H. v. R.H. v. Switzerland (no. 60117/12) - Third Section Judgment of 18 December 2015. [From the Court's Press Release:] The case concerned the asylum applications of two Afghan nationals, Ms. Z.H. and Mr. R.H., who married in a religious ceremony in Iran when Ms Z.H. had been a child, and which were considered separately – the couple not being considered legally married by the Swiss authorities – resulting in the expulsion of Mr R.H. to Italy. The couple alleged that the expulsion of Mr R.H. had breached their right to respect for their family life (as guaranteed by ECHR Article 8). The Court found that at the time of the removal of Mr R.H. to Italy, the Swiss authorities had been justified in considering that the applicants were not married. It held, in particular, that Switzerland was under no obligation to recognise the marriage of a child, emphasising the importance of the protection of children and considering the regulation of marriage an issue best addressed by the national courts.

Kàroly Nagy v. Hungary (no. 56665/09) - Second Section Judgment 1 December 2015. The Court by a narrow margin (4-3) rejected the claim of a minister of the Hungarian Reformed Church who dismissed after being reported as saying that state subsidies to a Calvinist boarding school had been paid unlawfully. Appealing the decision of the ecclesiastical courts to Hungarian labor and civil courts, the minister complained of having found no remedy in domestic courts. The Second Section rejected his complaint concerning the Hungarian courts' refusal to hear his claim solely because of his position as a minister. However, finding, inter alia, that the domestic "courts failed to weigh the rights of the applicant against those of the employing church in a manner compatible with the Convention" and that the "judgment is not limited to the applicant’s situation, but has broader ramifications, at least in theory", the three dissenting judges "still have some hope that the situation will be rectified" in a decision by the Grand Chamber.

Ebrahimian v. France (no. 64846/11) [judgment in French only] - Fifth Section Judgment 26 November 2015.  In this case concerning the decision not to renew the contract of employment of a hospital social worker because of her refusal to stop wearing the Muslim veil, the Court held, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 9. [From the Court's press release]:"The Court found that the national authorities had not exceeded their margin of appreciation in finding that there was no possibility of reconciling Ms Ebrahimian’s religious convictions with the obligation to refrain from manifesting them, and in deciding to give precedence to the requirement of neutrality and impartiality of the State."

Bremner v. Turkey (no. 37428/06) [judgment in French only] - Second Section Judgment 13 October 2015. [From the Court's Press Release]: The case concerned the broadcasting of a television documentary in which the applicant, an Australian national, Mr Dion Ross Bremner, who was shown promoting his evangelical Christian beliefs, was described as a "foreign pedlar of religion" engaged in covert activities in Turkey. In its unanimous decision, the Court found in particular that the broadcasting of Mr Bremner’s image without blurring it could not be regarded as a contribution to any debate of general interest for society, regardless of the degree of public interest in the question of religious proselytising. The applicant's complaint under Articles 6 and 10 were inadmissible, and his Article 9 complaint was inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies. 

Oliari and Others v. Italy (nos. 18766/11 and 36030/11) - Chamber Judgment 21 July 2015. From the Court's press release: "The case concerned the complaint by three homosexual couples that under Italian legislation they do not have the possibility to get married or enter into any other type of civil union. The Court considered that the legal protection currently available to same-sex couples in Italy – as was shown by the applicants’ situation – did not only fail to provide for the core needs relevant to a couple in a stable committed relationship, but it was also not sufficiently reliable. A civil union or registered partnership would be the most appropriate way for same-sex couples like the applicants to have their relationship legally recognised. The Court pointed out, in particular, that there was a trend among Council of Europe member States towards legal recognition of same-sex couples – 24 out of the 47 member States having legislated in favour of such recognition – and that the Italian Constitutional Court had repeatedly called for such protection and recognition. Furthermore, according to recent surveys, a majority of the Italian population supported legal recognition of homosexual couples."

Greek-Catholic Parish of Lupeni and Others v. Romania (no. 76943/11) - Chamber Judgment 19 May 2015. The case concerned the restitution of places of worship belonging to the Greek-Catholic Church which were transferred to the Orthodox Church under the totalitarian regime, and more specifically the question of the application of a special law to determine the legal status of such property. The Court's Third Section found no violation of or discrimination concerning the right to a fair hearing, but did find violation concerning the length of proceedings. The Romanian courts had weighed up the interests at stake and delivered detailed judgments containing reasons. Reiterating the State’s role as the neutral and impartial organizer of the practice of religions, the Court noted that the Constitutional Court had emphasized the need to protect the freedom of religious communities and the freedom of others, while having due regard to the historical background to the case. 

M.E. v. Sweden (no. 71398/12) - Grand Chamber Judgment 8 April 2015.  The complaint of a Libyan national that his expulsion from Sweden would place him at risk of persecution and ill-treatment in Libya in part because he is a homosexual was rejected as a violation of Article 3 (prohibiting torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment) by the Court's Fifth Section, and a unanimous Grand Chamber ordered the application stricken from its list of cases. 

Karaahmed v. Bulgaria (no. 30587/13) - Chamber Judgment 24 February 2015.  Local authorities failed to strike a proper balance, in their reponse to a violent demonstration outside a Sophia mosque, in consideration of rights of demonstrators and rights of Muslim worshippers, whose Article 9 rights were therefore violated.

Dimitrova v. Bulgaria (no. 15452/07) - Chamber Judgment 10 February 2015. The Court ruled that Bulgarian authorities violated a Christian woman’s Article 9 when they unjustly arrested her for private worship meetings in her home.

Chbihi Loudoudi and Others v. Belgium (no. 52265/10) - Chamber Judgment 16 December 2014. The case concerns the refusal of Belgian authorities to allow the applicants to adopt their Moroccan niece under the Islamic legal principle called kafala. The Court ruled against the applicants. 

Fozil Nazarov v. Russia (no. 74759/13) - Chamber Judgment 11 December 2014. - The applicant is an Uzbek national who was put on a Uzbek wanted list for religious extremism and terrorism. He was arrested and detained in Russia, where he applied for asylum. The Court ruled that the forced return of the applicant to Uzbekistan would amount to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

Güler and Uğur v. Turkey (nos. 31706/10 and 33088/10) - Chamber Judgment 2 December 2014. The case concerned the applicants’ conviction for promoting a terrorist organization based on their participation in a religious service held on the premises of a political party in memory of three deceased PKK members who had been killed by security forces. The Court found that there had been a violation of Article 9 and that the applicants' conviction had not been "prescribed by law."

Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim Ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfi v. Turkey (no. 32093/10) - Chamber Judgment 2 December 2014. The case concerns discrimination against Alevi places of worship, which did not recieve the same state electricity subsidies as other religious buildings. The Court held that there had been a violation of Articles 9 and 14. 

Islam-Ittihad Association and Others v. Azerbaijan (no. 5548/05) - Chamber Judgment 13 November 2014. The case concerns the dissolution of the applicant organization, which had been formed to maintain and repair mosques. Its dissolution was ordered by a district court in 2003 after repeated warnings that the organization was unlawfully participating in religious activites. The Court found that there had been a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly).

Sociedad Anonima del Ucieza v. Spain (no. 38963/08) - Chamber Judgment 4 November 2014. The case concerns the ownership of a medieval church, which had been registered as belonging to both the applicant company and the Diocese of Palencia. The applicant company had been unsuccessful in obtaining sole ownership of the church through domestic means. The Court ruled that there had been a violation of Article Article 6 § 1 (right of access to an appeal on points of law) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property).

Peltereau-Villeneuve v. Switzerland (no. 60101/09) - Chamber Judgment 28 October 2014. The applicant is a Swiss priest who was accused of sexual abuse. He complained that his right to be presumed innocent under 6 § 2 was violated by the public prosecutor, who used incriminating terms that were then released. The Court found in favor of the applicant.

Gough v. United Kingdom (no. 49327/11) - Chamber Judgment 28 October 2014. The applicant is a nudist who complained that his right to freedom of expression was violated due to his long imprisonment for refusing to wear clothes. The Court found that there had been no violation of the Convention, ruling that the applicant could have found ways to express his belief that were less offensive to other members of the public.

Erla Hlynsdottir v. Iceland (no. 2) (no. 54125/10) - Chamber Judgment 21 October 2014. The applicant is an Iceland journalist who published an article about individuals who represented a Christian rehabilitation center until allegations of sexual abuse surfaced. The applicant was found guilty of defamation, and appealed the ruling under Article 10. The Court agreed and ruled that there had been a violation of Article 10.

Begheluri and Others v. Georgia (no. 28490/02) - Chamber Judgment 7 October 2014. The applicants are 98 Jehovah's Witnesses who complained about large-scale violence towards their faith as well as harassment and inactivity on the part of state authorities. The Court found that that there had been many violations of Articles 3 and 9, separately and when taken in conjunction with Article 14.

Dimitras and Gilbert v. Greece (no. 36836/09) - Chamber Judgment 2 October 2014. The applicants had complained under Greece's anti-racist law about an article which they alleged was anti-Semitic. During court proceedings the first applicant claims that he was forced to reveal that he is atheist. The court did not find that the article was anti-Semitic. The applicants complained to the ECtHR that 1) the first applicant was required to reveal his religious beliefs, 2) that the judgment against the article was unfair, and 3) that there is no effective protection for racial or ethnic minorities in Greece.  In its jugdment of 2 October 2014, the Court found a violation of both the Article 9 right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and the Article 13 right to an effective remedy.

Church of Scientology of St. Petersburg and Others v. Russia (no. 47191/06) - Chamber Judgment 2 October 2014. The applicants, ten founding members of the Church of Scientology Mission of St. Petersburg, complained about the refusal of Russian authorities to register their movment as a legal entity. The Court ruled that there had been a violation of Article 9 in light of Article 11. 

Mansur Yalçın and Others v. Turkey (no. 21163/11) - Chamber Judgment 16 September 2014. The applicants are members of the Alevi religious community in Turkey. They complained under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1, Article 9, and Article 14 that state classes on "religious culture and ethics" ignored Alevi philosophy. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) with regard to Mansur Yalçın, Yüksel Polat and Hasan Kılıç. The Court also observed that the Turkish education system is still poorly equipped to ensure respect for the religious convictions of parents. The Court pointed out that the problem had been already identified in the case of Hasan and Eylem Zengin. Because of this, the Court ordered Turkey to immediately remedy the situation, in particular by creating a system wherein students can be exempted from religion and ethics classes without requiring their parents to disclose their own religious or philosophical convictions.

Atudorei v. Romania (no. 50131/08) - Chamber Judgment 16 September 2014. In 2003 the applicant attended weekly yoga classes organized by the Movement for Spiritual Integration in Absolute (MISA), which was subject to large-scale negative press and pressure from government officials. In 2005 the applicant returned to her hometown and was physically and tormented by family members who did not approve of her activity with MISA. Eventually the applicant was committed by family members against her will to a nearby psychiatric hospital. She complained that her confinement in the hospital was a violation of her right to liberty. She also complained about the medical treatment administered to her, and that she was deprived of a fair investigation due to her association with MISA. The Court ruled that there had been violations of Articles 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life).

Rozalia Avram v. Romania (no. 19037/07) - Chamber Judgment 16 September 2014. The case concerns a building which belonged to the Catholic Church until it was taken over by the state. A number of apartments in the building were sold to private individuals, including the applicant. Later the church brought a claim against the state to recover possession of the building, and the applicant's contract of sale was voided. The Court ruled that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) and will rule on just satisfaction at a later date.

Al Nashiri v. Poland (no. 28761/11) and Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v. Poland (no. 7511/13). Chamber Judgments 24 July 2014 - The applicants are both suspected terrorists held by the CIA at a secret CIA "black site" in Poland. The applicants complained about their detention, and the Court found that there had been violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment) as well as Articles 5, 8, 13, 6 § 1, and (in the case of Al Nashiri) Articles 2 and 3 taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 6. Press releases are available in English and French.

A.D and Others v. Turkey (no. 22681/09) - Chamber Judgment 22 July 2014. The applicants are Chinese nationals of Uighur origin seeking asylum in Turkey. The applicants fled China for various reasons related to state pressure on the Muslim population of China. They complained of having no way of preventing their deportation. The Court ruled that deporting the applicants would be a violation of Articles 2 and 3 in conjunction with Article 13. The Court also ruled that there had been a violation of Article 5 in regards to the length of their detention.

Rakhimov v. Russia (no. 50552/13) - Chamber Judgment 10 July 2014. The applicant is an Uzbek national who appealed the decision to expel him from Russia. He fled Uzbekistan after accusations that he was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international Islamic organization that is banned in Russia. He argued that he would be subjected to torture and ill treatment if returned to Russia. The Court found that his expulsion would amount to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture), and found several other violations regarding the conditions of his detention.

Krupko and Others v. Russia (no. 26587/07) - Chamber Judgment 26 June 2014. The applicants are Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. After being banned in 2004, the Moscow community of Jehovah's Witnesses rented a space with a local university. In 2006 a meeting with more than 400 people was interrupted by police, who detained several members. The Court found in favor of the applicants, and ordered Russia to pay reparations.

Egamberdiyev v. Russia (no. 34742/13) - Chamber Judgment 26 June 2014. The applicant is a Uzbekistani national who was detained on suspicion of belonging to an extremist religious organization. He applied for asylum, claiming a real risk of torture if he was returned to Uzbekistan. The Court found in his favor. 

Biblical Center of the Chuvash Republic v. Russia (no. 33203/08) - Chamber Judgment 12 June 2014. The applicant runs a Pentecostal church in the Russia, which was dissolved by government order in 2007. One of the Center's activities was the establishment of educational institutions for training of clergymen; accordingly the Center in 1996 opened a Bible school, the premises of which were used on Sundays by parent members of the organization to teach their children. In 2007 the church was shut down over safety regulations and the church's lack of an education license, even though the church argued that education is a fundamental part of religion and the Russian Orthodox Church is not required to obtain a license. The Court found that there was a violation of Article 9 interpreted in the light of Article 11 (freedom of assembly). 

Buldu and Others v. Turkey (no. 14017/08) - Chamber Judgment 3 June 2014. The applicants are four Turkish Jehovah's Witnesses who refused to carry out their military service on account of religious convictions. They cited Articles 3 and 9 of the Convention, and said that they were treated unfairly while detained and tried. The Court found that there was no reason for Turkey to override the applicants' religious beliefs, and ruled that there was a violation of Articles 3, 6, and 9. The Court ordered Turkey to pay reparations.

Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and Others v. Hungary (nos. 70945/11, 23611/12, 26998/12, 41150/12, 41155/12, 41463/12, 41553/12, 54977/12, 56581/12) – Chamber Judgment (Merits) 8 April 2014. 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 Communities. It entered into force on 1 January 2012. Apart from the recognized churches listed in the Appendix of the Act, all other religious communities, previously registered as churches, lost their status as churches and could continue their activities as associations. If intending to continue as churches, religious communities are required to apply to Parliament for individual recognition as such.  

The applicants did not obtain re-registration and consequently lost their status as churches, together with the state subsidies that had been due to them as such. The applicants complained under Article 11 – read in the light of Article 9 and, moreover, read alone and in conjunction with Article 14 – that the discretionary re-registration of churches amounted to a violation of their right to freedom of religion and was discriminatory. Under Articles 6 and 13, they complained that the relevant procedure was unfair and did not offer any effective remedy. Furthermore, a number of the applicants complained under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, read alone and in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention, about the loss of State subsidies due to the loss of church status.

In its judgment of 8 April 2014 the Court found in particular that the Hungarian Government had not shown that there were not any other, less drastic solutions to problems relating to abuse of State subsidies by certain churches than to de-register the applicant communities. Furthermore, it was inconsistent with the State’s duty of neutrality in religious matters that religious groups had to apply to Parliament to obtain reregistration as churches and that they were treated differently from incorporated churches with regard to material benefits without any objective grounds. The Court accordingly found a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) read in the light of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court considered that there was no cause for a separate examination of the applicants’ complaints under Article 14 read in conjunction with Article 9 and Article 11, or from the standpoint of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 read alone or in conjunction with Article 14. Furthermore, the Court did not consider it necessary to examine separately the admissibility or the merits of the complaint under Article 6 § 1. 

The Court held, by a majority, that the finding of a violation constituted sufficient just satisfaction in respect of the claims of non-pecuniary damage of five of the individual applicants. Furthermore, the Court held, by a majority, that the remaining questions of the application of Article 41 were not ready for decision. It therefore reserved that question and invited the parties to notify the Court within six months of the date when the judgment becomes final of any agreement that they may reach.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v.  United Kingdom (no. 7552/09) – Chamber Judgment 4 March 2014.  The applicant religious organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, complained under ECHR Article 9, alone and in conjunction with Article 14, of discrimination in regards to loss of statutory tax exemption for one of its places of worship, the Preston Temple in Lancashire, Northern England. The exemption was withdrawn because the Temple is open for worship only by worthy members of the Church and not by the general public. The applicant further complained under Article 1 of Protocol 1 alone and connection with Article 14 that denial of the statutory exemption was disproportionate discimination on the grounds of religion. Finally, the applicant complained under Article 13 of failure by the House of Lords to adequately apply the Convention. By its judgment of 4 March 2014, the Fourth Section declared the complaint under Article 13 inadmissible and the complaint under Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 9 admissible. Finding that the temple was not a public place of worship, the Court held that that there had been no violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 9 and that there was no need to examine separately the complaints under Article 9 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14.