Relinquishment in favour of the Grand Chamber in a case concerning the application of Islamic religious (Sharia) law to an inheritance dispute between Greek citizens who are Muslims


Registrar of the European Court (08.06.2017) – The Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to which the case Molla Sali v. Greece (application no. 20452/14) was allocated has relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the GrandC hamber of the Court [1].

Molla Sali v. Greece (application no. 20452/14) 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.

Principal facts

The applicant, Ms Chatitze Molla Sali, is a Greek national who was born in 1950 and lives in Komotini (Greece).

On the death of her husband, Ms Molla Sali inherited his entire estate under the terms of a will drawn up by her late husband before a notary. The deceased’s two sisters contested the will, on the grounds that their brother had belonged to the Thrace Muslim community and that all matters relating to his estate were therefore subject to Islamic law and to the jurisdiction of the mufti rather than to the provisions of the Greek Civil Code. They relied in particular on the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which provided for Islamic customs and Islamic religious law to be applied to Greek nationals who were Muslims.

The two sisters’ claims were dismissed by the Greek courts at first instance and on appeal. In September 2011 the Thrace Court of Appeal found that the decision by the deceased, a Greek Muslim and a member of the Thrace religious minority, to request a notary to draw up a public will,determining for himself the persons to whom he wished to leave his property and the manner in which this was done, was an expression of his statutory right to have his estate disposed of after his death under the same conditions as other Greek citizens. However, the Court of Cassation quashed that judgment on the grounds that questions of inheritance within the Muslim minority should be dealt with by the mufti in accordance with the rules of Islamic law. It therefore remitted the case to a different bench of the Court of Appeal for fresh consideration. On 15 December 2015 the Court of Appeal ruled that the law applicable to the deceased’s estate was Islamic religious law and that the public will in question did not produce any legal effects. Ms Molla Sali appealed against that judgment on points of law.

Complaints and procedure

Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing), taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), Ms Molla Sali complains of the application to her inheritance dispute of Sharia law rather than the ordinary law applicable to all Greek citizens, despite the fact that her husband’s will was drawn up in accordance with the provisions of the Greek Civil Code. She also alleges that she was subjected to a difference in treatment on grounds of religion.

Under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), Ms Molla Sali contends that, by applying Islamic religious law rather than Greek civil law to her husband’s will, the Court of Cassation deprived her of three-quarters of her inheritance.

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 5 March 2014. It was communicated2 to the Greek Government, with questions from the Court, on 23 August 2016. A statement of facts ( submitted to the Government can be found on the Court’s website.

On 6 June 2017 the Chamber to which the case had been allocated relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.

[1] Article 30 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 72 of the Rules of the Court.


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