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RUSSIA: European Court: “Scientology cannot be banned in Russia”

European Court of Human Rights: “Scientology cannot be banned in Russia”

Judges find that arguments that Scientology is not a religion are unpersuasive, and its literature is not “extremist.”

By Massimo Introvigne

 

Bitter Winter (17.12.2021) – https://bit.ly/3e4gtjk – It is becoming almost a mathematical law. Every time Russia crosses swords with Scientology at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Russia loses. In 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2014 the ECHR repeatedly ruled that Scientology had been recognized as a religion (until 2014) in Russia and cannot be banned nor denied registration in Russian republics or cities. This year, the ECHR ruled against Russia for its detention and harassment of a Scientologist, Vladimir Leonidovich Kuropyatnik. Scientology has won every single case at the ECHR where it has complained that its religious liberty has been infringed in Russia.

The ECHR ruling of December 14, 2021, Church of Scientology of Moscow and Others v. Russia, which decided together three separate complaints by Scientologists and their organizations, is however the most comprehensive examination of the issue by the Strasbourg judges to date.

The decision discusses two separate issues, whether Scientology literature can be banned as “extremist,” and whether Scientology organizations can be denied registration as religious and dissolved in Russia based on the argument that Scientology is not a religion. To both questions, the ECHR answered in the negative.

On the first issues, the ECHR noted that books by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, were deemed “extremist” and banned on the basis of the analyses of “experts” whose credentials were as “linguist psychologists,” and which exhibited obvious anti-cult prejudices. Expert reports by scholars of religion submitted by Scientology were declared not admissible.

The “experts” of the prosecution applied to Scientology a definition of “extremism” that the ECHR had already found objectionable in cases regarding the Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses. These “experts” stated that any religion that claims to be superior to others and tries to convert members of other religions, incites religious dissent and hatred against other religious organizations, and is thus “extremist.” Hidden in this definition is the idea that any religion that tries to convert members of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), thus implicitly arguing that its beliefs are superior to those of the ROC, should not be allowed to operate in Russia, a theory and practice that the ECHR has recently declared incompatible with freedom of religion in two cases decided on November 23 where it ruled in favor of the ISKCON, the Hare Krishna Movement, and the Unification Church.

In fact, all religions, including the ROC, argue that their teachings are superior to those of other religions and, if the Russian definitions were applied fairly, should all be banned as “extremist” in Russia. The ECHR told Russia that freedom of religion and of expression can be limited by national concepts of security “only on an exceptional basis and in extreme cases,” when religious literature includes “a direct or indirect call to violence or as a justification of violence, hatred or intolerance.” The ECHR did not find such violent content in Scientology literature (including when it deals with “suppressive persons”), and was skeptical about the competence of the Russian “experts” who had concluded otherwise.

Once again, Russia was lectured on the need that it should accept religious pluralism and proselytization of ROC members by other religions. Majority “religious groups, the ECHR said, cannot reasonably expect to be exempt from all criticism; they must tolerate and accept the denial by others of their religious beliefs and even the propagation by others of doctrines hostile to their faith.” As for Scientology literature, “There is no evidence before the Court that the impugned texts insulted, held up to ridicule or slandered persons outside the Scientology community; nor that they used abusive terms in respect of them or of matters regarded as sacred by them.”

Concerning the registration of Scientology organizations, the ECHR noted that until 2014 Russian courts agreed that Scientology was a religion, although one accused of “religious extremism.” Registration was denied based on technicalities, with the obvious intent to prevent Scientology from operating legally in Russia. When in 2013 Scientology asked the Justice Department for instructions how to prepare its applications for registration in a way that would avoid the technical objections raised, it was told that its violations were “irreparable,” that it would never be registered as a religious organization, and that it should voluntarily dissolve. The Church of Scientology of Moscow was then dissolved by the Moscow City Court in 2015, with the Supreme Court upholding the decision in 2016.

The ECHR noted that, while until 2014 Russian courts regarded Scientology as a religion (although one they did not like), from 2014 the Justice Department and the courts relied, in addition to expert reports declaring Scientology extremist, on a report of 2013 of the Committee of Experts on Religion of the same Justice Department, which had concluded that Scientology is not a religion. Although this is not mentioned in the ECHR decision, this so-called Committee of Experts was an active promoter of the anti-cult ideology, and the notorious anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin was a main force in the committee.

The ECHR found the Russian attitude contradictory. “The applicant church had been officially recognized as a religious organization since 1994, the ECHR wrote, its religious nature was not challenged for several years even after initial unsuccessful attempts to re-register between 1998 and 2000s… During the entire period of its lawful existence the applicant church and individual members had never been found responsible for any criminal offence or dangerous conduct. There is no evidence that the nature of the applicant church’s activities has changed since that time. The authorities grounded their conclusion in this respect on an expert opinion prepared by an expert panel at the Justice Department. It does not seem that they took into account any alternative expert opinions, in particular, those which could be provided by the applicant church.”

The ECHR concluded that the dissolution of the Church of Scientology of Moscow was an illegitimate and “disproportionate” measure.

Russia keeps losing key cases on religious liberty against groups Dvorkin and the anti-cult movement call “cults,” including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Hare Krishna movement, the Unification Church, and Scientology. In 2015, Russia passed a law authorizing its non-compliance with ECHR decisions, opening a dispute with the Council of Europe that has not been settled to-date. It is, accordingly, not certain that Russia will follow the ECHR and recognize to Scientologists their rights to religious freedom. That they are entitled to them is, however, a solemn affirmation by European judges, and one other countries should also take note of.

Download full judgement.

Photo : The Church of Scientology of Moscow. Credits.

 

RELATED ARTICLES

 

https://www.europeantimes.news/2021/12/church-of-scientology-won-again-at-eu-court-in-face-of-violations-of-rights-by-the-russian-government/

https://www.sova-center.ru/religion/news/harassment/harassment-protection/2021/12/d45457/

https://credo.press/240157/

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Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

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Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website





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EUROPEAN COURT/ NORWAY: About the adoption of a Muslim child by a Christian family

Controversy about the adoption of a Muslim child by a Christian family

Child adoption without taking account of the mother’s wishes breached her human rights, the European Court says in the case Abdi Ibrahim v. Norway (application no. 15379/16)    

Registrar of the Court (10.12.2021) –  https://bit.ly/3ypS7ts – In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Abdi Ibrahim v. Norway (application no. 15379/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the decision by the Norwegian authorities to allow the adoption of a child by a foster family against his mother’s wishes. The mother, a Somali national who had moved to Norway, did not ask for her son’s return as he had spent a long time with his foster parents, but wished for him to maintain his cultural and religious roots.

The Court decided to examine the applicant’s wish to have her son brought up in line with her Muslim faith as an integral part of her complaint under Article 8, as interpreted and applied in the light of Article 9 (freedom of religion). It was not necessary to examine separately any alleged failures to comply with Article 9.

The Court pointed out that various interests had been taken into account when placing the applicant’s son in care, not just whether the foster home would correspond to the mother’s cultural and religious background, and that that had complied with her rights.

However, the ensuing contact arrangements between mother and son, which had been very limited and had culminated in adoption, had failed to take account of the mother’s interest in allowing her son to retain at least some ties to his cultural and religious origins.

Indeed, there had been shortcomings in the overall decision-making process leading to the adoption, which had not given sufficient weight to the mother and child’s mutual interest in maintaining ties.

Principal facts

The applicant, Mariya Abdi Ibrahim, is a Somali national born in 1993.

Her child, a son born in 2009 in Kenya before she moved to Norway, where she was granted refugee status, was taken into emergency foster care in late 2010. The parent-child centre where the applicant had initially been staying in order to be assisted in caring for her son had advised the welfare services that the child was at risk.

He was subsequently placed with a Christian family, although the applicant had argued he should go to either her cousins or to a Somali or a Muslim family.

As to contact arrangements, in 2010 mother and child were allowed to meet for two hours, four times per year. This regime was then changed to one hour, six times per year in 2011. In 2013 the authorities applied to allow the foster family to adopt the child, which would lead to the applicant having no contact rights, and for the applicant’s parental rights to be removed for that purpose.

She appealed: she did not ask for the child’s return as he had spent a long time with his foster parents to whom he had become attached, but she sought contact so, among other things, he could maintain his cultural and religious roots.

The High Court ruled by a majority in May 2015 to dismiss the applicant’s appeal and allow the adoption. The decision was largely based on the child’s attachment to his foster home and his negative reaction to contact with the applicant. Moreover, her son was a vulnerable child in need of stability. Adoption would mean that the applicant would not be able to request her son’s return in the future and would remove potential conflict between her and the foster parents. The court also examined issues arising from his being adopted by a Christian family, such as ethnicity, culture and religion.

Between 2013 and the High Court’s decision in 2015 the child and the applicant met twice. The applicant was refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in September 2015.

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 17 March 2016.

The applicant complained about the withdrawal of her parental rights and the authorisation for adoption, relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In its Chamber judgment of 17 December 2019, the Court, deciding to consider the applicant’s complaints under Article 8 of the European Convention alone, held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of that Article.

On 11 May 2020 the Grand Chamber Panel accepted the applicant’s request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber.

Before the Grand Chamber she argued in particular that, throughout her case, she had been vocal about her religious identity and her specific wishes for her son’s upbringing. The adoption had severed all ties to her religion as the foster family had baptised the child.

She also argued that the Court should indicate to the Government measures to be taken under Article 46 (binding force and enforcement), such as reopening the adoption proceedings.

A Grand Chamber hearing on the case was held in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 27 January 2021.

The Governments of the Czech Republic, Denmark and Turkey, as well as the non-governmental organisation AIRE Centre and the child’s adoptive parents were granted leave to intervene in the written proceedings as third parties.

Judgment was given by the Grand Chamber of 17 judges.

Decision of the Court

The principal reason behind the applicant’s request to refer her case to the Grand Chamber was that, in the Chamber’s decision, all her arguments had been examined under Article 8, rather than in part under Article 9. The Court considered, however, that the applicant’s wish to have her son brought up in line with her Muslim faith could be examined as an integral part of her complaint under Article 8, as interpreted and applied in the light of Article 9. It was not necessary to examine separately any alleged failures to comply with Article 9.

The Court went on to note that finding a foster home which corresponded to the applicant’s cultural and religious background had not been the only possibility for complying with the applicant’s rights under Article 8, as interpreted in the light of Article 9. The domestic courts had taken various interests into account throughout the whole process, and in particular the applicant’s son’s psychological stability. Moreover, there was a relatively broad agreement in international law that, in such cases, the authorities were not obliged to place a child in a family sharing his/her religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity or that of his/her parents, but that they did have an obligation to take those factors into account.

In any case, the authorities had made efforts, although ultimately unsuccessful, to find a foster home culturally similar to the applicant but it had not been possible because of a shortage of foster parents from minority backgrounds.

However, the Court found that the contact arrangements after the applicant’s son had been taken into care, culminating in the decision to allow adoption, had failed to take due account of her interest in allowing her son to retain at least some ties to his cultural and religious origins.

Indeed, the overall decision-making process leading to the adoption had not been conducted in such a way as to ensure that all of the applicant’s views and interests had duly been taken into account.

In particular, the key issue in the High Court’s decision had been the child’s attachment to his foster home and his reaction to contact sessions with the applicant; yet the applicant had had very little contact with her son from the outset.

Furthermore, the High Court had focused on the potential harm of removing the child from his foster parents, rather than on the grounds for terminating all contact with his mother. The High Court had apparently given more importance to the foster parents’ opposition to “open adoption”, which would have allowed contact, than to the applicant’s interest in continuing to have a family life with her child.

Nor was the Court convinced by the High Court’s emphasis on the need to pre-empt any future challenges by the applicant with regard to the care order or her visiting rights.

The Court therefore considered that it had not been shown that there had been such exceptional circumstances as to justify a complete and definitive severance of the ties between the child and the applicant, or that the overriding requirement behind that decision had been the child’s best interests.

The Court was not satisfied that in depriving the applicant of her parental responsibility in respect of X and authorising his adoption by the foster parents, the domestic authorities had attached sufficient weight to the applicant’s right to respect for family life, in particular to the mother and child’s mutual interest in maintaining their family ties.

There had accordingly been a violation of Article 8.

Article 46 (binding force and enforcement)

The Court decided not to indicate any measures, either individual or general, to the Norwegian Government.

Individual measures could ultimately entail an interference with the child and his adoptive parent’s current family life, and lead to new issues on the merits.

As for general measures, the Court noted that the State was making efforts to implement the judgments against it concerning child welfare measures and was in the process of enacting new legislation to address any systemic issues.

Article 41 (just satisfaction)

The Court held, unanimously, that Norway was to pay the applicant 30,000 euros (EUR) in respect of costs and expenses. It dismissed, by 14 votes to three, the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.

Separate opinions

Judges Lemmens and Motoc expressed a joint partly dissenting opinion. Judge Serghides expressed a partly dissenting opinion. These opinions are annexed to the judgment.

The judgment is available in English and French.

Photo : European Court in Strasbourg

Further reading about FORB in Europe on HRWF website

Further reading about FORB in Norway on HRWF website





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RUSSIA: Atheist blogger accused of hate speech against the Orthodox Church wins in Strasbourg

Atheist blogger accused of hate speech against the Orthodox Church wins in Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) awarded the head of the Karelian Youth Human Rights Group, Maksim Efimov 10,000 euros as compensation for moral damage. In 2012, the blogger was accused of inciting religious enmity and humiliating the dignity of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)/ Moscow Patriarchate for the post “Karelia vs. Pops”. He had been added to the Russian “list of terrorists and extremists.” Read the full judgment.

Yefimov and Youth Human Rights Group v. Russia (nos. 12385/15 and 51619/15)

Registrar of the European Court (07.12.2021) – The applicants, Maksim Mikhaylovich Yefimov, and Youth Human Rights Group, are a Russian national and a Russian non-governmental organisation respectively. Mr Yefimov was born in 1976 and he founded Youth Human Rights Group in 2000 in Petrozavodsk (Republic of Karelia, Russia).

The case concerns the law in Russia providing that an association may be dissolved if it refuses to expel a member who has been suspected of an extremist offence.

 

In 2011 Mr Yefimov was charged with an extremist offence of hate speech in connection with his publication in which he criticised the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in public life. Two years later, the Youth Human Rights Group was liquidated for failure to expel from its ranks Mr Yefimov, who had been charged with an extremism offence.

 

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mr Yefimov complains of his prosecution for expressing his views. Relying on Article 11 (freedom of association) the applicants complain of the order to expel the first applicant from Youth Human Rights Group and the order to dissolve the latter.

 

Violation of Article 10 in respect of the first applicant
Violation of Article 11 read in the light of Article 10 in respect of both applicants

 

Just satisfaction:
non-pecuniary damage: EUR 10,000 to the first applicant

 

HRWF Comment

Efimov had posted a short note on the newspaper’s website Zero Hour (Час Ноль), “Karelia is fed up with priests” («Карелия устала от попов»), which read as follows:

“Anti-church attitudes are on the rise in the Karelian capital. Nothing surprising about that. Thinking members of society have realised that the church is also a party in power. The Russian Orthodox Church, just like the [ruling] United Russia party, is fooling people with fairy-tales about our good life while raking in money. Total corruption, oligarchy, and the absolute power of security services are the reasons for a revival of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Churches in Karelia are being built with public funds while there is no money for basic needs; ROC gets day nurseries for use at a time when childcare facilities are desperately lacking. Bearded men in fancy robes – modern-day ideology instructors – have filled the television screens. They give their opinion on everything, from canalisation to modernisation. All of this makes normal people puke; unable to do anything about the clerical stranglehold, they express their attitude to the ROC’s provincial officials by tagging walls in places where the Orthodox scum hangs out. ‘Pay and pray’, ‘Christ is dead’ [is written] on the walls of the Orthodox Centre in Petrozavodsk … which once was a day nursery.”

With such “an offence”, many people in France, Belgium and other EU countries would be prosecuted for hate speech against the dominant religion.

 

More incidents and cases of “offending the feelings of believers in Russia” here in Russian and in English with the automatic translation.

 

Photo : Picture of Maksim Yefimov (Credit: Credo Press)

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website





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RUSSIA: Hare Krishna and Mikhail Frolov win their case against Russia in Strasbourg

Centre of Societies for Krishna Consciousness in Russia and Frolov v. Russia (no. 37477/11)

Press Release by the Registrar of the Court (23.11.2021) – https://bit.ly/3l6PY0h – The applicants are the Centre of Societies for Krishna Consciousness, a religious organisation under Russian law based in Moscow, and a Russian national Mikhail Aleksandrovich Frolov.

The case concerns the applicants’ attempts to challenge hostile descriptions of the Krishna movement and the refusal of permission to hold public religious events promoting the teachings of Vaishnavism.

Relying on Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), the applicant organisation complains in particular that a brochure “Watch out for cults!” produced by the Ulyanovsk Region described the Krishna movement as a “totalitarian cult”, accusing it of “psychological manipulation” and “zombification” of the youth. It alleges that such descriptions breached the regional authority’s duty of neutrality and impartiality towards the Krishna movement, an officially registered religious organisation.

Mr Frolov complains that the authorities’ refusals to let him hold meetings, because promoting Vaishnavism did not correspond to the purposes of a public event under the relevant law and was incompatible with respect for the religious beliefs of others, breached his rights under Article 9 and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association).

Violation of Article 9 in respect of the applicant organization

Violation of Article 11 interpreted in the light of Article 9 in respect of Mr Frolov

Just satisfaction: non-pecuniary damage: EUR 7,500 to each applicant costs and expenses: EUR 2,000 to the applicants jointly

 

HRWF Comment

Noteworthy is the following passage of the European Court decision 43.

Accordingly, the Court finds that, by using derogatory language and unsubstantiated allegations for describing the applicant centre’s religious beliefs and the ways in which they are expressed, the Russian authorities have overstepped their margin of appreciation. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention.

and the European Court decision:

The Court unanimously

  1. Declaresthe complaints concerning the “anti-cult” campaign of the Ulyanovsk Government and the withholding of approval for planned public religious events admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible;
  2. Holdsthat there has been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention in respect of the applicant centre;
  3. Holdsthat it is not necessary to examine separately the complaint under Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 9;
  4. Holdsthat there has been a violation of Article 11 of the Convention, interpreted in the light of Article 9, in respect of Mr Frolov;
  5. Holds

(a)  that the respondent State is to pay, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:

(i)  EUR 7,500 (seven thousand five hundred euros) to each applicant, plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;

(ii)  EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros) to the applicants jointly, plus any tax that may be chargeable to them, in respect of costs and expenses;

(b)  that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;

  1. Dismissesthe remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 23 November 2021, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Further reading about FORB in EU on HRWF website

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website





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RUSSIA: Expulsion of two Moonist missionaries condemned by Strasbourg

The European Court condemns Russia for the enforced expulsion of two missionaries of the Church of Unification

Corley and Others v. Russia (Applications nos. 292/06 and 43490/06)

HRWF (24.11.2021) – With this judgment, the European Court has just confirmed again that the protection of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights does not only concern historical religions and belief systems with institutional characteristics but also newer religions, which is the case of the Church of Unification. Counter-cult, anti-cult organizations and “cult-watching” state agencies discriminating between so-called cults and religions – a stigmatizing process – should give up their argument that so-called cults are not religious or belief systems. The European Court thinks otherwise. Its judgements are parts on the rule of law and are in line with the U.N. standards:

UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 22: The Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion (Article 18), 27 September 1993, UN Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, para. 2.

“Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms “belief” and “religion” are to be broadly construed. Article 18 of the ICCPR is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs “with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility on the part of a predominant religious community.”

Report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, U.N. Doc A/61/340, 13 September 2006, pp. 49-51

“(…) when religious minorities are groups that follow a so-called non-traditional or newer religion, the members of these communities may be the object of suspicion and, consequently, suffer greater limitations to their right to freedom of religion or belief.”

 

Multiple violations in enforced expulsions from Russia of two foreign missionaries

Registrar of the European Court (23.11.2021) – In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of Corley and Others v. Russia (application nos. 292/06 and 43490/06) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 (procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens) to the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the two missionary applicants (Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi);

a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement) to the European Convention in respect of Mr Igarashi;

a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the Convention in respect of Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi;

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) in respect of Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi and their families;

a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) on account of Mr Igarashi’s degrading conditions of detention; and

a violation of Article 5 §§ 1 and 5 (right to liberty and security) in respect of Mr Igarashi.

The case concerned the sudden and enforced expulsion from Russia of two missionaries of the Unification Church, ostensibly for violating residence regulations.

The Court found in particular that the authorities had deliberately expedited the proceedings, dispensing with the legal formalities and thus denying Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi the possibility of exercising their procedural rights prior to their expulsion.

As nothing indicated that they had been engaged in any activity other than missionary work, the Court found that their forced departure constituted interference with their right to freedom of religion. Having regard to the pattern of involvement of the security services in their expulsions, it concluded that their expulsions had been undertaken to stifle the spreading of the teaching of the Unification Church in Russia.

Principal facts

The applicants are two missionaries of the Unification Church, a religious movement founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and their families. Mr John Corley, his wife Renée and their son Nikolai, born in 1953, 1952 and 1995 respectively, are American nationals and now live in Irvington, NY, USA. Mr Shuji Igarashi, his wife Toshiko and their daughter Hanae, are Japanese nationals, born in 1946, 1947 and 1982 respectively, and now live in Kawasaki, Japan. Since 1990 and 1993 respectively, Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi had lived in Russia with their families and worked as missionaries.

In early 2006, they were both suddenly expelled from Russia ostensibly for having violated residence regulations.

At that time, Mr Igarashi was the highest-ranking official in the Unification Church of Eurasia, and Mr Corley’s supervisor. Both had been supervisors of Patrick Nolan, the applicant in Nolan and K. v. Russia, (no. 2512/04) of 12 February 2009).

In the case of Mr Corley, State officials showed up at his home towards the end of December 2005 and demanded his identity documents purportedly to check his registration with the Passport and Visa Department. His passport was given back to him three days later with a new leave to remain which expired before the end of winter holidays. Due to the closure of the courts during the holidays, no judge to consider his application for suspensive relief could be found. A day after his leave to remain expired, he was presented with an administrative offence report, a judgment finding him guilty as charged, and a fine. He was ordered to leave the country immediately and was escorted to the airport by uniformed officials, where he boarded a flight to Latvia. His application for judicial review filed from abroad was unsuccessful.

In the case of Mr Igarashi, in February 2006 he went to a rural location near Yekaterinburg to participate in a religious seminar. Less than three days later, on a Sunday morning, six officers from the local police and security services arrived at the seminar venue to check his passport and charged him with failure to register his stay with the local police. A local court was opened especially for him on a Sunday; it convicted Mr Igarashi that same morning and issued a fine and an order for his expulsion from Russia. Pending expulsion, he was to be detained. Mr Igarashi was detained in Yekaterinburg detention centre, in allegedly overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Police officials offered him release in exchange for his waiver of his right to appeal and acceptance to pay for expulsion expenses. Mr Igarashi signed the waiver and was taken directly to the airport. He was accompanied on the flight to Moscow by two officers of the Federal Migration Service and left Russia the same day.

Appeal against the judgment which Mr Igarashi lodged from Japan was successful; an appeal court found that Mr Igarashi had not committed any administrative offence.

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court

Relying on Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 (procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens) and Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention, Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi complained that the measures against them had not been carried out lawfully, that they had not benefited from the requisite safeguards and that their enforced departure from Russia had been part of a pattern of expulsions of the Unification Church’s missionaries aimed at stifling the spread of Unification Church in Russia. They also alleged under Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) that their enforced departure from Russia had interfered with their family lives. In addition, Mr Igarashi complained under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement) and Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of his heavy-handed arrest, the unseemly haste of his same-day conviction and imprisonment and the use of the degrading conditions of his detention to bargain for his agreement to drop any appeal and to immediately leave Russia. Relying on Article 5 §§ 1 (f) and 5 (right to liberty and security) he alleged that he had been unlawfully detained but had no right under Russian law to compensation for wrongful imprisonment.

The applications were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 4 January and 23 October 2006 respectively. Given the similar subject matter, the Court examined the applications jointly in a single judgment. Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Georges Ravarani (Luxembourg), President,

Dmitry Dedov (Russia),

María Elósegui (Spain),

Darian Pavli (Albania),

Peeter Roosma (Estonia),

Andreas Zünd (Switzerland),

Frédéric Krenc (Belgium),

and also Milan Blaško, Section Registrar.

Decision of the Court

Article 1 of Protocol no. 7

The Court noted that the domestic authorities had used a stratagem to get hold of Mr Corley’s valid leave to remain. His identity documents had been taken away from him on the pretence of checking them; he had not been given advance warning of the decision to replace his leave to remain and he had been unable to ascertain the reasons for that decision or to submit reasons against it. The Migration Service’s decision replacing his leave to stay with a shorter one did not cite a specific legal basis for that measure. Moreover, Mr Corley’s new leave to remain was issued one day after the Russian courts had closed for the winter holidays. It was set to expire before they would reopen for business after the holidays. By timing the new leave to stay to coincide with a holiday period, the Russian authorities had consciously created a situation in which Mr Corley’s application for review could not be considered before his expulsion. He had therefore been denied a realistic possibility of exercising his rights under Article 1 § 1 of Protocol No. 7.

Mr Igarashi had likewise been induced into believing that the police merely intended to check his documents. He could not have anticipated that he would be charged with a breach of residence regulations before the grace period for registering a new residence had expired. The unusually fast pace of events and the suddenness with which Mr Igarashi had been charged, tried, convicted, served with an expulsion order and placed in detention pending expulsion in the course of just one Sunday morning indicated that the authorities had sought to prevent him from making any effective use of the remedies theoretically available to him.

The waiver of the right to appeal that he had been made to sign was invalid under Russian law and was not once mentioned in the ensuing appeal proceedings. The circumstances in which a court convicted and imprisoned Mr Igarashi for an offence he had not committed, and in which his liberty was leveraged in order to expedite his departure, disclosed the authorities’ determination to make him leave Russia by all means possible with little concern for legal formalities. As with Mr Corley, the authorities had deliberately created a situation in which Mr Igarashi had been denied the possibility of exercising his rights under Article 1 § 1 of Protocol No. 7 prior to his expulsion.

There had therefore been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 in respect of both of them.

Article 2 of Protocol no. 4

Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 guarantees the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose their residence to everyone who is “lawfully within the territory of a State”. The Court noted that the appeal court had quashed Mr Igarashi’s conviction on the grounds that he could not be sanctioned for failing to register a change of his place of stay prior to the expiry of the statutory three-day time- limit. It had thus been acknowledged that that measure had not been legal. There had therefore been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 in respect of Mr Igarashi.

Article 9

Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi had come to Russia in 1990 and 1993, respectively, at the invitation of the Unification Church, a religious association officially registered in Russia. Both of them were compelled to leave Russia in 2006 on allegedly formal grounds which were not ostensibly related to their religious work. Nevertheless, there were indications that their enforced departure was connected with the exercise of their right to freedom of religion and was aimed at preventing the spreading of the teaching of the Unification Church in Russia.

As there was nothing to indicate that either of them held any employment or position outside the Unification Church or engaged in anything other than religious work, the Court concluded that the reasons for their enforced departure were connected with that work. The pattern of involvement of the security services in the enforced departures of members of the Unification Church from Russia suggested that those measures had been taken for the purpose of repressing the exercise of their right to freedom of religion and stifling the spreading of the Church’s teaching in Russia. As the interests of national security could not serve as a justification for any measures interfering with the right to freedom of religion, and as the Government had not put forward any justification for the involvement of security services in what was claimed to be an ordinary breach of residence regulations, the Court found that there had been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention.

Article 8

Following their enforced departure from Russia, Mr Corley and Mr Igarashi were separated from their wives and children, who had not been able to follow them immediately due to their community ties in Russia. The measures forcing them to leave amounted to interference not just with their right to respect for family life but also that of their family members. As the Court had found that their expulsion had been carried out in breach of domestic law, such an interference had not been justified. There had therefore been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention in respect of all the applicants.

Article 3

The Court has already found that overnight detention in police cells designed for short stays only and lacking the amenities indispensable for prolonged detention discloses a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. Following a summary trial, Mr Igarashi had been placed in conditions in which no provision had been made for meeting his basic needs. The cell was cold, sleeping arrangements were rudimentary, and basic personal hygiene items were lacking. He had therefore been subjected to “degrading treatment” in breach of Article 3 of the Convention.

Article 5

The Court considered that Mr Igarashi’s detention had been arbitrary and violated the lawfulness requirement under Article 5 § 1 of the Convention. However, he had had no enforceable right to compensation because of the restrictive wording of the relevant provisions of the Civil Code. There had therefore been a violation of Article 5 §§ 1 and 5 of the Convention in his respect.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The Court held that Russia was to pay Mr Igarashi 1,270 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damage, EUR 10,000 to Mr Corley and EUR 15,000 to Mr Igarashi in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 4,000 to the applicants jointly in respect of costs and expenses.

The judgment is available only in English.

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The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

Photo: news.bbc.co.uk

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