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Turkey: Refusing worship place to Jehovah’s Witnesses breached human rights law


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Authorities in Turkey breached European human rights law by refusing to provide the Mersin and İzmir Jehovah’s Witnesses with an appropriate place of worship.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Association for Solidarity with Jehovah Witnesses and Others v. Turkey (applications nos. 36915/10 and 8606/13) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 9 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights

As just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Turkey was to pay 1,000 euros (EUR) jointly to the applicants in application no. 36915/10 and EUR 1,000 to the applicant association in application no. 8606/13 in respect of nonpecuniary damage, and EUR 4,000 to the applicants jointly in respect of costs and expenses.

On the basis of a law prohibiting the opening of places of worship on sites not designated for that purpose and imposing certain conditions on the building of places of worship, the private premises which the Mersin and İzmir congregations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been using were closed by the national authorities and their applications to use those premises as places of worship were rejected.

The congregations were also informed that the local development plans comprised no sites which could be used as places of worship.

The court found in particular that the congregations in question were unable to obtain an appropriate place in which to worship on a regular basis, which amounted to such a direct interference with their freedom of religion that it was neither proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, that is to say the prevention of disorder, nor necessary in a democratic society.

The court considered that the domestic court had taken no account of the specific needs of a small community of believers and noted that the impugned legislation made no mention of that type of need, whereas, given the small number of adherents, the congregations in question needed not a building with a specific architectural design but a simple meeting room in which to worship, meet and teach their beliefs.

Source: http://www.humanrightseurope.org/2016/05/turkey-refusing-worship-place-to-jehovahs-witnesses-breached-human-rights-law/

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