Russia’s Religions Act found in violation of Article 9 ECHR

01 Oct 2009

On 1 October 2009, the European Court of Human Rights handed down its judgment in Kimlya and Others v. Russia, which concerned an application lodged with the Court under the European Convention on Human Rights by two Russian nationals, Mr Kimlya and Mr Sultanov, and an unincorporated religious group, the Church of Scientology of Nizhnekamsk.

The applicants complained about the domestic authorities’ decisions refusing State registration of the applicants’ religious groups as legal entities, which in turn relied upon a legal provision in Russia’s Religions Act that requiring religious groups to be in existence in a locality for 15 years before they could obtain legal entity status.  The applicants complained that this rule prevented their religious groups, which had been in existence in the locality for less than 15 years, from exercising fundamental aspects of the right to practice their religion.  They also maintained that the rule unfairly discriminated against new religious groups.

The Court held unanimously that the resulting situation gave rise to a violation of Article 9 (freedom of religion) read in the light of Article 11 (freedom of association).

Monckton tenant Drew Holiner, who is also a member of the Russian bar, acted for the applicants.

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Drew Holiner