ECHR Rules: Turkey Violated Freedom of Religious Assembly

STRASBOURG – The European Court of Human Rights has rendered a judgment against Turkey in the case of Altınkaynak and Others v. Turkey. The court ruled that Turkey had violated the rights of a group of Seventh Day Adventists in 2004 when they attempted to register their religious foundation.

The European Court of Human Rights established today . . . that everyone has the right to choose their religion and to express it publicly and privately. Religious minorities in Turkey must have the right to freely practice their religion as much as any other person.
European Court of Human Rights

Although Turkey ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1954, it has demonstrated a poor record of meeting its obligations. The country denies certain religious groups the freedom to worship together in their own building. According to ADF International, which represented the plaintiffs before the ECHR, Christian groups, in particular, have struggled to gain the necessary legal status to acquire their own building and secure their right of association.

ADF International (Alliance Defending Freedom) was created to win religious freedom around the world. ADF is accredited by the European Parliament and the ECHR. Grounded in the Christian faith, ADF recognizes that “Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) ADF works in cooperation the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Fundamental Rights Agency.

Turkish law essentially prohibits Christians and other religious minorities from worshiping together and acting collectively.

Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF, the attorney for the applicants commented that,

The European Court of Human Rights established today . . . that everyone has the right to choose their religion and to express it publicly and privately. This includes the freedom to do so in community with others. In its judgment today, the Court has clearly recognized that the approach taken by the Turkish officials and courts fell short of the standard set out in the Convention. Religious minorities in Turkey must have the right to freely practice their religion as much as any other person.

Paul Coleman, the Executive Director of ADF International called upon the Turkish government to comply with the court’s ruling and to take measures to safeguard the rights of Christians and other religious minorities living in Turkey.

On January 15, the same day that the ECHR ruled on this case, the European Parliament adopted a “Resolution on EU Guidelines and the mandate of the EU Special Envoy on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU.” The resolution passed by a vote of 576 to 46 with 73 abstentions.

Ján Figeľ, the EU Special Envoy, said, “We need to accept responsibility. Tens of thousands face persecution, discrimination, and even genocide.”

Commenting on the resolution, the European Parliament expressed “deep concerns” over a dramatic rise in violations of freedom of religion . . . worldwide.” It called for a reaffirmation from member states to strengthen their active promotion of freedom of religion.


To read more news on freedoms of religious minorities on Missions Box, go here.


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