EGMR: Forthcoming judgment on Tuesday 3 September 2019 – Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Kryvyi Rih’s Ternivsky District v. Ukraine (no. 21477/10)

The applicant community is the Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Kryvyi Rih, Ternivsky District, Dnipropetrovsk Region. The case concerns the community’s complaint that it was not able to construct a building for worship on land it had purchased owing to the domestic authorities’ inactivity.

In 2004 the applicant community purchased a residential building in Kryvyi Rih in order subsequently to erect a place of worship, a “Kingdom Hall”, on the site. In February 2005 the city’s Architecture and Planning Council approved the placement of the Kingdom Hall on the land and seven months later the city’s planning authority submitted a draft decision to approve a land allocation project and to grant the applicant community a lease, but this plan was not adopted at subsequent City Council meetings.

In February 2007 the applicant community initiated a first set of proceedings against the City Council, seeking to have its lack of activity declared unlawful. In June 2007 the Regional Court allowed the claim, but in August 2007 a draft decision on the applicant community’s project failed to get enough votes to be adopted by the City Council.

In January 2008 the community lodged a second claim against the City Council for a declaration that it had the right to lease the plot of land and for the City Council to be ordered to enter into a lease agreement. In December 2008 the Regional Court rejected the claim, holding in particular that land allocation decisions fell within the exclusive competence of councils and that the courts could not replace the City Council and take the decision in its place. All further appeals by the religious community were rejected.

Relying on Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), the applicant community alleges that the City Council’s failure to allow it to establish a place of worship had breached its rights.

Relying on Article 6 § 1 (access to court), and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), the community further complains that, owing to the domestic courts’ decisions refusing to order the Council to issue the necessary decision, the City Council was allowed to exercise its discretion in an arbitrary and illegal manner.

Press release ECHR 290 (2019) 29.08.2019

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