Muslim asylum-seekers and conversion: A v Switzerland

The ECtHR has concluded that an asylum-seeker who has converted to Christianity will not necessarily face persecution if returned to Iran.

In A v Switzerland [2017] ECHR (no. 60342/16), the applicant, an Iranian, entered Switzerland in 2009 and immediately claimed asylum. He brought three sets of asylum proceedings, all without success. In his second application, he submitted at a hearing that he would be at risk if returned to Iran because he had converted from Islam to Christianity. The authorities doubted, however, that his conversion was genuine and rejected his application. Continue reading

Strasbourg upholds Belgian niqab ban: Belcacemi and Dakir

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on two Belgian cases involving bans on wearing the niqab in public.

The background

In Belcacemi and Oussar v Belgium [2017] ECHR 655 [in French], the applicants – Ms Samia Belcacemi (a Belgian national) and Ms Yamina Oussar (a Moroccan national living in Belgium) – challenged the Belgian Law of 1 June 2011 banning the wearing in public places of clothing which partially or totally covers the face. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 11th December

“It is my fifth topic, whatever it is called”: not so much religion this week but quite a lot of law…

Brexit (continued)

On Wednesday, the Commons voted by 461 to 89 in favour of a motion, including a Government amendment [in red], as follows:

“That this House recognises that leaving the EU is the defining issue facing the UK; notes the resolution on parliamentary scrutiny of the UK leaving the EU agreed by the House on 12 October 2016; recognises that it is Parliament’s responsibility to properly scrutinise the Government while respecting the decision of the British people to leave the European Union; confirms that there should be no disclosure of material that could be reasonably judged to damage the UK in any negotiations to depart from the European Union after Article 50 has been triggered; and calls on the Prime Minister to commit to publishing the Government’s plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked, consistently with the principles agreed without division by this House on 12 October; recognises that this House should respect the wishes of the United Kingdom as expressed in the referendum on 23 June; and further calls on the Government to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017.“

Continue reading

Conscientious objection again: Savda v Turkey

On 1 August 2006 five members of the Anti-Militarist Platform met in front of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul in support of Israeli conscientious objectors. In the course of the gathering, Mr Savda read out a press statement entitled “We are in solidarity with the Israeli conscientious objectors”. He was arrested and charged and in August 2008 he was sentenced to five months in prison for having incited the population to evade military service by means of a public statement. Continue reading

Prison conditions, religious observance and Article 9 ECHR: Berghea and Turan v Romania

In Berghea and Turan v Romania [2016] ECHR 972 [in French] Mr Berghea and Mr Turan both complained before the Fourth Section ECtHR about their treatment in prison.

Mr Berghea is Jewish. He said that he had repeatedly asked to see a rabbi in prison and had indicated to the prison authorities that he was willing to pay the costs involved, but that his requests had been refused [7]. He also alleged that the Orthodox prison chaplain had repeatedly asked him to convert [8]. Mr Turan is Muslim: he alleged, inter alia, that the meals provided to him during his detention were not in conformity with the prescriptions of Islam because they were prepared with pork or pork fat [15]. Both applicants alleged that that they had been prevented from practising their religion by the prison authorities in violation of Article 9 ECHR [30]. Mr Turan also alleged that the physical conditions of his detention breached Article 3 [22]. Continue reading

Compensation to victims of the 2001 Holy Cross Primary School protests

The Holy Cross demonstrations

In 2001 there were a series of violent demonstrations against parents of some of the pupils of Holy Cross Girls’ Roman Catholic Primary School walking with their daughters to and from the school along through a Protestant area of the Ardoyne Road, Belfast, by so-called Loyalists. (For those unaware of the story there is a helpful potted history of events here.) As Lady Hale subsequently summed it up in the House of Lords [below]:

“The world looked on in consternation and amazement in September 2001 as day after day little girls being taken to school by their parents were subjected to a barrage of intimidating clamour, insults, abuse and offensive missiles from bystanders, some of them children themselves, as they walked up the street” [5]. Continue reading

Prisoners’ religious rights: Wojciechowski v Poland

In Janusz Wojciechowski v Poland [2016] ECHR 586 the applicant complained about the inadequate conditions of detention after a criminal conviction: overcrowding, inadequate medical care for a skin condition that he had contracted in the remand centre and unreasonable restrictions on his attending Sunday Mass in the remand centre. The domestic courts had upheld his complaint about overcrowding but had rejected his complaints about inadequate medical care and attendance at Mass. Mr Wojciechowski complained of breaches of Article 3 ECHR (inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 9 (thought, conscience, and religion). Continue reading