Religious Pluralism and the European Court of Human Rights: Insights from the Cases of Bulgaria and Romania
Introduction to the European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights (henceforth Court or ECtHR) is the court established by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to enforce the ECHR. The ECHR was adopted by the Council of Europe, whose primary aim is to create a common democratic and legal area throughout the European continent, ensuring respect for its fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe was established in Strasbourg in 1949 by 10 founding countries. Today it has 47 member states; all states in geographic Europe are members except Belarus’ (candidate status since 1993). The ECHR was adopted in 1950 and went into force in 1953. Ratification of the Convention is a prerequisite for joining the Council of Europe. The Court began operating in 1959. In 2008 it delivered its 10,000th judgment.
The ECHR has 59 articles and a number of protocols amending it. Of these, the most relevant to religious rights and freedoms are article 9, article 14, and article 2 of the first protocol.
Article 9: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
- Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
- Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.