European Court on Human Rights upholds the fundamental rights of Russian Scientologists
Brussels: On 2nd of October 2014 the European Court on Human Rights issued a decision finding that the refusal to register the Church of Scientology of Saint Petersburg violated Articles 9 and 11 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
A group of Russian citizens including six members of the religious group of Scientologists filed a complaint to the ECHR, because the authorities illegally refused to register the group as a legal entity.
The Scientologists from this group headed by Galina Shurinova filed six requests for registration of the Church between March 1995 to August 2003. The registration bodies refused the applications, each time having new grounds for the refusal.
The applicants challenged the refusals in court. The Saint Petersburg district court considered that the refusal in registration is per the law because of the lack of reliability of the document confirming the existence of the group for 15 years. In May 2006 this decision was left in force.
Because of this refusal the applicants had to apply to the ECHR to defend their rights. They referred to the Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and in the light of the Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the Convention, which Russia has pledged to honor.
This is the third important decision of the European Court to protect religious freedom in cases where Church of Scientology is involved. In 2007 the European Court determined a violation of the Convention in the case regarding the re-registration of the Church of Scientology Moscow. Then in 2009 the ECHR determined a violation the Convention in the case on registration of Churches of Scientology in Surgut and Nizhnekamsk..
One of the initiators of application to ECHR Nadezhda Schemeleva said: “We hope that this decision of the European Court will help the authorities to bring the law on freedom of conscience in line with international standards. I am proud that by standing for their rights Russian Scientologists create the foundation for bigger religious freedom for all ”
This decision is binding on all 46 member nations of the Council of Europe.
The Scientology religion was founded in the USA in 1954 by the L. Ron Hubbard. The Scientology community includes now over 11,000 Churches, missions and groups in 184 countries and millions of parishioners. Over 50 Scientology groups and missions work in Russia from Saint Petersburg to Vladivostok.