The The European Court of Human Rights’ Approach in the Protection of Rights of Religious Minority Groups


  • Chemen Bajalan Chemen Bajalan: is Attorney General and  the Public Prosecutor, KRG Ministry of Justice, Sualiamaniah, Kurdistan Region- F. R. Iraq



ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights), Minorities, Religion, Manifestation of Beliefs, Minorities’ identity, Minorities’ Children’s Education


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is reluctant to distinguish the group right qua group. However, it is impossible to ignore the group dimension in the right to freedom of religion. Such a dimension is clearer in the manifestation of beliefs, which require more common practices than mere beliefs. The Court's decisions when dealing with the freedom of religion tend to be inconsistent because it considers the unique social and political situation of each member state. This limits the scope of the right to freedom of religion and the range of protection of a group's religious rights. Using a literature review and analyzing the case law, this paper highlights the inconsistencies in the Court’s decisions in relation to acknowledging minorities’ religious rights.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

  • Chemen Bajalan, Chemen Bajalan: is Attorney General and  the Public Prosecutor, KRG Ministry of Justice, Sualiamaniah, Kurdistan Region- F. R. Iraq

    Chemen Bajalan has LLM in Human Rights from Queen's University, Belfast (2008). She completed her BA degree in Law, Baghdad University (1992). She has participated in various training programs on: gender, development, law, human rights, conflicts, peace building, trauma healing, restorative justice, education, psychology, sociology, Anfal campaigns, and fighting corruption organized by different international agencies. Her work experience includes management of program on rural rehabilitation, as investigator in the courts and attorney general (2002-present). Her research and publications are in the areas of: minorities language rights, protection of the right of religious minorities, accountability and justice, the rights of indigenous peoples, the scope of using ECHR articles, and formal and substantive equality.


Abdullah, Mariam Rawan (2018). Culture, Religion, and Freedom of Religion or Belief. 102-115. Available at:, last visited 30 September 2020.

Craig, E. (2003). Accommodation of diversity in education- a human rights agenda? Child and Family Law Quarterly, 15 (3), 279-298.

Gilbert, G. (2002). The burgeoning minority rights jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Quarterly, 24 (3), 736-780.

Gilbert, H. (2006). Case comment redefining manifestation of belief in Layla Sahin v Turkey. European Human Rights Law Review, 3: 308-326.

Jones, P.(1999). Human Rights, Group Rights, and Peoples’ Rights. 21 (1), 80-107 Available at:, last visited 05/10/2020.

Krishnaswami, A.(1960). 'Study of discrimination in the matter of religious rights and practice.' E/CN.4/Sub.2/200/Rev.1, UN Sales No. 60. XIV.2. Available at: accessed on 12 August 2019.

Medda-Windischer, R. (2003). The European Court of Human Rights and minority rights. European Integration, 25 (3): 249- 271.

Moravcsik, A. (2000). The Origins of Human Rights Regimes: Democratic Delegation in Postwar Europe, International Organization, 54(2), 217–252. Available at: 10.1162/002081800551163.

Pentassuglia, G. (2012). The Strasbourg Court Minority Groups: Shooting in the Dark or a New Interpretive Ethos? International Journal on Minority and Groups Rights, 19 (1), 1-23.

Singh, Basil R., (2002). Problems and possibility of ethnic minority traditional rights within liberal democracies, The Social Science Journal, 39, 221-234.

Wheatley, S. (2007). Minorities under the ECHR and the construction of a ‘democratic society'. Public Law: 770-792.

Wright, J. (1999). Minority groups, autonomy and self- determination, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 19, 605- 629.

Evans, C. (2001). Freedom of Religion Under the European Convention of Human Rights. Oxford University Press. Oxford: UK.

Fawcett, J.E.S. (1987). The application of the European Convention on Human Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.UK

Henarrd, K. (2000). Devising an adequate system of minority protection individual human rights, minority human rights and the right to self-determination. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. Leiden: The Netherlands.

Ovey, C. and White R.C.A. (2006). The European Convention on Human Rights. Oxford University Press, Fourth edition. Oxford: UK.

Palmer, E. (2007). Judicial review, socio-economic and the human rights act. Oxford: Hart Publishing. UK

Vatte, Adrian (2014). Who supports minority rights in popular votes? Empirical evidence from Switzerland, Electoral studies, 36: 1-14. Available at:, last visited 15/ 10/2020

Law Cases
Arrowsmith v. the United Kingdom, (App. No 7050/75), 8 E. Comm'n H.R. 123, December 1975.

Belgian linguistic case, European Court of Human Rights, (1979-1980) 1 EHRR 252.

Campbell and Cossans v. the United Kingdom, 48 European Court of Human Rights, Ser. A, No. 48, 25 February 1982.

Choudhury v. the United Kingdom, (App. No 17439/90), 5 March 1991.

Church of X v. the United Kingdom, (App. 3798/68), 13 Y.B. 306 Eur. Comm'n H. R. 1968.

Hassan and Chaush v. Bulgaria, (App. 30985/96), ECtHR, (Grand Chamber), 26 October 2000. 1339.

Hassan and Eylem Zengin v. Turkey, (App.1448/04), 9 October 2007.

Izzettin Dogan and Others v. Turkey, (App. 62649/10), 26 April 2016.

Khan v. the United Kingdom, (App. No 11579/85), 48 E. Comm'n H. R. 253, December 1986, p. 255.

Karadoman v. Turkey, E. Comm'n H.R., D.R. 74(93), 3 May 1993.

Kokkinakis v. Greece, 260-A ECtHR (ser. A)1993.

Kottinen v. Finland, (App. No 24949/94), 3 December 1996.

Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v. Denmark, judgement of 25 February 1982, Serious A, No 23, (1979-1980).
Metropolitan Church of Bessarbia and Others v. Moldova, (App. No.45701/99), 27 March 2002.

Murphy v. Ireland, (App. No 44179/98), (3d section), 3 December 2003.

S.A.S. v. France, (App. No, 43835/11,) 1 July 2014. Available at:

Serif v. Greece, 38178/97, European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), 14 December 1999.

Stedman v. United Kingdom, (App. No 29107/95), 9 April 1997.

Supreme Holy Council of Muslim Community v. Bulgaria, (App. No 39023/97), 13 December 2001.

United Christian Broad. Ltd. v. United Kingdom, (App. No 44802/98), European Court on Human Rights (Third Section), 7 November 2000.

X v. Austria, (App. No 8652/79), 26 E. Comm's H. R. 86, December 1981.

X v. Germany, (App. No 8741/79), E. Comm'n H.R., December 1918.

X v. the United Kingdom, (App. No 7291/75), E. Comm'n H.R., December 1977.

X and Church of Scientology v. Sweden, (App. 7805/77), 16 E. Comm'n H.R Dec. and Rep. 68, 1979.

97 members of the Gldani Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and 4 others v. Georgia, (App. No 71156/01), 3 May 2007.


The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950 entered into force in 1953.

Factsheet freedom of religion. Available at:,%2C%20teaching%2C%20practice%20and%20observance last accessed on 12 September 2019.

General Comment No. 22: The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Art. 18) :. 30/07/93.
CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, General Comment No. 22. (General Comments)

Overview of the Court’s case-law on freedom of religion, Council of Europe/European Court of Human Rights, 19 January 2011 and updated on 31 October 2013. Available at:

United Nation General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief 23 December 2015, A/HRC/31/18.

Equal rights trust (1993).





Research Articles

How to Cite

The The European Court of Human Rights’ Approach in the Protection of Rights of Religious Minority Groups. (2020). UKH Journal of Social Sciences, 4(2), 28-41.

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 > >>