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A ‘good faith’ interpretation of the right to manifest religion? The diverging approaches of the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee

  • Stephanie E. Berry (a1)

Abstract

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and UN Human Rights Committee have reached contradictory decisions in cases concerning the right to manifest religion. This discrepancy calls into question the universality of the right and is problematic from the perspective of legal certainty. Consequently, this article explores the extent to which the diverging decisions of these two bodies are compatible with a good faith interpretation of the right to manifest religion. A good faith interpretation of the right is identified by utilising the travaux préparatoires and subsequent interpretations. It is argued that by failing to scrutinise the necessity of restrictions and the role of secularism, the ECtHR has undermined this good faith interpretation and, in so doing, is not fulfilling its role as ‘the conscience of Europe’.

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Corresponding author

Stephanie E. Berry, Lecturer in Public Law, University of Sussex. Email: s.e.berry@sussex.ac.uk

Footnotes

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The author acted as a legal adviser for the applicant in the case of SAS v France App no 43835/11 (ECtHR 1 July 2014). The author would like to thank Jo Bridgeman, Alex Conte, Elizabeth Craig, Peter Cumper, Paul Eden, Edward Guntrip, Kristin Henrard, Jill Marshall, Susan Millns and Alexandra Xanthaki for their comments on earlier drafts. She would also like to extend her thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback. All errors and omissions remain the author's own.

Footnotes

References

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1. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms CETS No 005, entered into force 3 September 1953 (ECHR).

2. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 999 UNTS 171, entered into force 23 March 1976 (ICCPR).

3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights GA Res. 217A (III), UN Doc A/810 at 71 (1948) (UDHR).

4. Mann Singh v France App no 24479/07 (ECtHR 13 November 2008); Jasvir Singh v France App no 25463/08 (ECtHR 30 June 2009); Ranjit Singh v France App no 27561/08 (ECtHR 30 June 2009).

5. Bikramjit Singh v France Communication no 1852/2008 (HRC 4 February 2013); Ranjit Singh v France Communication no 1876/2009 (2011) 32 BHRC 275; Mann Singh v France Communication no 1928/2010 (2013) 36 BHRC 675.

6. Arts31-33 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1155UNTS 331, entered into force 27 January 1980 (VCLT).

7. T Lewis ‘What not to wear: religious rights, the European Court and the margin of appreciation’ (2007) 56 ICLQ 395 at 408-11. See, further, Evans, MDFreedom of religion and the European Convention on Human Rights: approaches, trends and tensions’ in Cane, P, Evans, C and Robinson, Z (eds) Law and Religion in Theoretical and Historical Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) p 307 ; M Borovali ‘Islamic headscarves and slippery slopes’ (2009) 30 Cardozo Law Review 2593 at 2594.

8. C Evans ‘Individual and group religious freedom in the European Court of Human Rights: cracks in the intellectual architecture’ (2010-2011) 26 Journal of Law and Religion 331 at 336. See, further, Evans, MHuman rights and the freedom of religion’ in Ipgrave, M (ed) Justice & Rights - Christian and Muslim Perspectives (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2009) p 115 .

9. Mann Singh v France, above n 4; Jasvir Singh v France, above n 4; Ranjit Singh v France, above n 4; Bikramjit Singh v France, above n 5; Ranjit Singh v France, above n 5; Mann Singh v France, above n 5.

10. Winterwerp v Netherlands (1979-80) 2 EHRR 387 para 60.

11. L Hoyans ‘What is balanced on the scales of justice? In search of the essence of the rightto a fair trial’ (2014) Criminal Law Review 4 at 15.

12. Sir H Waldock ‘Third report on the Law of Treaties’ [1964] ILC Yearbook vol II, 58 at para 21; Letsas, G A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) pp 7279 .

13. Feldbrugge v The Netherlands (A/99) (1986) 8 EHRR 425 joint dissenting opinion of Judges Ryssdal, Bindschedler-Robert, Lagergren, Matscher, Sir Vincent Evans, Bernhardt And Gersing para 24.

14. Letsas, above n 12, p 70.

15. Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

16. Letsas, above n 12, p 74.

17. Ibid, p 72.

18. Nowak, M UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: CCPR Commentary (Kehl: NP Engel, 2nd edn, 2005) p 411 .

19. Third Committee 15th Session (1960) UN doc A/4625 para 51 in Bossuyt, MJ Guide to the “Travaux Préparatoires” of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987).

20. Kokkinakis v Greece (1994) 17 EHRR 397 para 31. See also, HRC, ‘General Comment No 22’ on ‘The Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion (Art 18)’ UN doc CCPR/C/ 21/Rev.1/Add.4 para 2; A Krishnaswami, Study of Discrimination in the Matter of Religious Rights and Practices, UN doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/200/Rev.1, p 1.

21. UNGA Third Committee of the General Assembly, Record of 127th Meeting, held on 9 November 1948 UN doc A/C.3/SR.127, 395.

22. Krishnaswami, above n 20, p 17; PM Taylor Freedom of Religion: UN and European Human Rights Law and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) p 221.

23. HRC, above n 20, para 4.

24. Dahlab v Switzerland (15 February 2001), App no 42393/98 ECHR 2001-V; Şahın v Turkey (2007) 44 EHRR 5 para 78. HRC, above n 20, para 4.

25. UNGA, above n 21, 390-391.

26. Krishnaswami, above n 20, p 29.

27. Ibid, p 30.

28. Ibid, p 29.

29. Ibid, p 30.

30. Kokkinakis v Greece, above n 20, para 33.

31. Dahlab v Switzerland, above n 24; Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, paras 109-110, 114; Dogru v France (2009) 49 EHRR 8, para 72; Aktasv France App no 43563/08 (ECtHR 30 June 2009).

32. SAS v France (2015) 60 EHRR 11, para 153.

33. Art 18 ECHR.

34. Letsas, above n 12, p 74.

35. Ibid, p 72.

36. UN Commission on Human Rights, ‘Civil and Political Rights, including the Question of Religious Intolerance - Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir’ (9 January 2006) UN doc E/CN.4/2006/5 para 53.

37. Belgian Linguistics Case (A/6) (1979-80) 1 EHRR 252, pp 280-81.

38. Winterwerp v Netherlands, above n 10, para 60.

39. HRC, above n 20, para 8.

40. Crawford, JSovereignty as a legal value’ in Crawford, J and Koskenniemi, M, The Cambridge Companion to International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) p 123 .

41. Statement of M Teitgen (France) at Consultative Assembly 1st Session in Council of Europe Collected Edition of the “Travaux Préparatoires” of the European Convention on Human Rights Volume I: Preparatory Commission of the Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers Consultative Assembly 11 May-8 September 1949 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975) p 40.

42. Harris, D, O'Boyle, M, Bates, E and Buckley, C Harris, O'Boyle & Warbrick: Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2009) p 426 .

43. Xv Italy (1976) 5 DR 83;Hazarand Açikv Turkey (1991) 72 DR 200; Xv Austria (1963) 13 CD 42.

44. Communist Party of Germany v the Federal Republic of Germany App no 250/57 (ECommHR 20 July 1957); BH, MW, HP and GKv Austria (1989) 62 DR 216. See also, MA v Italy Communication 117/1981 (HRC 10 April 1984) para 13.3.

45. ECOSOC ‘Commission on Human Rights Drafting Committee International Bill of Rights’ 11 June 1947 UN doc E/CN.4/AC.1/3/Add.1, pp 101-116.

46. Evans, MD Religious Liberty and International Law in Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) pp 5557 .

47. Statement of Mr Cingolani (Italy) at Consultative Assembly 1st Session in Council of Europe, above n 41, p 62

48. Statement of Mr Everett (Ireland) at Consultative Assembly 1st Session in Council of Europe, above n 41, pp 102-104.

49. Statement of Mr Van der Mandele (The Netherlands) at ECOSOC, Record of 215th Meeting held on 25 August 1958 UN doc E/SR.215, p 644.

50. Statement of Mr Wilson (United Kingdom) at ECOSOC, Commission on Human Rights Drafting Committee Second Session 21st Meeting, held on 4 May 1948 UN doc E/CN.4/AC.1/ SR.21 p 7; UNGA, 145th Plenary Meeting 27 September 1948, p 189; Teitgen, above n 41, p 40; Statement of Mr Kraft (Denmark) at Consultative Assembly 1st Session in Council of Europe,, above n 41, p 66; Statement of Mr Foster (United Kingdom) at Consultative Assembly 1st Session in Council of Europe, above n 41, p 96.

51. Statement of Mr Norton (Ireland) at Consultative Assembly 1st Session in Council of Europe, above n 41, pp 128-130.

52. Ibid.

53. HRC, above n 20, para 9. Darby v Sweden (1989) 56-A DR 166 annex to the decision of the Court cited in C Evans Freedom of Religion under the European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) p 80.

54. HRC, above n 20, para 10.

55. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 107.

56. Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia v Moldova (2002) 35 EHRR 13 para 116; Religionsgemeinschaft der Zeugen Jehovas and Others v Austria (2009) 48 EHRR 17 para 97.

57. Statement of Mrs Roosevelt (USA) at UNGA, Third Committee of the General Assembly, Record of 161st Meeting, held on 27 November 1948 UN doc A/C.3/SR.161, p 724. See also, Statements of Mr Loufti (Egypt). Mrs Mehta (India) and Mr Lebeau (Belgium) at ECOSOC, Commission on Human Rights, Third Session, Summary Record of the 73rd Meeting held on 15 June 1948 UN doc E/CN.4/SR.73, pp 5-6.

58. Statement of Mr Davies (United Kingdom) at UNGA, Third Committee of the General Assembly, Record of 162nd Meeting, held on 27 November 1948 UN doc A/C.3/SR/162 pp 730-731.

59. HRC, above n 20, para 2.

60. Kokkinakis v Greece, above n 20, para 31.

61. Bikramjit Singh v France, above n 5; Ranjit Singh v France, above n 5; Mann Singh v France, above n 5.

62. Mann Singh v France, above n 4; Jasvir Singh v France, above n 4; Ranjit Singh v France, above n 4.

63. The HRC has primarily considered the right to freedom of religion in the context of education, (see for example, Hartikainen v Finland Communication no 40/1978 (HRC 9 April 1981); Waldman v Canada Communication no 694/1996 (1999) 7 IHRR 368; Leirvåg v. Norway Communication no 1155/2003 (2004) 19 BHRC 635), compulsory military conscription (see, for example, Muhonen v Finland Communication no 89/1981 (HRC 8 April 1985); Brinkhof v The Netherlands Communication no 402/1990 (1994) 1-2 IHRR 1992; Foin v. France Communication no 666/1995 (1999) 7 IHRR 354), the registration of religious communities (see, for example, Malakhovsky v Belarus Communication no 1207/2003 (2006) 13 IHRR 60) and indoctrination (Kang v Republic of Korea Communication no 878/1999 (2003) 10 IHRR 932).

64. Prior to the recent cases, the HRC had considered this issue under Art 26 ICCPR in Singh Bhinder v Canada Communication no 208/1986 (HRC 28 November 1989) and, under Art 18, in Hudoyberganova v Uzbekistan Communication no 931/2000 (2005) 19 BHRC 581. However, the State did not justify the restriction, as required by Art 18(3) ICCPR.

65. Kokkinakis v Greece, above n 20. See, the Strasbourg Consortium for a comprehensive list of jurisprudence <http://www.strasbourgconsortium.org/portal.case.php?pageId=10> last accessed 22 April 2016.

66. Karaduman v Turkey (1993) 74 DR 93; Dahlab v Switzerland, above n 24; Şahın v Turkey, above n 24; Phull v France (11 January 2005) App no 35753/03 ECHR 2005-I; Köse and 93 others v Turkey (24 January 2006) App no 26625/02 ECHR 2006-II; Kurtulmuş v Turkey (24 January 2006) App no 65500/01 ECHR 2006-II; El Morsli v France App no 15585/06 (ECtHR 4 March 2008); Mann Singh v France, above n 4; Dogru v France, above n 31; Aktas v France, above n 31; Jasvir Singh v France, above n 4; Ranjit Singh v France, above n 4; SAS v France, above n 32; Ebrahimian v France (26 November 2015) App no 64846/11 ECHR 2015.

67. Dogru v France, above n31; Aktas v France, above n 31; Jasvir Singh v France, above n 4; Ranjit Singh v France, above n 4.

68. Albania, Turkey and Azerbaijan are notable exceptions.

69. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 999 UNTS 171, entered into force 23 March 1976.

70. United Nations Treaty Collection, Chapter V Human Rights, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights <https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en> last accessed 22 April 2016.

71. A Drzemczewski ‘The sui generis nature of the European Convention on Human Rights’ (1980) 29 ICLQ 54 at p 54.

72. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 109. See also, Dogru v France, above n 31, para 72.

73. Xv United Kingdom Application No 4451/70, Report of the Commission of 1 June 1973, Series B no 16, at 12 et seq, 31.

74. Statement of Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (United Kingdom) at Consultative Assembly 1st Session in Council of Europe, Collected Edition of the “Travaux Préparatoires” of the European Convention on Human Rights Volume 2: Consultative Assembly, Second Session of the Committee of Ministers, Standing Committee of the Assembly 10 August—18 November 1949 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975) p 174.

75. HRC, ‘Observations finales concernant le cinquième rapport périodique du France’ UN doc. CCPR/C/FRA/CO/5 para 7.

76. This also raises the issue of applicants undertaking forum shopping, which falls outside the scope of this article.

77. Mann Singh v France, above n 4.

78. Ranjit Singh v France, above n 5.

79. Mann Singh v France, above n 5.

80. Ranjit Singh v France, above n 5, para 5.3.

81. Ibid. para 8.4.

82. Ibid.

83. Ibid.

84. Mann Singh v France, above n 4.

85. This raises questions about the role of the ECtHR and whether it should act as a constitutional court or provide individual justice. This falls outside the scope of this paper. See further, K Dzehtsiarou and A Greene ‘Restructuring the European Court of Human Rights: preserving the right of individual petition and promoting constitutionalism’ (2013) Public Law 710.

86. Bikramjit Singh v France, above n 5.

87. Jasvir Singh v France, above n 4.

88. Ranjit Singh v France, above n 4.

89. Loi no 2004-228 du 15 mars 2004 encadrant, en application duprincipe de laïcité, leport de signes ou de tenues manifestant une appartenance religieuse dans les écoles, collèges et lycées publics. The concept of laïcité is found in Art 1 of the French Constitution and refers to the separation of church and state. It is similar to secularism.

90. Bikramjit Singh v France, above n 5, para 8.2.

91. Ibid, para 8.6.

92. Ibid.

93. Ibid, para 8.7.

94. Ibid.

95. Dahlab v Switzerland, above n 24; Köse and 93 others v Turkey, above n 66; Dogru v France, above n 31.

96. Jasvir Singh v France, above n 4; Ranjit Singh v France, above n 4.

97. Ibid.

98. HRC, Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee - France UN doc CCPR/C/FRA/CO/4, 31 July 2008, para 23.

99. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 109. See also, Dogru v France, above n 31, para 72.

100. H Bielefeldt ‘Freedom of religion of belief - a human right under pressure’ (2012) 1 Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 15 at 32.

101. Lautsi and Others v Italy (2012) 54 EHRR 3 Judge Bonello's concurring opinion para 2.2 [emphasis added].

102. Dogru v France, above n 31, para72. See also, Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, paras 113-114.

103. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 114.

104. Ibid, para 107. Dogru v France, above n 31, para 106.

105. D McGoldrick ‘A defence of the margin of appreciation and an argument for its application by the Human Rights Committee’ (2016) 65 ICLQ 21 at p 52.

106. Kokkinakis v Greece above n 20, para 31.

107. Ebrahimian v France, above n 66, Dissenting opinion of Judge De Gaetano.

108. R Adhar ‘Is secularism neutral?’ (2013) 25 Ratio Juris 404.

109. ECOSOC ‘Civil and Political Rights, including the Question of Religious Intolerance: Report submitted by Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Addendum 2 - Mission to France (18 to 29 September 2005)’ (8 March 2006) UN doc E/ CN.4/2006/5/Add.4, para 96.

110. Adhar, above n 108, p 409.

111. Ibid, p 420.

112. Ibid, p 411.

113. R Sandberg and N Doe ‘Church-state relations in Europe’ (2007) 1 Religion Compass 561 at 565

114. J Temperman State-Religion Relationships and Human Rights Law: Towards a Right to Religiously Neutral Governance (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2010) p 140.

115. Evans, above n 7, p 305; M Evans and P Petkoff ‘A separation of convenience? The concept of neutrality in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights’ (2008) 36 Religion, State & Society 205; PG Danchin ‘Islam in the secular nomos of the European Court of Human Rights’ (2010-2011) 32 Michigan Journal of International Law 663 at 689.

116. Adhar, above n 108, p 415. See also I Leigh and R Adhar ‘Post-secularism and the European Court of Human Rights: or how God never really went away’ (2012) 75 Modern Law Review 1064 at 1083.

117. Bikramjit Singh v France, above n 5, para 8.6.

118. Ebrahimian v France, above n 66, Partly concurring and partly dissenting opinion of Judge O'Leary. See also Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 112.

119. Lautsi and Others v Italy, above n 101, para 72.

120. Dahlab v Switzerland, above n 24.

121. Eweida and Others v United Kingdom (2013) 57 EHRR 8, para 94.

122. Ibid.

123. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 111.

124. Jasvir Singh v France, above n 4.

125. Dogru v France, above n 31.

126. Under Art 31(2) ICCPR, ‘[i]n the election of the Committee, consideration shall be given to equitable geographical distribution of membership and to the representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems’.

127. K Boyle ‘Freedom of religion in international law’ in J Rehman and SC Breau (eds) Religion, Human Rights and International Law: a Critical Examination of Islamic State Practices (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2007) p 43.

128. See, for example, C Evans ‘The “Islamic scarf” in the European Court of Human Rights’ (2006) 7 Melbourne Journal of International Law 52; Evans and Petkoff, above n 115, p 208.

129. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, dissenting opinion of Judge Tulkens para 10; Ebrahimian v France, above n 66, partly concurring and partly dissenting opinion of Judge O'Leary.

130. McGoldrick, above n 105, p 52

131. Lautsi and Others v Italy, above n 101, concurring opinion of Judge Power.

132. Handyside v United Kingdom (1979-80) 1 EHRR 737 para 49.

133. Bikramjit Singh v France, above n 5, para 8.7.

134. 1905 Loi de Séperation des Églises et de l'État.

135. While the Conseil d'Etat had given schools discretion in this respect following the 1989 affaire du foulard, it had expressly noted that religious symbols were not per se incompatible with laïcité. Avis du Conseil D'État Du 27 Novembre 1989, Sur le Port du Voile á L'Ecole.

136. Dahlab v Switzerland, above n 24.

137. Ebrahimian v France, above n 66.

138. Lautsi and Others v Italy, above n 101, Concurring opinion of Judge Power.

139. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 110.

140. Ibid, para 109. See also, Dogru v France, above n 31, para 72.

141. Teitgen, above n 41, p 46.

142. R McCrea Religion and the Public Order of the European Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) pp 22-23.

143. Şahın v Turkey, above n 24, para 109. See also, Dogru v France, above n 31, para 72.

144. Letsas, above n 12, p 79.

145. E Benvenisti, ‘Margin of appreciation, consensus and universal standards’ (1998-1999) 31 New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 843 at 844.

146. Letsas, above n 12, p 79.

147. K Chadwick ‘Education in secular France: (re)defining laïcité’ (1997) 5 Modern and Contemporary France 47 at 55-56.

148. M Hunter-Henin ‘Why the French do not like the Burqa: Laïcité: national identity and religious freedom (2012) 61 ICLQ 613 at 615.

149. Chadwick, above n 147, p 55.

150. SAS v France, above n 32, para 153

151. Ibid, para 149.

152. Letsas, above n 12, p 79.

153. Baby Loup case Cass Ass Plén 25 June 2014, (2014) Rec D 1386; Case C-157/15 Request for a preliminary ruling from the Hofvan Cassatie (Belgium) lodged on 3 April 2015 — Samira Achbita, Centrum voor gelijkheid van kansen en voor racismebestrijding v G4S Secure Solutions NV (2015) 58 Official Journal of the European Union C 205/24, 17-18; Case C-188/15 Asma Bougnaoui, Association de défense des droits de l'homme (ADDH) v Micropole Univers SA (2015) 88 Official Journal of the European Union C 221/03, 2-3.

154. BBC News, ‘France outcry over Muslim schoolgirl's skirt ban’ 29 April 2015 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32510606> accessed 20 April 2016.

155. Statement of Lynn Ungoed-Thomas above n 74.

* The author acted as a legal adviser for the applicant in the case of SAS v France App no 43835/11 (ECtHR 1 July 2014). The author would like to thank Jo Bridgeman, Alex Conte, Elizabeth Craig, Peter Cumper, Paul Eden, Edward Guntrip, Kristin Henrard, Jill Marshall, Susan Millns and Alexandra Xanthaki for their comments on earlier drafts. She would also like to extend her thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback. All errors and omissions remain the author's own.

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A ‘good faith’ interpretation of the right to manifest religion? The diverging approaches of the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee

  • Stephanie E. Berry (a1)

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