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Hasan and Chaush v. Bulgaria, No. 30985/96, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 26 October 2000


Registration of religious groups. Interference with the internal organisation of a religious community. State’s recognition of one of two rival leaderships of the Muslim community.

Normative references

Art. 9 ECHR

Art. 13 ECHR


1. The autonomous existence of religious communities is indispensable for pluralism in a democratic society and is thus an issue at the very heart of the protection which article 9 of the Convention affords.

2. The right to freedom of religion as guaranteed under the Convention excludes any discretion on the part of the State to determine whether religious beliefs or the means used to express such beliefs are legitimate. State action favouring one leader of a divided religious community or undertaken with the purpose of forcing the community to come together under a single leadership against its own wishes would likewise constitute an interference with freedom of religion.

(In the present case, the Government had removed the two applicants from their positions – respectively of Chief Mufti and secretary to the Chief Mufti’s Office – and registered a new leadership of the Muslim community in Bulgaria. The Court unanimously found that the acts of the national authorities and the subsequent changes in the leadership and statute of the Muslim religious community breached article 9 of the Convention).


In addition to the infringement of article 9 ECHR, in the case at hand the ECtHR found that the Bulgarian authorities also breached article 13 of the Convention, on the ground that neither applicant had an effective remedy in respect of the violation of freedom of religion.