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Barankevich v. Russia, No. 10519/03, ECtHR (First Section), 27 July 2007


Denial of permit to hold a religious service in a public place. Lack of adequate motivation. Violation of Article 11 of the ECHR interpreted in the light of Article 9.


Normative references

Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 11 ECHR


1. The right to freedom of assembly covers both private meetings and meetings in public thoroughfares as well as static meetings and public processions; in addition, it can be exercised by the participants of the assembly and by those organising it. States must refrain from applying arbitrary measures capable of interfering with the right to assemble peacefully. In view of the essential nature of freedom of assembly and association and its close relationship with democracy there must be convincing and compelling reasons to justify an interference with this right.

2. Although individual interests must on occasion be subordinated to those of a group, democracy does not simply mean that the views of the majority must always prevail: a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair and proper treatment of minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position.

3. In exercising its regulatory power in the sphere of religion and in its relations with the various religions, denominations and beliefs, the State has a duty to remain neutral and impartial. What is at stake here is the preservation of pluralism and the proper functioning of democracy. Therefore, the role of the authorities in such circumstances is not to remove the cause of tension by eliminating pluralism, but to ensure that the competing groups tolerate each other.

4. It would be incompatible with the underlying values of the Convention if the exercise of rights by a minority group were made conditional on its being accepted by the majority. Were it so a minority group's rights to freedom of religion, expression and assembly would become merely theoretical rather than practical and effective as required by the Convention.
(The applicant, pastor of a minority church, had been denied the authorization to hold a religious service in public. The reason for the refusal was that the assembly of the faithful of a minority group could cause discontent among adherents of other religious denominations and provoke public disorder. The Court considers that the measure was not necessary in a democratic society)