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Metodiev and others v. Bulgaria, No. 58088/08, ECtHR (Fifth Section), 15 June 2017

Type Judgment
Case number 58088/08


Refusal to register a religious association due to the lack of a precise description of its beliefs and its rites in the statute. Violation of articles 9 and 11 of the ECHR.

Normative references

Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 11 ECHR


1. Religious communities traditionally exist in the form of organized structures and, when the organization of such communities is in question, Article 9 must be interpreted in the light of Article 11 of the Convention, which protects the life of associations from any unjustified interference by State. Indeed, their autonomy, as is essential for pluralism in a democratic society, is at the heart of the protection afforded by Article 9.

2. The freedom to establish a legal person to act collectively in a field of common interest is one of the most important aspects of the right to freedom of association, as otherwise that right would be meaningless.

3. With regard, in particular, to the organization of a religious community, the refusal to recognize that community as a Church or to grant it legal personality must also be considered as an interference with the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 9 of the Convention.
(The case revolves around the refusal of the registration of an association called Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The nation authorities argued that its statute did not show how it was different from denominations already registered and, in particular, from the mainstream Muslim faith. In the opinion of the Court, such an approach would lead in practice to the refusal of registration of any new religious association with the same doctrine as an existing religion)