Disputed property in Spain, Church privileges and A1P1 ECHR

This morning the Third Section ECtHR handed down judgment in a rather strange case about disputed property at Ribas de Campos, north of Valladolid. The argument turned on double registration and the particular privileges of Roman Catholic bishops to register property. What follows is compiled from the press notice. 

The facts

Sociedad Anónima del Ucieza v Spain [2014] ECHR 1186 [French only] was a dispute over ownership of a medieval church. In 1978 the applicant company (SAdU) had purchased a plot of land at Ribas de Campos in which the church had formed an enclave and registered it in the land register. The land had belonged to the former Premonstratensian monastery of Santa Cruz de la Zarza. In December 1994 the Diocese of Palencia registered the same church in the land register in its own name. The entry was made on the basis of a certificate issued by the Diocese itself; and even though SAdU’s name appeared in the register as the owner of the land in question it was not told in advance about this new entry. Having been informed after the event, SAdU complained to the Diocese, which replied that the property had always belonged to it de facto. Under the Law of 2 September 1841 on the sale of church property, churches and cathedrals and their annexes were excluded from desamortización (sale of church lands).

SAdU’s claim in the domestic courts to cancel the registration of the church and its annexes by the Diocese were unsuccessful. Continue reading