Discrimination against Alevis – just satisfaction

In December 2014 we noted Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfi v Turkey [2014] ECHR 1346 [in French], in which the applicant Foundation for Republican Instruction and Culture, which was established as a non-profit entity to manage a number of Alevi places of worship [cemevis], complained about the refusal of the Directorate of Religious Affairs to pay its electricity bills [7]. The Directorate’s grounds for refusal had been that the mechanism for paying the bills was intended to benefit places of worship and cemevis could not be places of worship because there was no such religion as Alevism, historically or scientifically [il n’existe pas de religion appelée « la religion alévie », ni sur le plan historique ni sur le plan scientifique]. The Foundation argued that being deprived of the privilege of free electricity was discrimination, contrary to Article 14 ECHR taken together with Article 9 and contrary to Article 9 on its own.

In its principal judgment of 2 December 2014, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 14 taken together with Article 9 because the system for granting exemptions from payment of electricity bills for places of worship under Turkish law discriminated on the ground of religion. By a majority (Sajó J dissenting), it concluded that there was no reason separately to examine the complaint under Article 9. However, it further held that the question of the application of Article 41 (just satisfaction) was not ready for decision and reserved that question for examination at a later date.

The Court has now ruled on the just satisfaction issue in Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfi v Turkey [2017] ECHR 1346 [in French], holding that the test under its case-law that there must be a causal link between the damage alleged by an applicant and the violation of the Convention had been satisfied.

The applicant’s loss could not be calculated precisely but it did not agree with the Government’s view that it should take account only of the amount that had been the subject of the internal appeal, €12,300 [17]. In its judgment in the main proceedings, it had held that the applicant had been the subject of a difference in treatment without objective and reasonable justification and that the system for granting places of worship exemptions from the payment of electricity bills discriminated on the basis of religion. It would therefore be excessive to require the applicant to institute an internal appeal for each electricity bill to recover the electricity costs of the Yenibosna cemevi from the Directorate of Religious Affairs [18] and, in the circumstances, it would base its calculation on the electricity bills for the cemevi produced by the parties [19] – though it could not ignore the fact that the Yenibosna centre contained many spaces that were not directly devoted to the practice of worship [20].

It awarded the applicant €44,400 pecuniary damages for the cost of lighting the Yenibosna cemevi between June 2007, when the foundation began domestic proceedings, and the date of the present judgment [21]. It also awarded €10,000 for non-pecuniary damage [22]. The applicant had not sought reimbursement of costs and expenses [23].

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Discrimination against Alevis – just satisfaction" in Law & Religion UK, 20 June 2017, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2017/06/20/discrimination-against-alevis-just-satisfaction/

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