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Gromada Ukrayinskoyi Greko-Katolytskoyi Tserkvy Sela Korshiv v. Ukraine, No. 9557/04, ECtHR (Fifth Section), 3 May 2016 (dec.)

Type Judgment
Case number 9557/04


Publicly owned church. Concession of the use of the premises to two different religious communities. The application is inadmissible, as it is manifestly ill-founded.

Normative references

Art. 9 ECHR
Art. 1 Prot. 1 ECHR


1. An applicant can claim a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 only in so far as the measures complained of relate to his “possessions” within the meaning of this provision. “Possessions” can be either “existing possessions” or assets, including claims in respect of which the applicant can argue that he or she has at least a “legitimate expectation” of obtaining effective enjoyment of a property right.

2. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 cannot be interpreted as imposing any general obligation on the Contracting States to return property which was transferred to them before they ratified the Convention. Nor does Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 impose any restrictions on the Contracting States’ freedom to determine the scope of property restitution and to choose the conditions under which they agree to restore property rights to former owners. Under certain circumstances the authorities’ conduct can give rise to legitimate expectations. There is, however, a difference between a mere hope of acquiring a property and a “legitimate expectation” which must be of a nature more concrete and based on a legal provision or a legal act such as a judicial decision. Similarly, no “legitimate expectation” can be said to arise where there is a dispute as to the correct interpretation and application of domestic law and the applicant’s submissions are subsequently rejected by the national courts.

3. Article 9 does not, in principle, prohibit the domestic authorities from prescribing the alternating use of a place of worship by two different religious communities, in particular where this is justified by specific historical circumstances.
(In the present case, a church consecrated to Catholic worship, expropriated during the Soviet regime, had been granted to two different Christian communities, one Orthodox and one Catholic (the applicant). The latter had taken legal action asking, unsuccessfully, its exclusive ownership of the building to be ascertained and declared. In declaring the appeal inadmissible, as manifestly ill-founded, the Court notes, among other things, that the assignment of the church to the two communities, called to alternate in its enjoyment, was a reasonable and proportionate measure, respectful of the interests of both)