(Application no. 33001/03)
10 December 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Koppi v. Austria,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Christos Rozakis, President,
Sverre Erik Jebens,
George Nicolaou, judges,
and Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 19 November 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
7. The applicant is a member of the “Bund Evangelikaler Gemeinden in Österreich”, which became a registered religious community (eingetragene Bekenntnisgemeinschaft) under the Registered Religious Communities Act 1998 (Bundesgesetz über die Rechtspersönlichkeit von religiösen Bekenntnisgemeinschaften) on 11 July 1998.
On 18 March 2003 the Administrative Court, referring to the above-mentioned decision of 11 November 1998 by the Constitutional Court, dismissed the complaint. This decision was served on the applicant's counsel on 9 April 2003.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
A. The Civilian Service Act
“An exemption from the obligation to perform civilian service shall apply to the following members of recognised religious societies:
1. ordained priests,
2. persons involved in spiritual welfare or in clerical teaching after graduating in theological studies,
3. members of a religious order who have made a solemn vow, and
4. students of theology who are preparing to assume a clerical function.”
B. Religious societies and religious communities
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 14 OF THE CONVENTION TAKEN TOGETHER WITH ARTICLE 9
“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in [the] Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”
Article 9 provides as follows:
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 14 OF THE CONVENTION TAKEN TOGETHER WITH ARTICLE 4
Article 4 §§ 2 and 3 of the Convention reads as follows:
“2. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
3. For the purpose of this article the term 'forced or compulsory labour' shall not include:
(a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of [the] Convention or during conditional release from such detention;
(b) any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;
(c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;
(d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.”
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
2. Holds that there is no separate issue under Article 9 of the Convention alone;
3. Holds that it is not necessary to examine the complaint under Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 4 §§ 2 and 3 (b) of the Convention.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 10 December 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Søren Nielsen Christos Rozakis