Short overview of new book on “Case-law of the European Court of Human Rights on Freedom of Religion and Belief” by Roman Maranov

This book represents Russia's first Russian-English bilingual collection of case law from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).  As we know, the results of judgments passed by the ECHR have not officially been translated into the Russian language, partially due to the fact that the official languages of the Convention and the ECHR are limited to English and French. Therefore, we can only write in reference to the authentic translations of such texts from either one of the Court’s two official languages into Russian. Nonetheless, in Russia, this legal work has not yet been given the attention it deserves by Russian authorities. While decisions made in reference to cases against Russia are, more or less, systematically translated into Russian, decisions made regarding other country signatories of the Convention are translated very selectively. In addition, a large number of decisions made in the 1970s-1990s prior to the reform of the Court and the Commission have also been largely disregarded on the part of state authorities.

The main purpose of this publication is to provide a useful search tool with respect to ECHR case law for readers and those interested in the subject regarding Article 9 of the Convention. This guide includes coverage of 75 separate cases, including the transcriptions of 39 decisions and judgments on cases reviewed by the former Commission on Human Rights and the ECHR in the 50 years that these human rights institutions have existed and pursued issues related to the freedom of conscience. Since Article 9 is closely related to Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention, this book also includes decisions made in accordance with Articles 10 and 11, which have had a large impact on the formation of judicial case-law on issues connected to freedom of conscience. The "card index" is a set of cards that contain a short description of the characteristics of each of the 75 selected cases.

We do not start by presupposing that readers, including lawyers, will have enough time to read this whole edition front to back (or even this preface). We assume just the opposite: given the high pace of modern life and the growing number of judicial precedents set by the ECHR, the main task is namely to facilitate the effective and rapid search for the “right” judicial decisions in question. This guide is designed in such a way that, of the total number of judicial rulings included herein, if one needs to refer to just one specific case, it may be found in a very quick manner.

Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that no collection of judicial practice and policy on the part of the ECHR can serve to replace the so-called HUDOC, an electronic database that contains all decisions and judgments made by the ECHR. While HUDOC is irreplaceable when the reader knows beforehand exactly what decision or judgment he needs to find, either by its name or its number, this book is preferable in terms of becoming familiar with judicial practice on a concrete theme, for instance, with respect to determining the approach to be taken in preparing complaints (in our case, according to Article 9).

There is another argument that weighs specifically in favor of a bilingual version of the publication of decisions of the ECHR.  Since the decisions and rulings on cases are published in English (and French to a lesser extent), difficulties surface with respect to their translation into Russian and in synchronizing the languages, firstly, due to the specifics of the English language itself, and secondly, due to specific terminologies that cannot always be accurately translated into Russian, as several variants in the target language exist and the equivalent concepts in Russian legal theory have not yet been developed.

Since Russian jurisprudence lacks established terms that adequately correspond to these expressions, everything ultimately depends on the translator, who may, to some extent, personally inbue this term with hardly noticeable nuances that nevertheless do, more or less, accurately convey the meaning of the expression in question.

This publication is focused on those cases that have been reviewed by the now-defunct Commission on Human Rights and the ECHR throughout the 50 years of these institutions’ existence and active role in the international protection of human rights in relation to the freedom of conscience.

In light of the above-mentioned reasons, the ECHR decisions included in this book are herein published in two languages – English and Russian. The Russian text should help its readers to quickly familiarize themselves with the decisions and rationale therein and, if necessary, to learn the wording of these particular decisions (keeping in mind that they have been translated by different translators). This publication also offers flexibility in that the reader may easily transfer to referring to the original English text in parallel. From our point of view, this arrangement presents the most efficient option in addressing the need to gain a quick understanding of the decisions and grasp the usage of terminology and expressions required when preparing complaints for submission to the ECHR.

 Roman Maranov


Slavic Center for Law and Justice
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