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Security and Duty of Protection

Tsavachidis v Greece, 21 January 1999 [ECtHR]

Case no 28802/95

18.  Mr Tsavachidis applied to the Commission on 20 September 1995. He complained that the National Intelligence Service had kept him under surveillance on account of his membership of the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He relied on Articles 5, 8, 9, 11 and 14 of the Convention.

19.  The Commission declared the application (no. 28802/95) partly admissible on 4 March 1997. In its report of 28 October 1997 (former Article 31 of the Convention), it expressed the opinion that there had been a violation of the right to respect for private life secured in Article 8 (thirteen votes to four); that there had been no violation of the right to freedom of religion, secured in Article 9 (nine votes to eight); that no separate issue arose under Article 11 (right to freedom of association) (fourteen votes to three); and that it was unnecessary to consider whether there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention taken together with Articles 8, 9 and 11 (unanimously).

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21.  On 4 November 1998 the Court received the following text from the Agent of the Government:

 

“With reference to your letter of 13 October 1998, I write to inform you that the Government wish to conclude a friendly settlement in this case consisting in the payment of 1,500,000 drachmas for the costs incurred by the applicant in the proceedings before the European Commission of Human Rights and in a statement to the effect that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not, and will not in the future be, subject to any surveillance on account of their religious beliefs. 

I have already contacted the applicant’s representative, Mr Bitsaxis, who agrees to this friendly settlement. 

I consequently request the Court to strike the case out of its list.”

22.  In a letter of 5 November 1998 to the Court the applicant’s lawyer confirmed that agreement in the following terms:

“On behalf of the applicant, Mr Tsavachidis, I am writing to inform the Court that the Greek Government and the applicant have concluded a friendly settlement in the … case which is pending before the Court and is set down for hearing on 12 November 1998.

The Government are stating at this stage of the case that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not subject to secret surveillance on account of their religious beliefs and will never be subject to such surveillance in the future. The Government have also undertaken to pay the applicant the sum of 1,500,000 drachmas for the costs incurred in the proceedings before the European Commission of Human Rights. 

That statement satisfies the applicant, who consequently accepts the friendly settlement of the case. He therefore asks the Court to strike the case out of its list.”

23.  The Delegate of the Commission was consulted and raised no objection.

24.  The Court takes formal note of the agreement reached by the Government and Mr Tsavachidis and notes also that the agreement affords the applicant satisfaction. It would nevertheless be open to the Court, having regard to its responsibilities under Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention, to decide to continue its examination of the case if it were not satisfied that the settlement in question was based on respect for human rights as recognised in the Convention or its Protocols (Rule 62 § 3). However, that is not so in this case. 

25.  In this connection, the Court points out that in a number of earlier cases it had to consider systems of secret surveillance in States other than Greece and to ascertain, under Article 8 of the Convention, that there were adequate and effective safeguards against abuses of such systems (see the following judgments: Klass and Others v. Germany, 6 September 1978, Series A no. 28; Malone v. the United Kingdom, 2 August 1984, Series A no. 82; and Leander v. Sweden, 26 March 1987, Series A no. 116). Furthermore, in the cases of Kokkinakis v. Greece and Manoussakis and Others v. Greece (see the judgments of 25 May 1993, Series A no. 260-A, and 26 September 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-IV, respectively) – in which the facts were, however, different from those of the instant case – the Court had to rule under Article 9 of the Convention on the application of the relevant Greek legislation to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In so doing, it clarified the nature and extent of the Contracting States’ obligations in that regard.

26.  It follows that the case should be struck out of the list.

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Jurisprudence

Criticism Physical attacks Pressure by private bodies Surveillance