Capacities to be Enjoyed by Non-Governmental Organizations

The Holy Monasteries v Greece, 9 December 1994 [ECtHR]

Cases nos 13092/87 and 13984/88

83.   The Court has already found that the Greek legislation has vested the applicant monasteries with legal personality in public law in their legal relations in order to afford them greater protection (see paragraph 49 above). It notes, moreover, that at the time when the ODEP - a majority of whose governing body’s members were appointed by the Church authorities - managed the monasteries’ property to be realised, the monasteries had capacity to take legal proceedings.
By depriving them of any further possibility of bringing before the appropriate courts any complaint they might make against the Greek State, third parties or the Greek Church itself in relation to their rights of property, or even of intervening in such proceedings, section 1(1) impairs the very essence of their "right to a court" (see the Philis v. Greece judgment of 27 August 1991, Series A no. 209, p. 23, para. 65; and the Fayed v. the United Kingdom judgment of 21 September 1994, Series A no. 294-B, pp. 49-50, para. 65).

84.   There is therefore a breach of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) in relation to the first complaint of the applicant monasteries not parties to the agreement of 11 May 1988.

85.   As regards the second complaint, the Court, having regard to its conclusion under paragraph 78, notes again that this complaint can only be made by monasteries not parties to the agreement of 11 May 1988.
It is well-established in the Court’s case-law that as a matter of principle Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) guarantees a right of access to the courts for the determination of claims (contestations) under domestic law concerning compensation payable for expropriation of property (see, inter alia, the Lithgow and Others judgment previously cited, p. 70, para. 192). The applicants could not derive any entitlement to compensation from Law no. 1700/1987, which assumed that ownership of the land was not vested in the monasteries (see paragraph 31 above). In view of the previous finding under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) in respect of the absence of compensation under Law no. 1700/1987 (see paragraph 74 above) and the finding made at paragraph 84 above, the Court does not consider it necessary to examine further this complaint under Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).

86.   The applicant monasteries complained of violations of their right to freedom of religion (Article 9 of the Convention) (art. 9) and of their right to freedom of association (Article 11 of the Convention) (art. 11) on the ground that Law no. 1700/1987 deprived them of the means necessary for pursuing their religious objectives and preserving the treasures of Christendom.

Under Article 9 (art. 9) they maintained that the impugned provisions of the Law would impede the carrying out of their ascetic mission. Under Article 11 (art. 11) they pointed out that section 3(3) of the Law would prevent an increase in the number of monks and would deter the faithful from making gifts to them.

87.   Like the Government and the Commission, the Court does not accept these assertions. As regards the first complaint, it considers that the provisions held to be contrary to Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) in no way concern the objects intended for the celebration of divine worship and consequently do not interfere with the exercise of the right to freedom of religion. The second complaint would seem to be hypothetical.

88.   There is consequently no breach of Articles 9 and 11 (art. 9, art. 11) of the Convention.

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