Monday, February 24, 2020

European Court Finds That Azerbaijan Violated Rights of Jehovah's Witnesses

On February 20, 2020, the European Court of Human Right issued two chamber judgments finding violation of religious freedom rights by Azerbaijan. In Nasirov and Others v. Azerbaijan (application no. 58717/10), the court held that the detention of several Jehovah’s Witnesses for door to-door preaching and distribution of literature violated their rights to freedom of religion (Art. 9) and liberty of person (Art. 5) under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses v. Azerbaijan (no. 52884/09), the Court concluded that Azerbaijan's ban on the importation of specified religious books violated Jehovah's Witnesses freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights (Art. 10) considered in connection with their right to freedom of religion (Art. 9), saying in part:
Cases which involve prior restraint call for special scrutiny by the Court.
Azerbaijan had argued that the three titles in question contained disparaging remarks about the Christian and Jewish communities, contending:
[T]he books in question implied religious superiority and incited religious discord and could therefore damage the peaceful coexistence of several religious communities in a multireligious society...
The court concluded however that Azerbaijani courts "did not carry out careful balancing exercise in conformity with the criteria laid down in its case-law and did not provide “relevant and sufficient” reasons for the interference."