COUR EUROPÉENNE DES DROITS DE L’HOMME
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
METROPOLITAN CHURCH OF BESSARABIA
AND OTHERS v. MOLDOVA JUDGMENT
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a
Chamber composed of:
Mrs E. P
Mrs W. T
Mr C. B
Mr B. Z
and Mr M. O’B
, Section Registrar,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-
1. The case originated in an application (no. 45701/99) against the
Republic of Moldova lodged with the European Commission of Human
Rights (“the Commission”) under former Article 25 of the Convention for
the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the
Convention”) by the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia (Mitropolia
Basarabiei şi Exarhatul Plaiurilor) and twelve Moldovan nationals,
Mr Petru Păduraru, Mr Petru Buburuz, Mr Vasile Petrache, Mr Ioan Eşanu,
Mr Victor Rusu, Mr Anatol Goncear, Mr Valeriu Cernei, Mr Gheorghe
Ioniţă, Mr Valeriu Matciac, Mr Vlad Cubreacov, Mr Anatol Telembici and
Mr Alexandru Magola (“the applicants”), on 3 June 1998. The applicant
Vasile Petrache died in autumn 1999.
2. The applicants alleged in particular that the Moldovan authorities’
refusal to recognise the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia infringed their
freedom of religion and association and that the applicant Church was the
victim of discrimination on the ground of religion.
3. The application was transmitted to the Court on 1 November 1998,
when Protocol No. 11 to the Convention came into force (Article 5 § 2 of
Protocol No. 11).
4. The application was assigned to the First Section of the Court
(Rule 52 § 1 of the Rules of Court). Within that Section, the Chamber that
would consider the case (Article 27 § 1 of the Convention) was constituted
as provided in Rule 26 § 1.
5. By a decision of 7 June 2001, the Chamber declared the application
admissible [Note by the Registry. The Court’s decision is obtainable from
AND OTHERS v. MOLDOVA JUDGMENT
the Registry]. It further decided to strike out of the Court’s list that part of
the application which concerned the applicant Vasile Petrache, who had
each filed observations on the merits (Rule 59 § 1).
7. A hearing took place in public in the Human Rights Building,
Strasbourg, on 2 October 2001 (Rule 59 § 2).
There appeared before the Court:
Minister of Justice,
Director, Religious Affairs Department,
(b) for the applicants
The Court heard addresses by Mr Montgomery and Mr Morei.
8. On 25 September 2001, in accordance with Rule 61 § 3, the President
of the Chamber had authorised the Metropolitan Church of Moldova to
submit written observations on certain aspects of the case. These
observations had been received on 10 September 2001.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
9. The first applicant, the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, is an
autonomous Orthodox Church having canonical jurisdiction in the territory
of the Republic of Moldova. The other applicants are Moldovan nationals
who are members of the eparchic council of the first applicant. They are:
Mr Petru Păduraru, Archbishop of Chişinău, Metropolitan of Bessarabia and
living in Chişinău; Mr Petru Buburuz, prosyncellus, living in Chişinău;
Mr Ioan Eşanu, protosyncellus, living in Călăraşi; Mr Victor Rusu,
protopresbyter, living in Lipnic, Ocniţa; Mr Anatol Goncear, a priest living
in Zubreşti, Străşeni; Mr Valeriu Cernei, a priest living in