22 May 2019 Wednesday

Levon Berç Kuzukoğlu and Ohannes Garbis Balmumciyan [Plenary], no. 2014/17354, 22 May 2019

Violation of the freedom of religion due to the rejection of the applicant’s request for holding an Election of the Patriarch of the Armenians of Turkey.

 The incumbent Patriarch of the Armenian community became incapacitated to fulfil his duties due to his illness. The applicants from the Civilian group applied to the Ministry of Interior to request elections to be held for a new patriarch as the seat of the Patriarch had become de facto vacant. On the other hand, the Spiritual group proposed to hold elections for a new spiritual leader under the name of “Co-patriarch of the Armenians of Turkey” to exercise full power the patriarch. Having examined the petitions submitted therewith and the existing legislation in this field, the İstanbul Governor’s Office decided that the competent bodies of the Patriarchate could elect a “Patriarchal Vicar-general” to perform the religious and charitable affairs of the Patriarchate and the community. Thereupon, a “patriarchal vicar-general” was elected by the Spiritual General Assembly of the Armenians of Turkey. Finding a violation, the Constitutional Court concluded that the administration explicitly decided under which circumstances the Armenian Patriarch would be elected; however, it was not authorised to do so, save for the case of meeting a pressing social need; and that nor did the administration demonstrate any pressing social need outweighing the Armenian customs and the Armenian community’s will.