Venedik Komisyonu (AK) / Venice Commission (EoC)

Opinion of the Legal Status of Non-Muslim Communities in Turkey

1. Introduction

1. The Venice Commission received a request from the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 7h April 2009 asking it “to assess the compatibility with European standards of the lack of legal personality for the religious communities in Turkey and examine, in this context, in particular the question of the right of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul to use the adjective “Ecumenical”.

2. Messrs Van Dijk (Netherlands), Grabenwarter (Austria) and Sejersted (Norway) were appointed to act as rapporteurs on this request. Messrs Grabenwarter and Sejersted, together with Mr Markert from the Secretariat, visited Turkey on 9 to 11 November 2009 and held meetings with the authorities and religious leaders. A report on the visit appears in documentCDL(2009)183.

3. The present opinion was adopted by the Venice Commission at its .. plenary session (Venice, ……………..).

4. The request raises two questions, which are different in scope and character, and only partly and indirectly related. The first is a very wide and general issue, the second more limited, although of great importance to the institution concerned.

5. With respect to the first question, the present opinion only deals with the legal status of non-Muslim (minority) religious communities. Many of the considerations set forth in this opinion will be applicable mutatis mutandis also to Muslim communities in Turkey. In other respects, however, due to the existence of the Diyanet (see paragraph 34 below), their situation may differ to such an extent that they have been left out of consideration here.

6. As for the second question, on the Ecumenical status of the Orthodox Patriarch, this is first and foremost an internal religious and ecclesiastical matter. However, if the Patriarchate is hindered from using this title, this becomes also a legal issue with possible human rights implications, and this is addressed in the present opinion.

To read the whole report

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