SECOND SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 47936/99 
by Galina PITKEVICH 
against Russia

The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting on 8 February 2001 as a Chamber composed of

Mr C.L. Rozakis, President
 Mr A.B. Baka
 Mr B. Conforti
 Mr P. Lorenzen
 Mrs M. Tsatsa-Nikolovska
 Mr E. Levits
 Mr A. Kovler, judges
and  Mr Erik Fribergh, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application introduced on 1 February 1999 and registered on 6 May 1999,

Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

 

THE FACTS

The applicant is a Russian national, born in 1946. She is represented before the Court by Mr V. Ryakhovskiy and Mr A. Pchelintsev, lawyers practising in Moscow. The Government are represented by Mr Pavel Laptev, their Agent.

A.  The circumstances of the case

The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

Since 1987 the applicant is a member of the Living Faith Church (hereinafter referred to as the “Church”), which is part of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christian Churches.

From 1987 the applicant worked as a judge at the Noyabrsk City District Court of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area of Russia.

In February and March 1997 she participated in the election for the post of a mayor of Noyabrsk. The applicant submits that one of her opponents in the election campaign, who was eventually elected to the post of the mayor, frequently criticised her in the media as a “cultist striving for power” and referred to the Church as a “totalitarian sect”.

On 9 September 1997 the newly elected mayor sent a letter to the President of the Noyabrsk City District Court, requesting the applicant's dismissal from the judiciary on the ground that she was a “cultist”. A number of private persons also applied to the court, complaining about the applicant's performance of her judicial functions.

On 9 December 1997 the Judiciary Council of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area, a local association of judges, considered the question whether the applicant had misused her authority as a judge. The council instituted disciplinary proceedings against her, applying to the Judiciary Qualification Panel of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area to decide the question of her dismissal from the judiciary.

From 3 to 6 February 1998 the Judiciary Qualification Panel held hearings in the case. The panel consisted of four judges. Representatives of the council and a local authority were the applicant's opposing parties  
vis-à-vis the applicant. The panel heard the applicant and several witnesses, including officials of the Noyabrsk City Council and the Noyabrsk City District Court, who testified against her. The panel scrutinised written statements of 41 persons, including many private persons complaining about the way in which the applicant had handled their cases. The applicant asserts that she was refused to call several witnesses on her behalf.

On 6 February 1998 the Judiciary Qualification Panel dismissed the applicant from the office and removed her “third qualification grade” of a judge on the ground that she had “damaged her reputation as a judge and impaired the authority of the judiciary” within the meaning of Article 14 of the Status of Judges Act. The panel also found that she had breached the Constitution, the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations Act and the Code of Honour of a Judge. The panel ruled that she had misused her office to “pursue religious activities in the interests of the Church”  
inter alia by recruiting as Church members several officials of the Noyabrsk City District Court and certain third persons, including parties to proceedings under her examination. It was also found that the applicant had unsuccessfully attempted to enrol a number of other persons, that she had prayed publicly during court hearings, and that she had promised certain parties to proceedings a favourable outcome of their cases if they joined the Church. The Judiciary Qualification Panel noted that that had resulted in numerous challenges against the applicant, and that a number of cases had been delayed as a result.

The panel further observed that the applicant was free to choose her religion and that the Church was a legitimate organisation duly registered by the local authorities. The panel mentioned nonetheless that the Church was a “sect bearing with the label of a Christian church, [but that] it [was] not such in fact”. The Judiciary Qualification Panel further confirmed that the applicant had been entitled to run in the election of the mayor; it nonetheless criticised the applicant's campaign as promoting her religion rather than emphasising “current difficulties” of the society and the economy of the State.

The applicant appealed to the Supreme Judiciary Qualification Panel of the Russian Federation, claiming in particular that she had never misused her office in the interest of the Church or promoted her religion by using her authority as a judge.

On 21 May 1998 the Supreme Judiciary Qualification Panel, consisting of 23 judges, examined the appeal in the presence of the applicant and a representative of the Judiciary Qualification Panel of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area, who requested that the appeal be dismissed. The applicant submits that her representative was not permitted to attend the panel hearing.

During the hearing the applicant did not deny the fact that she had several times “discussed” the morality of certain parties to proceedings concerning various family rights. The panel rejected the applicant's appeal, finding that the case had been decided properly.

The applicant appealed to the Supreme Court.

The applicant submits that on 7 August 1998 the Supreme Court examined the appeal in the presence of a representative of the Judiciary Council of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area and a prosecutor, who requested the court to dismiss the applicant's appeal. The applicant was not present. The Supreme Court rejected her appeal by reference to explanations by the representative of the judicial council and the prosecutor, and the prior findings of the panels. The court ruled that the applicant had been involved in propaganda of the Church and religious intimidation of parties to proceedings under her examination. The Supreme Court decided that the applicant therefore gave rise to doubts as to impartiality and independence of the court.

The applicant states that the hearing before the Supreme Court was initially set to take place on 11 August 1998. As no notification of a change of that date was sent to her, she arrived on 11 August 1998, but found that the case had in fact been heard on 7 August 1998.

The Government state that the hearing at the Supreme Court was scheduled for and took place on 11 August 1998

The date of the Supreme Court hearing in the Supreme Court written judgment is indicated as 7 August 1998.

The Government submit that the date of the Supreme Court hearing as being 7 August 1998 was put by mistake in the judgment, which was eventually corrected.

B.  Relevant domestic law and practice

Status of a judge and the “qualification grade”

Article 2 § 1 of the Status of Judges Act and Article 12 of the Judicial System Act provide that all judges have equal status.

Pursuant to Article 2 § 2 of the Status of Judges Act, judges can be granted “qualification grades” on the basis of their judicial experience or other professional accomplishments. The grant of a particular “qualification grade” does not affect the status of the judge vis-à-vis other judges.

There are six “qualification grades”, which are granted or removed on the basis of decisions of judiciary qualification panels established under the Status of Judges Act, the Judiciary Qualification Panels Ordinance and the Qualification Assessment of Judges Ordinance (also see below).

Article 19 of the Status of Judges Act provides for special supplementary payments to the salary or pension of the judge on the basis of his “qualification grade”.

Requirements for the office of a judge

Article 14 of the Constitution separates churches from the State.

Articles 3 and 4 of the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations Act prohibit State officials from using their official powers to promote religion.

Pursuant to Article 3 of the Code of Honour of a Judge, the work of a judge in administering justice should prevail over his other activities.

Article 3 § 2 of the Status of Judges Act provides that a judge should avoid engaging in any activities that can impair the authority of the judiciary, damage his reputation as a judge or call into question his impartiality. Paragraph 3 of the above provision states that a judge cannot occupy a position of an elected representative, belong to political parties or movements, be involved in business activities, receive salary in connection with his other activities, let alone academic, scientific and creative work.

Article 14 § 1 (9) of the above Act provides for the dismissal of a judge who has acted in a way “damaging his reputation as a judge and impairing the authority of the judiciary”.

Judiciary qualification panels

Under Articles 14 § 2 and 18 § 1 of the Status of Judges Act, the questions of dismissal of a judge and removal of his “qualification grade” are decided by a judiciary qualification panel. The decision of the panel, insofar as it concerns dismissal, can be appealed to the Supreme Judiciary Qualification Panel, and from there - to the Supreme Court. Pursuant to Article 26 § 4 of the Judiciary Qualification Panels Ordinance, the decision of a panel to remove a “qualification grade” is not subject to appeal.

Under Articles 1-3 and 9 of the Judiciary Qualification Panels Ordinance, judiciary qualification panels work under the authority of regional and higher courts, and are elected for a term of three years by a secret vote of judges during the meetings of professional judicial associations. Article 6 of the Ordinance states that only judges can be members of panels.

Pursuant to Article 15 of the Ordinance, any application concerning a particular judge lodged by a State authority or a private person shall be scrutinised provided that the panel is competent to examine the questions raised therein. Following such an application, a panel president or his deputy opens an inquiry into the facts alleged, draws up the list of persons to be invited to the panel hearing, and sets the date of that hearing in accordance with Article 16 of the Ordinance. The judge concerned is entitled to have access to all the material collected for the hearing, and to submit his observations in reply before the hearing pursuant to Article 17. Under Article 19 of the Ordinance, the panel president, with the accord of the panel members, decides on the procedure for the hearing. A prosecuting or other legal authority is entitled to present its own opinion on the case pursuant to Article 20 of the Ordinance.

“Supervisory review” and appeals against decisions of the Supreme Court

Article 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that higher courts conduct “supervisory review” (надзор) of the activities of the lower courts. This means, according to Articles 319, 320 and 327, that specific senior judicial officers, at any time, by request of a person or of their own motion, may lodge with a higher court a “special appeal” (протест) against the final decision of a lower court on all questions of fact and law. The “supervisory review” procedure has to be distinguished from the proceedings whereby a case may be reviewed on the ground of new or newly established facts (Articles 333 - 337).

Following an amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure and the Judiciary System Act of 4 January 1999 (in force since 6 January 1999), judgments of the Supreme Court taken at first instance can be appealed against to the Appeal Chamber of the Supreme Court, under Article 105 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

COMPLAINTS

1. Under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention the applicant alleges that the proceedings in the determination of her dismissal were “civil”, and that they involved a breach of the principle of 'fairness'. In particular, she alleges that the judicial disciplinary authorities which decided the case were not impartial as they were influenced by the media, local politicians and judges. The applicant further complains that witnesses in the case were not sworn in, that she was refused to examine witnesses on her behalf, and that the panel's interpretation of certain witness statements had been perverse. The applicant also alleges that she was denied the right to be legally represented before the Supreme Judiciary Qualification Panel as it did not permit her lawyer to attend the hearing. She was also denied the right to take part at the hearing before the Supreme Court as it failed to notify her of the hearing date, and examined the case in the presence of the opposing party. She further contests the authorities' fact-finding competence. In particular, she asserts that the finding that she had promised a favourable outcome of the cases under her examination subject to the parties' joining the Church, if proved to be true, should have warranted her prosecution on the charge of abuse of office. However, the applicant states that no criminal action was brought against her, confirming that the finding was false.

2. Under Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the Convention the applicant further complains that her dismissal from the judiciary amounted to an unjustified and discriminatory interference with the exercise of her freedoms of religion and expression. She states in this respect that the authorities failed to draw a distinction between the legitimate expression of her views in a democratic society, which was confirmed by the circumstances of the case, and the inadequate exercise of her position as a judge to promote the Church, which was the authorities' interpretation of her activities while in office.

3. Under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention the applicant claims that her dismissal from the office and the removal of the “third qualification grade” interfered “unjustly” with her property rights, in breach of this provision.

THE LAW

1.  The applicant complains that the proceedings concerning her dismissal involved a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which provides, insofar as relevant, as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by an independent and impartial tribunal ... .”

The Government submit first that the applicant did not exhaust all domestic remedies as, following a statutory amendment of 4 January 1999, all decisions of the Supreme Court taken at first instance could be appealed to the Appeal Chamber of this court. In this respect the applicant could request the Appeal Chamber of the Supreme Court to reinstate the  
time-limit for an appeal against the Supreme Court judgment of 11 August 1998. In addition, the applicant could also avail herself of the right to request a “supervisory review” of the case. However, she did not use those possibilities, contrary to the requirements of Article 35 § 1 of the Convention.

The Government further submit that Article 6 § 1 is not applicable in this case as the disciplinary proceedings at issue did not concern the applicants “civil” rights or obligations. In any event, the judiciary qualification panels and the Supreme Court afforded the applicant the guarantees of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

The applicant argues that the decision of the Supreme Court was “final” at the time when it was taken, and that she complied with the requirements of Article 35 § 1 of the Convention. She further states that the case concerning her dismissal involved determination of her “civil” rights within the meaning of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, but that the proceedings were not fair.

The Court recalls that Article 35 § 1 of the Convention requires to exhaust only effective remedies. The Court observes that re-examination of a case by way of “supervisory review” in Russia cannot be started by an individual, but only upon the discretionary “special appeal” of a certain authority. Therefore, a request for “supervisory review” is not an “effective” remedy for the purpose of Article 35 § 1 (see, Tumilovich v. Russia,  
no. 47033/99, 22.6.1999 (dec.)).

Furthermore, it is undisputed that at the time when the applicant's case was decided by the Supreme Court there was no statutory provision permitting an appeal against its judgment on the merits, and no further remedy was therefore available to the applicant by way of ordinary judicial review. An action for reinstatement of the time-limit for an appeal permitted under the subsequent statutory amendment was not available to the applicant at the material time.

The Court is satisfied that the applicant has exhausted domestic remedies as required by Article 35 § 1 of the Convention.

As to the applicability of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention to the proceedings at issue, the Court recalls the Pellegrin v. France judgment  
(no. 28541/95, 8.12.1999, §§ 64-71) in which the Court stated that employment disputes between the authorities and public servants whose duties typified the specific activities of the public service, in so far as the latter was acting as the depositary of public authority responsible for protecting the general interests of the State, were not “civil” and were excluded from the scope of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. The Court noted that the manifest example of such activities was provided by the armed forces and the police.

The Court observes that the judiciary, while not being part of ordinary civil service, is nonetheless part of typical public service. A judge has specific responsibilities in the field of administration of justice which is a sphere in which States exercise sovereign powers. Consequently, the judge participates directly in the exercise of powers conferred by public law and performs duties designed to safeguard the general interests of the State.

It follows that the dispute concerning the applicant's dismissal from the judiciary did not concern her “civil” rights or obligations within the meaning of Article 6 of the Convention. Accordingly, this provision is not applicable in the present case.

It follows that this part of the application is outside the Court's competence ratione materiae. It is therefore incompatible with the provisions of the Convention, within the meaning of Article 35 § 3.

2.  The applicant complains that her dismissal breached Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the Convention.

Article 9 provides as follows:

“1.  Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2.  Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Article 10 reads as follows:

“1.  Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2.  The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Article 14 states:

“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”

The Government submit that the applicant has not exhausted domestic remedies as required by Article 35 § 1 of the Convention.

According the Government, the applicant was in any event not prohibited from engaging in religious activities or being a member of the Church. Her complaints in this respect are incompatible with the Convention.

The Government further note that the applicant contests the facts found by the domestic authorities but she presents no arguments challenging their conclusions on the basis of those facts. According to the Government, those facts were established as a result of careful examination of the case at several levels and before the Supreme Court. There is no ground for the Court to question the validity of those facts.

Furthermore, the Government submit that the applicant admitted certain facts established by the domestic authorities, for example, that she had criticised the morality of certain parties in legal cases before her. This fact confirms, in the view of the Government, that the applicant exceeded her normal judicial functions and abused the freedoms guaranteed by the domestic laws and the Convention.

The Government note that the applicant's dismissal was initiated not by the authorities of their own motion, but on the ground of numerous complaints by various third persons who had complained about the applicant's delaying the cases and being biased. The applicant's dismissal was necessary in order to protect the rights of those persons guaranteed in Articles 6 and 13 of the Convention. According to the Government, the dismissal was compatible with the domestic law, pursued the public interests, namely the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and the maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary, and was compatible with the Convention.

The applicant argues that the domestic authorities wrongly established the facts of the case in that the testimonies of various State officials and third parties who gave evidence against her had been “unsworn and unreliable”.

She further states that, even if those testimonies had been true, the procedures applied in the case concerning her dismissal were faulty, with the result that the dismissal was incompatible with Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the Convention. The applicant submits that she had never abused her office by way of improper exercise of her views, and that she had legitimately used her religious and moral principles to assist in the resolution of cases before her. The applicant states that no judge is free of philosophical or religious convictions. She “consciously and intentionally drew upon the Christian morality to assist litigants before her but never forced her views on anyone” and therefore did not abuse her office. Furthermore, she breached no requirement of a law while running in the local election. However, she was arbitrarily punished for the exercise of her religious and political freedoms.

Th Court first finds, for the same reasons as above with regard to Article 6, that this complaint cannot be rejected for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.

The Court next notes that the applicant was not precluded from engaging in activities of the Church during the time of her employment as a judge or following her dismissal neither by a statutory provision, nor by an official action.

Nonetheless, the Court observes that the applicant was dismissed for her specific activities while performing her judicial functions, whereby she expressed her religious views. In this regard there has been an interference with the applicant's freedom of religion and freedom of expression under Articles 9 and 10 of the Convention. The Court will first examine under Article 10 whether this interference was justified.

Such interference constitutes a breach of Article 10 unless it was “prescribed by law”, pursued one or more legitimate aim or aims as defined in paragraph 2 and was “necessary in a democratic society” to attain them.

It is undisputed that the applicant's dismissal was based on the domestic statutes, namely Articles 3 and 14 of the Status of Judges Act, Article 3 of the Code of Honour of a Judge, Articles 3 and 4 the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations Act, and Article 14 of the Constitution. The applicant did not submit that those provisions had been incompatible with the notion of a “law”, or that her dismissal on the basis of those laws had not been “prescribed” thereby within the meaning of Article 10 of the Convention. The Court accordingly finds that the interference was “prescribed by law”.

The Government were of the opinion that the interference pursued legitimate aims, namely the protection of the rights of others and the maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. The applicant did not express an opinion on this point. The Court considers that the domestic provisions at issue impose certain duties on judges as the guarantors of the rule of law and provide for their dismissal in case of non-compliance, with a view to protecting the rights of others and maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. It follows that the applicant's dismissal pursued the legitimate aims within the meaning of paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the Convention.

It remains to be examined whether the interference was “necessary in a democratic society” as required by Article 10 § 2. The Court recalls that freedom of expression is subject to a number of exceptions which, however, must be narrowly interpreted and the necessity for any restrictions must be convincingly established. The adjective “necessary”, within the meaning of Article 10 § 2, implies the existence of a “pressing social need”. The Contracting States have a certain margin of appreciation in assessing whether such a need exists (see, mutatis mutandis, the Vogt v. Germany judgment of 26 September 1995, Series A no. 323, § 43-48).

Furthermore, the Court's task in exercising its supervisory jurisdiction is not to take the place of the competent national authorities but rather to review under Article 10 the decisions they delivered pursuant to their power of appreciation. This does not mean that the supervision is limited to ascertaining whether the respondent State exercised its discretion reasonably, carefully and in good faith; what the Court has to do is to look at the interference complained of in the light of the case as a whole and determine whether it was “proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued” and whether the reasons adduced by the national authorities to justify it were “relevant and sufficient” (see the Sunday Times v. the United Kingdom  
(no. 2) judgment of 26 November 1991, Series A no. 217, § 50). In so doing, the Court has to satisfy itself that the national authorities applied standards which were in conformity with the principles embodied in Article 10 and, moreover, that they based their decisions on an acceptable assessment of the relevant facts (see the Jersild v. Denmark judgment of  
23 September 1994, Series A no. 298, § 31).

In the Vogt case cited above the Court held in connection with a dismissal of a civil servant: “These principles apply also to civil servants. Although it is legitimate for a State to impose on civil servants, on account of their status, a duty of discretion, civil servants are individuals and, as such, qualify for the protection of Article 10 of the Convention. It therefore falls to the Court, having regard to the circumstances of each case, to determine whether a fair balance has been struck between the fundamental right of the individual to freedom of expression and the legitimate interest of a democratic State in ensuring that its civil service properly furthers the purposes enumerated in Article 10 § 2. In carrying out this review, the Court will bear in mind that whenever civil servants' right to freedom of expression is in issue the “duties and responsibilities” referred to in Article 10 § 2 assume a special significance, which justifies leaving to the national authorities a certain margin of appreciation in determining whether the impugned interference is proportionate to the above aim.”

Given the prominent place among State organs which is occupied by the judiciary in a democratic society, the Court considers that this is particularly so in case of restriction on freedom of expression of a judge in connection with the performance of his functions, albeit the judiciary is not part of the ordinary civil service.

The applicant alleged that that the domestic courts had improperly established the facts of the case, and that her dismissal constituted an arbitrary punishment for the expression of her views.

The applicant has not disputed however that she had discussed various moral and religious issues in court. Furthermore, she submits that she “consciously and intentionally drew upon the Christian morality to assist litigants before her”. The Court considers that an opinion by a judge concerning the morality of a party may justify an appearance of bias by the judge, unless the opinion was necessary to resolve the case and substantiate the judgment.

To the extent that the applicant contests the facts established by the domestic authorities, the Court recalls that its task is not to take the place of the national authorities in fact-finding, but to review the decisions they took in the light of the case-file as a whole. The Court observes that the applicant's case was examined in her presence at two instances, including the supreme disciplinary panel before 23 judges. The panels' conclusions were later confirmed by the Supreme Court. There is nothing in the case-file to suggest that the authorities lacked competence or good faith in the establishment of the facts.

On the basis of numerous testimonies and complaints against the applicant by various State officials and private persons, it was established that the applicant had recruited several colleagues and third persons as members of the Church, that she had unsuccessfully attempted to enrol a number of other persons, that she had prayed publicly during court hearings, that she had promised certain parties to proceedings a favourable outcome of their cases if they joined the Church, that she had criticised the morality of certain parties to proceedings concerning various family rights, and that those activities had resulted in delayed cases and a number of challenges against the applicant.

The Court observes that the applicant was dismissed for her specific activities which were found to be incompatible with the requirements for judicial office. The facts of the applicant's belonging to the Church or holding religious views, as such, did not constitute a basis for the dismissal.

It is undisputed that the applicant was not prevented from running as a candidate in the local election, thereby expressing her political opinion. The mere fact that the mayor and certain local officials contested her adherence to the judiciary during the disciplinary proceedings at issue does not mean that there had been an interference with her freedom to express her political views.

The present case can be distinguished from the Vogt case cited above, where the Court found a violation of Article 10 of the Convention because a civil servant had been dismissed on the ground of the mere membership of a communist party, with no account being taken of the context of her breaching the statutory requirements of loyalty, nor a criticism being levelled at the way she had actually performed her duties as a teacher.

In the instant case, the context of the applicant's breaching her statutory duties as a judge, namely her specific actions while performing her judicial functions, was precisely defined. The facts adduced by the authorities as warranting her dismissal related exclusively to her official activities, and did not concern an expression of her views in private. The facts found in this respect were therefore “relevant” to establishing the applicant's suitability as a judge.

On the basis of those facts it was concluded that the applicant had intimidated parties to proceedings in court, and that she had promoted the Church in damage of the State interest to protect the rule of law. As a result the applicant called into question her impartiality and impaired the authority of the judiciary. In these circumstances, and allowing for a certain margin of appreciation in this respect, the Court finds that the reasons adduced by the authorities in this case were “sufficient” for the interference with the applicant's rights under Article 10 of the Convention.

Consequently, the applicant's dismissal from her position as a judge was proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued. It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.

The Court finds for similar reasons that the complaint under Article 9 of the Convention is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3.

To the extent that the applicant also alleges a violation of Article 14 of the Convention, the Court reiterates that she was not dismissed on the basis of her belonging to the Church or having any other “status”, but by reason of her specific activities incompatible with the requirements for judicial office. There is no evidence that in this respect the applicant has been subjected to discrimination within the meaning of Article 14 of the Convention. This complaint is therefore also manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.

It follows that this part of the application must be rejected under Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.

3.  The applicant also alleges that her dismissal and the deprivation of the “qualification grade” breached Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention, which provides as follows:

“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”

The Court observes that the applicant's dismissal and the deprivation of her “qualification grade” may have involved certain pecuniary and  
non-pecuniary consequences, with the result that there may have been an interference with her property rights in this respect. However, the Court recalls its finding that the dismissal at issue was compatible with the applicant's rights under Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the Convention. It finds no indication of a breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

It follows that this aspect of the case is also manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention, and must be rejected under Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares the application inadmissible.

Erik Fribergh Christos Rozakis 
 Registrar President

PITKEVICH v. Russia DECISION


PITKEVICH v. Russia DECISION