OCTOBER 31, 2019
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a Chamber judgment in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on September 3, 2019. The Court found the city council of Kryvyi Rih guilty of purposely withholding the approval needed for the brothers to build a Kingdom Hall.
According to the Chamber judgment, the city council must pay 7,000 euros (approx. $7,768 U.S.) in damages and legal costs to the two congregations that own the property for violating international law—Article 9 (protects freedom of thought, conscience, and religion) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (guarantees the right to property) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government of Ukraine has three months to challenge the Chamber’s judgment by referring it to the ECHR’s highest court, the Grand Chamber.
It has been over 15 years since the two congregations in Kryvyi Rih first applied to build their Kingdom Hall. On August 9, 2004, they purchased a residential building on a plot of land that was being managed by the city and subsequently applied for a five-year lease on the land to construct a Kingdom Hall. The city council gave its initial approval on September 28, 2005. Additionally, the city council reminded our brothers that they needed to have their proposed project reviewed by certain state agencies in order to get the final permission needed to begin construction.
The plans were developed, approved by all the appropriate state authorities, and submitted for final approval to the city council on August 23, 2006. Though the city council is legally required to issue a decision within one month, it never responded to the brothers’ application. Even after a regional court confirmed that the city council’s actions were unlawful, the council still refused to issue the final permission. After further court proceedings proved unsuccessful, on April 13, 2010, the brothers filed their complaint with the ECHR.
We are pleased that the ECHR ruled in favor of our brothers in Kryvyi Rih. It is our prayer that the ECHR’s decision will set a precedent for our brothers to build houses of worship to Jehovah in lands where such freedoms are restricted.—Psalm 118:5-9.