Case of European Court of Human Rights, May 25, 1993 (case Kokkinakis v. Greece)

Resolution Date:May 25, 1993

Violation of Art. 9 No violation of Art. 7 Not necessary to examine Art. 10 Not necessary to examine Art. 14+9 Non-pecuniary damage - financial award Costs and expenses award - domestic proceedings Costs and expenses award - Convention proceedings


Information Note on the Court’s case-law No.

May 1993

Kokkinakis v. Greece - 14307/88

Judgment 25.5.1993

Article 9

Article 9-1

Freedom of religion

Manifest religion or belief

Conviction of a Jehovah's Witness for proselytism: violation

[This summary is extracted from the Court’s official reports (Series A or Reports of Judgments and Decisions). Its formatting and structure may therefore differ from the Case-Law Information Note summaries.]


A.              General principles

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion: one of the foundations of a "democratic society" within the meaning of the Convention; one of the most vital elements making up the identity of believers and their conception of life, but also a precious asset for atheists, agnostics, sceptics and the unconcerned.

Religious freedom implied freedom to "manifest one's religion" not only in community with others, "in public" and within the circle of those whose faith one shared, but also "alone" and "in private"; it included in principle the right to try to convince one's neighbour.

The fundamental nature of the rights guaranteed in Article 9 was also reflected in the wording of the paragraph providing for limitations on them: unlike second paragraphs of Articles 8, 10 and 11, which covered all the rights mentioned in first paragraphs of those Articles, that of Article 9 referred only to "freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs".

It might be necessary to place restrictions on this freedom in order to reconcile the interests of the various religious groups and ensure that everyone's beliefs were respected. 

B.              Application of the principles

Interference with exercise of Mr Kokkinakis's right to "freedom to manifest [his] religion or beliefs",resulting from sentence passed by Lasithi Criminal Court and reduced by Crete Court of Appeal.

  1.               "Prescribed by law"

    Section 4 of Law no. 1363/1938 was supplemented by a body of settled national case-law that had been published and was accessible.

  2.               Legitimate aim

    Protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 

  3.               "Necessary in a democratic society"

    A distinction had to be made between bearing Christian witness and improper proselytism: the former corresponded to true evangelism, the latter represented a corruption or deformation of it incompatible with respect for the freedom of thought, conscience and religion of others.

    The criteria...

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