European Court of Human Rights discusses crucifixes in Italian State Schools
On 23 July 2002 the applicant complained to the Veneto Regional Administrative Court about the decision by the school’s governing body, on the ground that it infringed the constitutional principles of secularism and of impartiality on the part of the public authorities. In 2005 the administrative court dismissed the applicant’s complaint. It held that the crucifix was both the symbol of Italian history and culture, and consequently of Italian identity, and the symbol of the principles of equality, liberty and tolerance, as well as of the State’s secularism. By a judgment of 13 February 2006, the Consiglio di Stato dismissed an appeal by the applicant.
On 3 November 2009 the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) taken together with Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion). The panel of five judges of the Grand Chamber, meeting on 1 and 2 March 2010, accepted the referral request submitted by the Italian Government on 28 January 2010.
In accordance with article 36 of the Convention, the President of the Court authorised the following third parties to present written observations:
· Governments of Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Romania, the Russian Federation and San-Marino
· Jointly 33 members of the European Parliament
· Greek Helsinki Monitor
· Associazone nazionale de libero Pensiero
· European Centre for Law and Justice
· Jointly : International Commission of Jurists, Interights, Human Rights Watch
· Jointly: Zentralkomitee des deutschen Katholiken, Semaines sociales de France, Associazioni critiane lavoratori italiani
The case was heard by the Grand Chamber composed as follows:
Jean-Paul Costa (France), President,
Christos Rozakis (Greece),
Nicolas Bratza (the United Kingdom),
Peer Lorenzen (Denmark),
Josep Casadevall (Andorra),
Giovanni Bonello (Malta),
Boštjan M. Zupančič (Slovenia)
Nina Vajić (Croatia),
Rait Maruste (Estonia),
Anatoly Kovler (Russia),
Sverre Erik Jebens (Norway),
Päivi Hirvelä (Finland),
Giorgio Malinverni (Switzerland),
George Nicolaou (Cyprus),
Ann Power (Ireland),
Zdravka Kalaydjieva (Bulgaria),
Guido Raimondi (Italy), judges,
Mihai Poalelungi (Moldova),
David Thór Björgvinsson (Iceland),
Kristina Pardalos (San Marino), substitute judges,
and also Erik Fribergh, Registrar.
Representatives of the parties
Government: Nicola Lettieri, co-Agent; Giuseppe Albenzio and Umberto De Augustinis, Advisers;
Applicants: Nicolo Paoletti, Counsel, Natalia Paoletti and Claudia Sartori, Advisers;
Among the Third Parties, eight out of ten governments have been granted the right to intervene during the hearing. They was represented by :
Joseph Weiler, Counsel, Stepan Kartashyan, Andrey Tehov, Euripides Evriviades, Vasileia Pelekou, Darius Simaitis, Joseph Licari, Georgy Matyushkin and Guido Bellatti Ceccoli, Advisers.
After the hearing the Court began its deliberations, which are held in private. Its ruling in the case will, however, be made at a later stage.