The Words of the Nolan Family
Dear Sub-Regional and National Leaders and UPF Secretary-Generals
Many greetings from London!
As you may already know, the European Court of Human Rights recently gave a very positive ruling in the in the case brought against Russia by one of our former American missionaries there (Patrick Nolan) concerning his illegal deportation from Russia in 2002.
One of our lawyers in that case, Drew Holiner, who is a lawyer here in London has sent us his analysis of the case. Below is an extract of some key points of his analysis of the case.
The outcome of the case is extremely important for all nations within the area covered by the European Court of Human Rights and by no means only Russia.
First of all, it is the first time that our movement has been able to bring a victory in this court despite several previous attempts, including that by Austria in the 1970s to have the refusal by the government there to register our movement overturned and the refusal to overturn the result of the British Daily Mail libel case in the early 1980s. There has been a feeling until now that we could not get justice there. Therefore this success is a truly historic one that will benefit all European nations in the general sense of making the court more accessible to us as well as the more specific one of interpreting immigration law and laws related to the treatment of our missionaries in a way that helps our movement in all nations.
So you may want to let our members and AfPs know about this important breakthrough simply for the sake of inspiring them. However, please in any case make a careful note of the case for your own purposes and for the sake of helping with any future litigation you may have in your nation in which it might be relevant and let any lawyers of our movement that might be interested, know about it.
First, I should note that technically the judgment is not final for three months. That is because Russia may still ask for the matter to be referred to the Grand Chamber within that time period. However, even if Russia asks for this it is extremely rare for the Court to grant such a request -- in 99% of the cases no referral is made. Referrals are usually made only where the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or some other serious issue of general importance.
The Nolan case sets a very important precedent. This is reflected in the fact that the Registry gave it the highest importance ranking of 1 ('High importance'), which means that it is a judgment which "the Court considers makes a significant contribution to the development, clarification or modification of its case-law, either generally or in relation to a particular State".
Most significantly, the Court has come down strong on the side of freedom of religion, and has said that the activities of foreign missionaries cannot be considered a threat to national security and that in any event this cannot be a justification for expulsion of a foreign missionary.
It is also an important case for the Unification Church in particular because, as I understand it, this is the first case that the Church has won in the European Court of Human Rights. It is an indirect endorsement of the Church's right to freely manifest its religion throughout Europe, and is binding on all Member States of the Council of Europe. However it will no doubt be useful to the Church even wider - the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are also considered by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, whose jurisdiction covers North and South America, and the UN Human Rights Committee (a quasi-judicial body monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), whose jurisdiction covers an even wider area - including many countries in Africa and Asia. Therefore, if you are experiencing similar problems in other countries in Europe or further abroad, I would be happy to advise on how this judgment can be used to good effect.
Once the judgment is officially final (most likely in May if no referral is made to the Grand Chamber), the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will begin monitoring compliance and consider what "general and individual measures" Russia should undertake to remedy the violation.
As for general measures (i.e. measures Russia should take to ensure similar violations do not occur again), this will give the Church a unique and important opportunity to make submissions to the Committee of Ministers on what measures and reforms Russia can undertake to protect the position of foreign missionaries in the future. I already have some ideas, but I will get back to you again with some specific proposals for your consideration when we reach that stage.
Once again congratulations to the Church on this important victory.