Denmark / Supreme Court / 81/2017 Nordens Céu Sagrado Mester Fernandos Center for Meditation og Videnskab v. the Ministry of Health

Key facts of the case: 

The case concerned whether the Ministry of health had violated the rights to freedom of religion by refusing to provide – for the use in a religious practise – authorisation to the import of ayahuasca wine, which contains the psychedelic drug DMT.

The case concerned, whether the refusal of  import authorisation of ayahuasca wine by the Danish authorities was an intervention with the freedom of religion protected by Article 9 of the ECHR, and whether the refusal was necessary in a democratic society for reasons of public health and public order.

Key legal question raised by the Court:

The key legal question raised by the Supreme Court was whether the refusal of import authorisation of ayahuasca wine by the Danish authorities was an intervention with the freedom of religion protected by Article 9 of the ECHR, and whether the refusal was necessary in a democratic society for reasons of public health and public order.

Outcome of the case:

The Supreme Court found, that the refusal of import authorisation of ayahuasca wine by the Danish authorities was an intervention with the freedom of religion protected by Article 9 of the ECHR, but that the refusal was necessary in a democratic society for reasons of public health and public order. The court found, that the refusal of import of ayahuasca wine was not a violation of the ECHR. 

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 

Denmark's international obligation to protect the individuals’ freedom of religion derive from Article 9 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 10 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as Article 18 of UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

Pursuant to Article 10 (1) of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. Pursuant to Article 52 (1) of the Charter any restriction in the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognized by the Charter must be laid down in the law and must respect the essential elements of these rights and freedoms. Pursuant to the principle of proportionality, restrictions may be imposed only if they are necessary and actually corresponds to public interest recognized by the Union or a need for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Pursuant to article 52 (3) of the Charter which correspond to rights guaranteed by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the meaning and scope of those rights shall be the same as those laid down by the Convention. This provision shall not prevent Union law providing more extensive protection.

Pursuant to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, article 18 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 10 read in conjunction with article 52 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental there is a fundamental right to religious practice and intervention in this right must only be taken, if it is done for reasons concerning public security, order, health or morality or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, and if the intervention can be regarded as proportional.

The European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights including Article 10 of the Charter on the right to religious freedom is applicable. Several of the Nordic Céu Sagrado members are EU citizens, including the German citizen B, who has a permanent residence permit in Denmark in accordance with the EU rules. Due to the rejection of the Ministry of Health, B can not exercise her religion in Denmark as she wishes. The rejection thus interferes with her right to exercise her religion in this country and her right to free movement as an EU citizen.

The use of Ayahuasca wine is the core of Nordic Céu Sagrado members’ religious practice. The right to a religious practice is a fundamental human right and intervention therein can only be taken if considered necessary for reasons concerning public order, safety or health, cf. Article 9 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights., article 52 (1) European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights and the article 18 of the United Nations Civil and Political Rights Convention.

The regulation in the Danish act on  narcotics and in the Ministerial order on narcotics has no relation to EU law. This is a regulation not affected by Denmark's EU legal obligations. The EU is neither a party to the 1961 United Nations Drugs Convention nor the United Nations Psychotropic Convention of 1971, which forms the basis for the rules of the Act and the Ministerial order. It is only the Danish parliament, which can regulate these issues. Neither the act on narcotics nor the Ministerial order on narcotics are national legislation which is governed by EU law. The fact that some of the applicant's members are EU citizens and hence Union citizens under Articles 20 and 21 of the TFEU, which may have exercised their right to freedom of movement, is irrelevant for the assessment of whether the Charter applies pursuant to Article 51. The fact that this should in itself be sufficient to make the decision fall within the scope of the Charter is not supported by the provisions of the Charter neither the case law of the European Court of Justice.

As in the case of the Ministry of Health reference is made to Article 9 of the European Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 10 read in conjunction with Article 52 on the fundamental right to religious practice of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Furthermore, several of the Céu Sagrado members of the Nordic countries are EU citizens who have exercised their right of free movement as citizens of the Union and therefore must be regarded as protected under the EU Charter, including Article 10 of the Charter on the right to religious freedom.

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language): 

Danmarks internationale forpligtelser til at beskytte individers religionsfrihed følger af Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedskonvention artikel 9, af Den Europæiske Unions Charter om Grundlæggende rettigheder, artikel 10, stk. 1, samt af FN’s konvention om civile og politiske rettigheder artikel 18.

I medfør af Den Europæiske Unions Charter om Grundlæggende rettigheder, artikel 10, stk. 1, har enhver ret til at tænke frit og til samvittigheds- og religionsfrihed. Denne ret omfatter frihed til at skifte religion eller tro samt frihed til enten alene eller sammen med andre, offentligt eller privat at udøve sin religion eller tro gennem gudstjeneste, undervisning, andagt og overholdelse af religiøse skikke. Af Charterets artikel 52, stk. 1, fremgår, at enhver begrænsning i udøvelsen af de rettigheder og friheder, der anerkendes ved Charteret, skal være fastlagt i lovgivningen og skal respektere disse rettigheders og friheders væsentligste indhold. Under iagttagelse af proportionalitetsprincippet kan der kun indføres begrænsninger, såfremt disse er nødvendige og faktisk svarer til mål af almen interesse, der er anerkendt af Unionen, eller et behov for beskyttelse af andres rettigheder og friheder.

Af Charterets artikel 52, stk. 3, fremgår endvidere, at i det omfang Charteret indeholder rettigheder svarende til dem, der er sikret ved Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedskonvention, har de samme betydning og omfang som i konventionen. Dette er ikke til hinder for, at EU-retten kan yde en mere omfattende beskyttelse end konventionen.

Det følger af Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedskonvention artikel 9, FN’s konvention om civile og politiske rettigheder artikel 18 samt Den Europæiske Unions charter om Grundlæggende Rettigheder artikel 10 sammenholdt med artikel 52, at der er en grundlæggende ret til religionsudøvelse, og at der alene må ske et indgreb i denne ret, såfremt det sker af hensyn til den offentlige sikkerhed, orden, sundhed eller sædelighed eller andres grundlæggende rettigheder og friheder, og såfremt indgrebet kan anses for proportionalt.

Den Europæiske Unions Charter om Grundlæggende Rettigheder finder anvendelse, herunder charterets artikel 10 om retten til religionsfrihed. Flere af Nordens Céu Sagrados medlemmer er EU-borgere, herunder den tyske statsborger B, der har tidsubegrænset opholdstilladelse i Danmark efter EU-reglerne. På grund af Sundheds- og Ældreministeriets afslag kan B ikke udøve sin religion i Danmark, som hun ønsker det. Afslaget medfører således et indgreb i hendes ret til at udøve sin religion her i landet og i hendes ret til fri bevægelighed som EU-borger.

Nordens Céu Sagrados medlemmers ønske om brug af ayahuasca er kernen i deres religionsudøvelse. Retten til religionsudøvelse er en fundamental menneskerettighed, som der alene kan foretages indgreb i, hvis dette er nødvendigt af hensyn til den offentlige orden, sikkerhed eller sundhed, jf. Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedskonvention artikel 9, stk. 2, Den Europæiske Unions Charter om Grundlæggende Rettigheder artikel 52, stk. 1, og FN’s konvention om civile og politiske rettigheder artikel 18, stk. 3.

Reguleringen i lov om euforiserende stoffer og i bekendtgørelse om euforiserende stoffer har ingen forbindelse til EU-retten. Der er tale om regulering, som ikke er et anliggende, der berøres af Danmarks EU-retlige forpligtelser. EU er således hverken part i FN’s narkotikakonvention fra 1961 eller FN’s psykotropkonvention fra 1971, som blandt andet danner grundlag for reglerne i loven og bekendtgørelsen. Det tilkommer derfor alene det danske folketing at regulere disse spørgsmål. Hverken lov om euforiserende stoffer eller bekendtgørelse om euforiserende stoffer udgør dermed national lovgivning, som er omfattet af EU-retten. Det forhold, at nogle af sagsøgerens medlemmer er EU-borgere og dermed unionsborgere efter EUF-traktatens artikel 20 og 21, som muligvis har udnyttet deres ret til fri bevægelighed, er uvedkommende for vurderingen af, om Charteret finder anvendelse efter artikel 51, stk. 1. At dette i sig selv skulle være tilstrækkeligt til at lade afgørelsen falde ind under Charterets anvendelsesområde finder hverken støtte i bestemmelserne i Charteret eller i retspraksis fra EU-Domstolen.

Som i sagen mod Sundheds- og Ældreministeriet henvises til Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedskonvention artikel 9, FN’s konvention om civile og politiske rettigheder artikel 18 samt Den Europæiske Unions charter om Grundlæggende Rettigheder artikel 10 sammenholdt med artikel 52, om den grundlæggende ret til religionsudøvelse. Endvidere henvises til, at flere af Nordens Céu Sagrados medlemmer er EU-borgere, der har gjort brug af deres ret til fri bevægelighed som unionsborgere og derfor må anses for at være beskyttet efter EU-charteret, herunder charterets artikel 10 om retten til religionsfrihed.

Language: 
Danish
Deciding body (original language): 
Højesteret
Language: 
Danish