The birth certificate, which implied that the child had not been baptized, violated the family’s right not to disclose their religious beliefs.
Stavropoulos and others v. Greece 25.06.2020 (no. 52484/18)
The case concerned the practice of certain registry offices in Greece indicating on birth certificates
when a child is named by a civil act. Stavroula-Dorothea Stavropoulou and her parents, the
applicants in the case, complained in particular that the handwritten note “naming” on her birth
certificate, next to her first name, implied that she had not been christened.
The Court agreed with the applicants that the note had had a particular connotation and found that
including such information on her birth certificate, a public and frequently used document, had
constituted an interference with their right not to be obliged to manifest their beliefs.
Including the note had not been necessary and had not been prescribed by law, but had been more
the result of a widespread belief among certain Greek registries that there were two alternative
procedures to acquire a name, by christening and by naming, and that only those who were not
christened needed to be named.
The applicants, Nikolaos Stavropoulos, Ioanna Kravari and their daughter, Stavroula-Dorothea
Stavropoulou, are Greek nationals. They live in Oxford (United Kingdom).
The applicant couple’s daughter was born in 2007 and they registered her birth in the Amarousio
registry office. Her first name was recorded on her birth certificate with the handwritten note
“naming” (ονοματοδοσία) next to it in brackets.
In October 2007 the applicants applied to the Supreme Administrative Court for the annulment of
the registration in so far as it concerned the note “naming”. They argued that it constituted a
reference to the fact that their child had not been christened and thus revealed their religious
Their application was rejected as inadmissible because the note next to the third applicant’s name
merely repeated the title of the relevant domestic law, namely Article 25 of Law no. 344/1976,
which provided that the civil act of “naming” was the only legal way of acquiring a name.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT…
Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion)
The parties disagreed as to whether the handwritten note “naming” on the third applicant’s birth
certificate had interfered with the applicants’ rights under Article 9. The applicants argued that the
note suggested that she had not been christened, while the Government submitted that it had been
The Court found that although the note could not in itself be considered to have a religious
connotation or be indicative of the absence of a particular belief, the context implied that the third
applicant had not been christened.
The observations filed by the Greek Ombudsman as third-party intervener before the Court had set
in context the use of the word “naming” on birth certificates, referring to a widely held belief and
practice by certain Greek registries that there were two alternative procedures to acquire a name,
by christening and by naming, and that only those who were not christened needed to be named.
The Government’s argument was moreover contradicted by the registry office in a certificate
appended to the Government’s observations, stating that such notes appeared on many birth
certificates that had been registered at the time, and by the Ombudsman, who confirmed that he
had received complaints and intervened on the matter in 2006.
Indeed, the Court could not see why it would be necessary to indicate “naming” next to the third
applicant’s name, if not to distinguish it from something else. That conclusion was further reinforced
by the fact that there was a section on the right side of the third applicant’s birth certificate
concerning christening, which in her case had been left blank. Therefore, the Amarousio registry
office’s note had not been written inadvertently, but as an indication of the way that the third
applicant’s name had been obtained.
Given that context, the Court shared the applicants’ view that the note “naming” next to the third
applicant’s first name had had a connotation, namely that she had not been christened and that she
had been named in a civil act.
It considered that including that information in a document which was as public and as frequently
used as a birth certificate, for example for school registration, had constituted an interference with
the applicants’ right not to be obliged to manifest their beliefs, as protected by Article 9 of the
Convention. It could even expose them to the risk of discriminatory situations in their relations with
the administrative authorities.
, the interference had not been prescribed by law but had resulted from the practice of
the Amarousio registry office. Although Article 25 of Law no. 344/1976 provided that an individual
acquired his or her first name by the civil act of “naming”, there had been no need for registrars to
write “naming” for newborns acquiring their names in this way, as opposed to christening. Indeed,
that practice was apparently widespread in other registry offices as well.
There had accordingly been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention.
Given the findings concerning Article 9, the Court held that there was no need to examine separately
the applicants’ complaint about a breach of their private life under Article 8.
Article 41 (just satisfaction)
The Court held that Greece was to pay the applicants 10,000 euros (EUR), jointly, in respect of
non-pecuniary damage and EUR 1,800 in respect of costs and expenses.