Gatis Kovalkovs v. Latvia: The Strasbourg Court keeps the door to reasonable accommodation open

In an earlier post, Lourdes and I were wondering whether the Court was opening the door to the concept of reasonable accommodation in freedom of religion cases with the judgment of Jakόbski v. Poland. With the recent case of Gatis Kovalkovs v. Latvia – well-hidden in the archives of inadmissibility decisions – it can be concluded that, at least, even though the door to reasonable accommodation might not be wide open yet, the Court is moving in that direction. In Gatis Kovalkovs v. Latvia, a detainee who wants to practice his religion in prison once more confronts the Court with a reasonable-accommodation type of claim.

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Jakόbski v. Poland: Is the Court opening the door to reasonable accommodation?

By Saïla Ouald-Chaib and Lourdes Peroni

In a previous post, I said I would give the European Court of Human Rights a standing ovation the day it adopted a more open stance in freedom of religion cases. The time has come for such ovation. And the opportunity has been provided by what may well be a landmark decision: Jakόbski v. Poland. In this post, Lourdes and I discuss the causes for celebration.

Mr. Jakόbski, currently detained in a Polish prison, submits that he is a Buddhist. This is the reason why on several occasions he asked to be served meat-free meals to be able to follow the religious dietary rules required by Mahayana Buddhism.  The prison authorities provided him with a ‘PK diet’ – which is a diet that contains no pork – but did not provide him with a complete meat-free diet. The applicant complained about a violation of his freedom of religion. Continue reading