European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Should Italian lawyer be forced to work on Jewish holy days?

A judgement is expected early next month in a freedom of religion case brought by an Italian lawyer who complains that he was forced to work on Jewish holy days.

The applicant, Francesco Sessa, is an Italian national who was born in 1955 and lives in Naples (Italy). He is a member of the Jewish faith and a lawyer by profession.

In his capacity as representative of one of the complainants in a case, he appeared before the Forli investigating judge at a hearing concerning the production of evidence. As the judge was prevented from sitting, his replacement invited the parties to choose between two dates for the adjourned hearing. The applicant pointed out that both dates corresponded to Jewish religious festivals and that his religious obligations would prevent him from attending.

The hearing was set down for one of the two dates in question and Sessa applied for an adjournment. The prosecution and counsel for the defendants objected to the application on the ground that there was no legally recognised reason for granting an adjournment.

Relying on Article 9 (right to freedom of religion), Sessa alleges that the refusal by the judicial authority to postpone the hearing set down for the date of a religious festival prevented him from taking part in his capacity as the representative of one of the complainants and infringed his right to manifest his religion freely.

The European Court of Human Rights will notify in writing its judgment in the case (Sessa v. Italy – no. 28790/08) on Tuesday 3 April.

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