The Transylvanian diocese of the Hungarian Reformed Church has turned to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over an ownership dispute between the church and the Romanian state concerning the building of the “Székely Mikó Kollégium”, a historic secondary school dormitory of the Reformed Church in the town of Sfântu Gheorghe (Hungarian: Sepsiszentgyörgy) in the Szekler Land.
The diocese’s legal experts claim that the church was stripped of the property’s ownership under an unfair legal procedure. Béla Kató, the diocese’s bishop, said that while it is “unfortunate” that the church is forced to turn to a court outside of Romania in a legal dispute with the state, no other method remains to settle the ownership rights of the properties concerned.
Emőd Veress, a lawyer who took part in compiling the documents submitted to Strasbourg, said that archivists have assisted in gathering documentation and a French legal firm familiar with Strasbourg case law has been commissioned with representing the church.
The building was nationalised from the Reformed church in 1948 and was returned to the church after the fall of Communism. However, a Romanian court ruled in November 2014 that the return of the property seized by the state under Communism was illegal and handed suspended prison sentences to three members of the body that ordered its return to the church in 2002.
The plaintiffs now hope that the Strasbourg-based court will decide that fundamental rights were violated in the so-called “Mikó case”, after which a new process on the property’s return to the church could begin in Romania.