Tuesday, December 25, 2018
In a recent case in the European Court of Human Rights, the court found that Greece should not have allowed the two sisters a deceased Muslim man apply Sharia law to contesting the validity of their brothers will.
In Molla Sali v Greece, a Grand Chamber judgment held that Greece had violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits religious discrimination, when the country applied Sharia law to the inheritance of a wife's estate. The husband had a will written up and notarized 5 years before his death, bequeathing his wife all of his property. However, his two sisters contested the will. They claimed that their brother was part of the Thrace Muslim community and that any question of inheritance should be governed by Sharia law instead of Greek Civil Code. Under Sharia law, there is no testacy - inheritance is simply provided by intestacy rules, and wills are only meant to compliment those rules. Under the intestacy guidelines, the sisters were entitled to three-quarters of their brother's estate because they were close relatives.
After several layers of appeals, the European Court found for the wife, stating that she had been discriminated against because of her husband's religion. Because the husband went to a notary and had a will drawn up and publicly notarized, he was subjecting himself to the Greek Civil Code, just like a non-Muslim Greek national. "The fact is that if her husband, the testator, had not been of Muslim faith, Ms Molla Sali would have inherited the whole estate."
See Howard Friedman, European Court: Greece Should not Have Applied Sharia Law in Will Contest, Religion Clause Blog Spot, December 21, 2018; see also Molla Sali v Greece.
Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.