X (Ross) v United Kingdom (Application No. 10295/82)

X. (Ross) v. United Kingdom

Application No. 10295/82


The applicant, a pacifist, did not wish any portion of her income tax to be used for military purposes. She alleged that the fact that this was not allowed in the United Kingdom violated Art. 9.

The Law:

1. The applicant invokes Art. 9 of the Convention in relation to her complaint that she should not be obliged to pay a portion of her taxes without an assurance that they will not be applied for military or related expenditure. Art. 9 provides ... The applicant contends that her pacifism constitutes a belief and that to compel her to contribute to expenditure for armaments, rather than for peaceful purposes, prevents her from manifesting that belief through practice. She contends that the manifestation in practice of pacifism requires that an adherent should oppose recourse to force in the settlement of disputes and therefore should not support directly or indirectly weapon procurement, weapon development and other defence related expenditure. It is therefore her contention that it is a necessary part of the manifestation of her belief in practice and observence that 40 per cent of her income tax be diverted to different, peaceful purposes. This step is not merely consistent with the applicant's belief, but necessary to its manifestation. Art. 9 primarily protects the sphere of personal beliefs and religious creeds, i. e. the area which is sometimes called the forum internum. In addition, it protects act which are intimately linked to these attitudes, such as acts of worship or devotion which are aspects of practice of a religion or belief in a generally recognised form. However, in protecting this personal sphere, Art. 9 of the Convention does not always guarantee the rights to behave in the public sphere in a way which is dictated by such a belief, for instance by refusing to pay certain taxes because part of the revenue so raised may be applied for military expenditure. The Commission so held in App. No. 7050/75 (Arrowsmith v. United Kingdom 3 E.H.R.R. 218, para. 71) where it stated that 'the term "practice" as employed in Art. 9(1) does not cover each act which is motivated or infuenced by a religion or belief.' The obligation to pay taxes is a general one which has no specific conscientious implication in itself. Its neutrality in this sense is also illustrated by the fact that no tax payer can influence or determine the purpose for which his or her contributions are applied, once they are collected. Furthermore, the power of taxation is expressly recognised by the Convention system and is ascribed to the State by Prot. No. 1 Art. 1. It follows that Art. 9 does not confer on the applicant the right to refuse on the basis of her conviction to abide by legislation, the operation of which is provided for by the Convention, and which applies neutrally and generally in the public sphere, without impinging on the freedoms guaranteed by Art. 9. If the applicant considers the obligation to contribute through taxation to arms procurement an outrage to her conscience she may advertise her attitude and thereby try to obtain support for it through the democratic process. The Commission concludes that there has been no interference with the applicant's rights guaranteed by Art. 9(1) of the Convention and it follows that this aspect of the applicant's complaint is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Art. 27(2) of the Convention.

2. The applicant has also complained that she has been denied the opportunity to voice her objection to her payment of taxes without an assurance as to their ultimate destination and invokes Article 13 of the Convention which provides ... However, the Commission notes that the right to specify the purpose for which money raised by taxation is to be spent is not expressly guaranteed by the Convention, and cannot, in the light of the Commission's finding in respect of the applicant's complaint under Art. 9 of the Convention above, be implied from its terms. In as far as the applicant complains of the operation of laws to secure the payment of taxes, the liability to which she does not dispute, the Commission recalls the terms of the final paragraph of Prot. No.1 Art. 1 which provides a wide discretion to Member States in the enforcement of precisely such measures. The applicant complains that the legislation in the United Kingdom does not provide for her to make conscientious objection to the allocation of revenue arising from her taxation to specific purposes, but the Commission recalls that in accordance with its jurisprudence constante Art. 13 of the Convention does not guarantee the right to challenge or review legislation for its conformity with the Convention, but merely ensures a machinery whereby individuals may attempt to vindicate their claims for violations of the Convention (App. No. 7601/76 Young James and Webster v. United Kingdom 3 E.H.R.R. 20). In the present case the applicant is not prevented from holding the view that the legislation relating to collection of tax should be amended to permit her conscientious views in relation to the application of those funds to be taken into account. In these circumstances the Commission concludes that the applicant has not established the absence of a remedy for a complaint concerning a right guaranteed by the Convention as envisaged by Art. 13 of the Convention and it follows that this aspect of her application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Art. 27(2) of the Convention.

Arts. 9 and 13: complaints manifestly ill-founded

Source: European Human Rights Reports, 6 E.H.R.R. 467