Information documents - United Macedonian Organisation "Ilinden" - Pirin and others against Bulgaria

7 February 2007


United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden - Pirin and others against Bulgaria - Judgment of 20 October 2005

The question of individual measures in the light of the Observations submitted by the Bulgarian Government concerning certain texts placed at the disposal of Delegations (Article 46 of the Convention)

Memorandum prepared by the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

1. Following the 982nd meeting of the Committee of Ministers (5-6 December 2006) (DH), the Bulgarian authorities submitted observations concerning certain texts placed at the disposal of Delegations (see DD(2006)716). The present memorandum explains the Convention's requirements on the issues raised in these observations. The conclusion is that the individual measures required to remedy the violation of freedom of association established by the Court on account of the unjustified dissolution of the party UMO Ilinden - Pirin, implies a duty on the part of the respondent state to ensure conditions which will allow the party and/or its members to seek registration anew as a political party and to obtain such registration, unless reasons acceptable under the Convention justify refusal. Accordingly, the texts referred to in the observations of the Bulgarian authorities relate to the relevant execution questions.

2. The case concerns the applicant party's dissolution in 2000 by the Constitutional Court, which found that the party had advocated separatist ideas and thus imperilled Bulgaria's territorial integrity.
3. The European Court considered that such a drastic measure was not necessary in a democratic society, insofar as, even if it may be assumed that the political project advocated by the applicant party was indeed the autonomy or even secession of Pirin Macedonia, the applicants had not hinted at any intention to use violence or other undemocratic means to achieve their aims, nor had they undertaken any practical steps which could pose a threat to national security. The Court reiterated in this respect that the fact that a group of persons calls for autonomy or even requests secession of part of the country's territory - thus demanding fundamental constitutional and territorial changes - cannot automatically justify interferences in their rights under Article 11, provided that the realisation of such a political project is advocated by peaceful means.

4. Following the judgment of the Court, the applicant party has sought to erase the consequences of the violation by seeking the re-registration of the party. In October 2006 its request was rejected by the City Court of Sofia. The reasons for the refusal concern mainly alleged formal deficiencies in the registration documents, which, according to the competent court, put into question the validity of the party's constitutive assembly. The party appealed this decision and the proceedings are currently pending before the Supreme Court of Cassation.
5. The applicants complained in a letter to the Committee of Ministers (see DD(2006)699) about certain alleged procedural shortcomings in the new proceedings for the registration of the party and certain statements said to have been made by the Bulgarian authorities according to which "Bulgaria is only obliged to pay a fine and not required to register the party."
6. The Bulgarian government has stated in its observations (see DD(2006)716) that Bulgaria has fully implemented the judgment through the payment of the just satisfaction awarded by the Court, that no obligation arises from this judgment for the authorities automatically to register the organisation concerned in accordance with the Law on Political Parties, and that new proceedings concerning the registration of the political party is a new case, unrelated to the execution of the Court's judgment.

7. The Secretariat recalls the general principle that a finding of a violation by the Court requires inter alia, over and above the payment of just satisfaction awarded in the judgment, the adoption by the respondent state, where appropriate, of individual measures to put an end to the violation and erase its consequences so as to achieve as far as possible restitutio in integrum.
8. In other cases where the Court has found violations of the right to freedom of association on account of dissolutions, or refusals of registration, of organisations and political parties, the Committee of Ministers has in application of this principle supervised that the removal by the respondent state of laws or practices incriminated by the Court and offered the applicants the possibility to have their organisation registered anew in proceedings respecting the Convention.
9. Thus, in the case of the Presidential Party of Mordovia against Russia (judgment of 05/10/2004) and in that of Partidul Comunistilor (Nepeceristi) and Ungureanu against Romania (judgment of 03/02/2005), the Committee has supervised the outcome of the proceedings initiated by the applicants following the judgments of the Court to have their parties registered anew. Similarily in the different cases concerning unjustified dissolutions of political parties in Turkey (see e.g. the case of the United Communist party of Turkey and others, judgment of 30/01/1998), the Committee has supervised that the bans on political activities imposed on the officials of the parties following dissolution have been lifted and that the groups of persons concerned have had the possibility to re-register political parties if they so wished. Indeed, the Committee has been informed that several applicants have re-registered political parties, including at least one party containing the name "communist", although the constitutional provision prohibiting such denomination has not been abrogated. These parties have, subsequently, also participated in the general elections.
10. The same approach is also applied for other forms of associations. In the case of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and others against Moldova (judgment of 13/12/2001), the Court thus found a violation of Article 11 of the Convention in view of the failure of the Moldavan authorities to recognise the applicant church. In line with these principles, the Committee supervised the proceedings engaged by the applicant church after the judgment in order to secure registration. Registration of the church was also rapidly granted.
11. As regards the present case, it should be noted that different violations of the freedoms of assembly and association have been established by the Court in relation to the organisation UMO Ilinden, which has close links with the applicant organisation, and to members of the latter (Stankov and the UMO Ilinden, judgment of 02/10/2001, closed by Resolution ResDH(2004)78, UMO Ilinden and Ivanov, judgment of 20/10/2005, UMO Ilinden and others, judgment of 19/01/2006, Ivanov and others, judgment of 24/11/2005). The persistent nature of these violations suggests that the question of individual measures in this case should be followed with particular care.
12. It should finally be pointed out that the outcome of the registration proceedings engaged will also be an important indication of the changes of the interpretation and application of the Bulgarian Consitution and relevant implementing laws required so that Bulgaria may comply with its obligation to take general measures to prevent new, similar violations.

Note: This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. It was declassified at the 987th (DH) meeting of the Ministers' Deputies (13-14 February 2007).

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