Committee of Ministers in Council of Europe: associations aiming to achieve “the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria” should not be refused registration

01 Oct, 2020

COE

Application No.

Case

Judgment of

Final on

59491/00

UNITED MACEDONIAN ORGANISATION ILINDEN AND OTHERS

19/01/2006

19/04/2006

34960/04

UNITED MACEDONIAN ORGANISATION ILINDEN AND OTHERS (No. 2)

18/10/2011

08/03/2012

29496/16

THE UNITED MACEDONIAN ORGANISATION ILINDEN AND OTHERS (No. 3)

11/01/2018

11/04/2018

70502/13

YORDAN IVANOV AND OTHERS

11/01/2018

11/04/2018

23702/15

VASILEV AND SOCIETY OF THE REPRESSED MACEDONIANS IN BULGARIA VICTIMS OF THE COMMUNIST TERROR

28/05/2020

28/05/2020

67197/13

MACEDONIAN CLUB FOR ETHNIC TOLERANCE IN BULGARIA AND RADONOV

28/05/2020

28/05/2020

The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 46, paragraph 2, of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which provides that the Committee supervises the execution of final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “the Convention” and “the Court”),

Having regard to the final judgments transmitted by the Court to the Committee in these cases and to the violations established concerning unjustified refusals of the courts, between 1999 and 2015, to register associations aiming to achieve the recognition of “the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria”, based on considerations of national security, protection of public order and the rights of others (alleged separatist ideas) and on the constitutional prohibition on associations pursuing political goals, as well as failure to meet formal legal requirements (violations of Article 11);

Recalling that over the years the authorities have adopted numerous awareness-raising and administrative measures and implemented, as of January 2018, a new registration mechanism with the Registration Agency, the decisions of which are subject to judicial review;

Recalling that in September 2019 the Committee urged the authorities to provide by 1 February 2020 information on the adoption of additional individual measures and general measures, which appeared necessary in order to address the unresolved and long-standing problems revealed by this group of cases;

Noting with deep concern that since 2006 the “United Macedonian Organisation – Ilinden” (hereafter “UMO Ilinden”) has been persistently unable to benefit from Convention-compliant registration procedures;

Deeply regretting that in the most recent registration procedures of 2019 and 2020, “UMO Ilinden” has again encountered problems related to inconsistent and formalistic application of legal requirements and the Registration Agency’s predominant practice not to give instructions to rectify the registration files, except in limited situations, as well as its failure on certain occasions to identify all the defects of registration files in its refusals;

Underlining that in the recent cases of this group the individual measures are at a very initial stage of examination;

Noting with deep concern, as regards the general measures, that since 2006 associations similar to “UMO Ilinden” have been refused registration on a number of occasions on grounds, such as the potential for an association promoting the existence of a “Macedonian minority” to endanger national unity and the constitutional prohibition on associations pursuing political goals, which have been systematically rejected by the European Court in the cases from this group;

Noting also that recently an association similar to “UMO Ilinden” was subject to dissolution procedure soon after its registration on similar grounds and that the procedure was initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office following a letter from a member of the government;

Considering that the execution of these cases requires, beyond certain additional legislative and administrative measures, a clear message on the part of the authorities and continued efforts to raise awareness that “UMO Ilinden” and other similar associations should not be denied registration or dissolved on grounds related to their goals already rejected by the European Court ;

Underlining the obligation of every State, under the terms of Article 46, paragraph 1, of the Convention to abide by the final judgments of the European Court in any case to which they are a party, fully, effectively, promptly and in good faith;

EXHORTED the authorities to ensure that any new registration request of “UMO Ilinden” or associations similar to “UMO Ilinden” is examined in full compliance with Article 11 of the Convention, as regards formal legal requirements that must be applied in a proportionate, foreseeable and consistent manner, with clear instructions to applicants if needed, and also as regards the assessment of the lawfulness of the association’s goals and the means for pursuing them;

URGED them to adopt legislative or other appropriate measures to ensure broader and more effective obligation for the Registration Agency to give instructions to associations to rectify registration files, whenever this is objectively possible, so as to reconcile the Agency’s practice of strict application of formal requirements with the effective exercise of the right to freedom of association;

URGED them also to convey a message and to continue their efforts to raise awareness that associations aiming to achieve “the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria” should not be refused registration on grounds related to the associations’ goals and means for pursuing them which contradict the European Court’s judgments in these cases, and that such associations should not be subject to dissolution procedures on similar grounds;

INVITED the authorities to finalise their work on supplementing the guidelines for the registration officers to cover the issues examined in this group of cases, as well as the preparation of user-friendly instructions for associations and to ensure that the Registration Agency identifies exhaustively the defects of a registration file, as required under domestic law, to allow the associations to submit rapidly a registration file which meets all legal requirements;

DECIDED to resume consideration of this group of cases at the latest during its June 2021 (DH) meeting.

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