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Decision by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
about the case of OMO Ilinden of Pirin


June 8, 2007

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Ministers' Deputies
Decisions


CM/Del/Dec(2007)997 8 June 2007
---------------------------------
997th (DH) meeting, 5-6 June 2007
Decisions adopted at the meeting
---------------------------------

997th DH meeting 5–6 June 2007
Section 4.2


Decisions

The Deputies,

1. took note of the continuing commitment of the Bulgarian authorities to ensure without further delay full implementation of these judgments of the Court, with a view to preventing any new violation of the freedom of association of the applicant organisations and their members;

2. took note of the concerns expressed by UMO Ilinden – Pirin relating to the problems it has encountered in obtaining a new registration as a political party, and in particular those due to the application in this process of new, more severe criteria foreseen by the new law on political parties, which the authorities could not have legally imposed in the absence of the violation of the Convention;

3. invited the Secretariat, in view of these particular problems, rapidly to examine, in co-operation with the Bulgarian authorities and the applicants, the avenues at the applicants' disposal with a view to obtaining the registration of UMO Ilinden – Pirin;

4. invited the Bulgarian authorities to continue to keep the Committee of Ministers informed of the progress made in the adoption and the implementation of the additional general measures required, in particular those concerning the awareness raising of the competent authorities concerning the problems raised in these judgments;

5. decided to resume consideration of all the measures necessary for the implementation of these judgments at their 1007th meeting (15-17 October 2007) (DH).

- 2 cases against Bulgaria
59489/00 United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden - Pirin and others, judgment of 20/10/2005, final on 20/01/2006
59491/00 United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and others, judgment of 19/01/2006, final on 19/04/2006
CM/Inf/DH(2007)8

* * *

997th DH meeting – 6 June 2007
Section 4.2


Decisions

The Deputies,

1. took note of the continuing commitment of the Bulgarian authorities to ensure without further delay full implementation of these judgments of the Court, with a view of preventing any new violation of the freedom of assembly of the applicant organisations and their members;

2. took also note with concern of the recent ban of one meeting of UMO Ilinden – Pirin by the local authorities, on grounds already incriminated by the Court, but noted in this respect with satisfaction that the meeting in question had nevertheless taken place, in particular following the intervention of the Agent of the Government;

3. invited the Bulgarian authorities, taking into account this incident, to take all necessary additional measures aimed at guaranteeing effectively the freedom of assembly of UMO Ilinden and the other applicants and to ensure the effectiveness of the domestic remedies in this respect;

4. invited the Bulgarian authorities to continue to keep the Committee of Ministers informed of the progress made in the adoption and implementation of the additional general measures required, in particular those concerning the awareness raising of the competent authorities concerning the problems raised in these judgments;

5. invited also the Bulgarian authorities to continue to keep the Committee of Ministers informed of the applicants' current situation, as regard the exercise of their freedom of assembly;

6. decided to resume consideration of all the measures necessary for the implementation of these judgments at their 1007th meeting (15-17 October 2007) (DH).

- 2 cases against Bulgaria
44079/98 United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and Ivanov, judgment of 20/10/2005, final on 15/02/2006
6336/99 Ivanov and others, judgment of 24/11/2005, final on 24/02/2006


Cases concerning the dissolution of a political party and to register refusal of an association aiming to achieve “the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria”


59489/00 United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden - Pirin and others, judgment of 20/10/2005, final on 20/01/2006 - 59491/00 United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and others, judgment of 19/01/2006, final on 19/04/2006 - CM/Inf/DH(2007)
8. The first case relates to the applicant party’s unjustified dissolution in 2000 by the Constitutional Court which found that the party had advocated separatist ideas and thus imperilled Bulgaria’s territorial integrity. The second case relates to the competent courts' refusal to register the association Ilinden in 1998-99, based on insufficient grounds to justify such a radical measure (violations of Article 11). The European Court concluded that these radical restrictive measures adopted by the authorities were not ”necessary in a democratic society” insofar as the applicants had not hinted at any intention to use violence or other undemocratic means to achieve their aims nor had it 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. Concerning the Ilinden organisation's virulent style and its acerbic criticism of the authorities' actions, the Court recalled that the freedom of expression protects not only “information” or “ideas” that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as matter of indifference, but also those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population (§76 of the judgment UMO Ilinden and others).

Individual measures:

1) Unjustified dissolution of the political party: The request by UMO Ilinden-Pirin to be registered again as a political party, lodge dfollowing the judgment of the European Court, was rejected by the court of the City of Sofia last October. The reasons for this decision concern mainly alleged formal deficiencies in the individual declarations of membership, which would make the constitutive assembly not in conformity with the requirements of the law on political parties and would invalidate the statutes and the other documents adopted by this assembly. The applicant organisation’s representatives appealed against this decision. In addition, they expressed their concerns relating to the procedure followed by the court of the City of Sofia and its decision.

The authorities observed in response that the judgment of the European Court does not imply automatic registration of a new political party and that the new registration proceedings are not linked to the execution of this judgment. The Secretariat recalled in this respect that the requirement to erase the consequences of the violations found (as far as possible restitutio in integrum) implies, according to the practice of the Committee of Ministers that the applicants have the possibility of obtaining new registration of their party, except if reasons in conformity with the Convention oppose such registration (see for more details CM/Inf/DH(2007)8).

On 14/02/2007 the Supreme Court of Cassation rejected the UMO Ilinden – Pirin appeal against the refusal to register their political party. According to the Supreme Court of Cassation, the documents presented in view of the registration did not make it possible to identify the members of the Initiative Committee (which calls the constitutive meeting and adopts certain documents necessary for the constitution of the party), and therefore to verify whether they satisfy the requirements of the law (for more details see the text of this decision, DD(2007)154). The decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation is final but it does not prevent the applicant organisation from constituting a new political party and requesting its registration. The applicants also complained before the Committee of Ministers of certain actions of the police which interrogated members of UMO Ilinden-Pirin, while the registration process was going on, with the aim of intimidating them (for more details see DD(2006)651, DD(2006)699 and DD(2007)183). The authorities indicated in this respect that the investigations carried out by the police had been ordered by the prosecution authorities on the basis of indications concerning irregularities and falsification of documents committed in view of registering this party (for more details see DD(2006)716).

According to the applicants, certain proceedings instituted on facts related to the constitution of the party are still pending (see the DD(2007)183).

• Development: During the latest examination of this case (April 2007), the Deputies took note of the firm commitment of the Bulgarian authorities to ensure the freedom of association of the applicant organisations and to act in conformity with the Convention concerning possible future requests for their registration as political parties or associations. The authorities were invited to keep the Committee of Ministers informed of the applicants’ current situation (see the decision adopted at that meeting). It should be noted that the applicants lodged a new application with the European Court concerning the recent refusal to register their political party.

• Information is awaited on the applicants’ present situation, in particular concerning the outcome of the proceedings instituted on the action of the police and other facts related to the registration proceedings.

2) Registration of the association: The European Court noted in the second case that in 2002-2004 the competent courts once again refused to register the applicant association. These facts are the object of another application, currently pending before the Court. The applicants did not refer to a new request for registration following the judgment of the European Court. However, the authorities indicated that a possible new request will be examined in compliance with the requirements of the Convention (see also the general measures).

General measures:

1) Dissolution of political parties: It was noted that the Constitutional Court’s decision challenged in the judgment was inspired by the Convention and by the European Court’s case-law existing at that time. It was also noted that 3 out of 12 judges voted against the dissolution on the basis of grounds similar to those of the European Court’s judgment. In this situation, and in view of the direct effect of the European Court’s case-law granted in Bulgarian law, the government considered it sufficient to send the European Court’s judgment United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden - Pirin and others to the Constitutional Court and to the courts competent for the registration of political parties in order to ensure that domestic law is interpreted in conformity with the Convention and thus to prevent new violations, similar to that found by the European Court. This dissemination was done by a circular letter drawing these courts’ attention to the fact that this communication is made within the framework of the adoption of the general measures for the execution of the European Court’s judgment. In addition, with a view to raising the awareness of the competent authorities, a CD manual, elaborated by the National Institute of Justice, was sent to 153 courts, the same number of prosecutor’s offices and to 29 investigation offices. The manual contains examples of case-law of the European Court in the field of the freedom of association and freedom of assembly, as well as articles, studies and other material relating to these areas.

2) Registration of associations: the judgment in United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and others was sent to the Court of the City of Sofia and to the Supreme Court of Cassation with a letter drawing their attention to their obligations under the Convention. Both judgments were sent to the Regional Court of Blagoevgrad and to the Sofia Court of Appeal (competent for the registration of associations in the region concerned), together with a letter drawing these courts’ attention to the fact that this communication is made within the framework of the adoption of the general measures for the execution of the European Court’s judgments. Both judgments will also be included in 2007 in the programme of seminars on the Convention and the case-law of the European Court organised by the by the National Institute of Justice (more that 23 seminars for more than 798 participants – judges, prosecutors and national experts – took place in the period 2001-2006, of which 3 seminars on Article

11) • Additional information is awaited on the seminars foreseen in 2007.

3) Publication: The judgments of the European Court were published on the website of the Ministry of Justice www.mjeli.government.bg, to draw the public’ attention, as well as that of other authorities which may be brought to act in this area, to the requirements of the Convention in this field. The judgments were also published in the new quarterly journal European Law and Integration, which is published by the Ministry of Justice in 1000 copies and distributed to magistrates and academics (No. 2/2006), together with an article analysing the European Court’s conclusions in these cases, as well as the Court’s case-law in this field.

The Deputies,
1. took note of the continuing commitment of the Bulgarian authorities to ensure without further delay full implementation of these judgments of the Court, with a view to preventing any new violation of the freedom of association of the applicant organisations and their members;

2. took note of the concerns expressed by UMO Ilinden – Pirin relating to the problems it has encountered in obtaining a new registration as a political party, and in particular those due to the application in this process of new, more severe criteria foreseen by the new law on political parties, which the authorities could not have legally imposed in the absence of the violation of the Convention;

3. invited the Secretariat, in view of these particular problems, rapidly to examine, in co-operation with the Bulgarian authorities and the applicants, the avenues at the applicants’ disposal with a view to obtaining the registration of UMO Ilinden – Pirin;

4. invited the Bulgarian authorities to continue to keep the Committee of Ministers informed of the progress made in the adoption and the implementation of the additional general measures required, in particular those concerning the awareness raising of the competent authorities concerning the problems raised in these judgments.

5. decided to resume consideration of all the measures necessary for the implementation of these judgments at their 1007th meeting (15-17 October 2007) (DH).

Cases concerning infringements of the freedom of assembly of organisations which aim to achieve “the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria” and of their members

44079/98 United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and Ivanov, judgment
of 20/10/2005, final on 15/02/2006

46336/99 Ivanov and others, judgment of 24/11/2005, final on 24/02/2006
These cases relate to the unjustified prohibition of a number of commemorative meetings planned by the applicants between 1998 and 2003 in south-west Bulgaria and in Sofia (violations of Article 11).

The European Court noted with concern that one of the prohibitions was imposed in 2003 on grounds, which had been previously declared contrary to the Convention in the case of Stankov and the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden against Bulgaria (judgment of 02/10/2001). The European Court also observed that on one occasion the authorities appeared somewhat reluctant to take all appropriate measures to prevent violent acts directed against the participants in Ilinden’s rally. The last case also relates to the lack of an effective remedy at the applicants’ disposal to complain against the prohibitions of their meetings (violation of Article 13). The European Court noted that the possibility to seek judicial review of such bans before the competent courts in accordance with Article 12§6 of the Meetings and Marches Act could in principle operate effectively. However, it was rendered ineffective in the applicants’ case on account of the way it was applied by the competent courts. The European Court recalled its case-law according to which grounds such as threat of disruption of the public order or danger for the territorial integrity and the security of the country could not justify restrictions to the freedom of assembly when there is no real foreseeable risk of violent action and the initiators of the meeting in question had not hinted at any intention to use violence or other undemocratic means to achieve their aims (see also the judgment of Stankov and UMO Ilinden v. Bulgaria, cited above). The Court also noted that the risk that some of the participants in the rallies might broadcast separatist slogans could not itself justify their banning. Individual measures: The Bulgarian authorities informed the Committee that in 2006 only 2 out of 10 requests for organisation of meetings were rejected. One of the refusals concerned a meeting room reserved for another event; the information provided gives no more details concerning the other. The police ensured the security of the participants and the public order at the authorised meetings.

• Development: the applicants complained recently of the ban by the Governor of a commemorative meeting they organised for 22/04/2007 (see DD(2007)224). The authorities replied in this respect that despite the ban imposed on this meeting, it had in reality taken place on the date envisaged. Furthermore, the police took all the necessary measures to ensure its normal conduct. In addition, it should be noted that two other applications are at present pending before the European Court relating to prohibitions of meetings organised by the applicants, scheduled initially respectively between 2004-2006 and in September 2006.

• Information is awaited on the grounds for the prohibition of the meeting of 22/04/2007, as well as on additional possible measures envisaged by the authorities in this respect.

General measures:

1) Organisation of peaceful meetings: The authorities recalled that following the judgment of Stankov and the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden of 2001 (Final Resolution ResDH(2004)78), a copy of the judgment translated into Bulgarian and accompanied by a circular letter was sent to the mayors of the towns of Petrich and Sandanski, directly concerned by this case. As the violations found in the present cases also concern other towns, the judgments of the European Court were also sent to the mayors of Sofia and Blagoevgrad, to draw their attention to the requirements of the Convention and to ensure that domestic law is interpreted in conformity with it. The judgments were also sent to the district courts of the cities cited above, as well as to the competent prosecutors and to the directors of the National Security Service, of the Police Directorat of Sofia and of the Directorate of the Interior of Blagoevgrad. The dissemination of the judgments in these cases was made by a letter drawing the authorities’ attention to the main conclusion of the European Court in these cases, as well as to the fact that this communication was made within the framework of the adoption of the general measures for the execution of the European Court's judgments. These judgments will also be included in 2007 in the programme of seminars on the Convention and the case-law of the European Court organised by the by the National Institute of Justice (more that 23 seminars for more than 798 participants – judges, prosecutors and national experts – took place in the period 2001-2006, of which 3 seminars on Article 11).

• Information is awaited on additional measures which could be envisaged, in particular concerning the awareness raising of the competent local authorities (mayors, governors and police chiefs) on their obligations under the Convention (see also the individual measures above).

2) Effective remedies: A reflection was carried out within the Ministry of Justice on the need to amend the Meetings and Marches Act. The conclusion being that some of its provisions are obsolete, the Ministry of Justice sent to the Ministry of Administration and Administrative Reform a proposal for their amendment.

• Information is awaited on the outcome of this proposal.

The Deputies,
1. took note of the continuing commitment of the Bulgarian authorities to ensure without further delay full implementation of these judgments of the Court, with a view of preventing any new violation of the freedom of assembly of the applicant organisations and their members;

2. took also note with concern of the recent ban of one meeting of UMO Ilinden – Pirin by the local authorities, on grounds already incriminated by the Court, but noted in this respect with satisfaction that the meeting in question had nevertheless taken place, in particular following the intervention of the Agent of the Government;

3. invited the Bulgarian authorities, taking into account this incident, to take all necessary additional measures aimed at guaranteeing effectively the freedom of assembly of UMO Ilinden and the other applicants and to ensure the effectiveness of the domestic remedies in this respect;

4. invited the Bulgarian authorities to continue to keep the Committee of Ministers informed of the progress made in the adoption and implementation of the additional general measures required, in particular those concerning the awareness raising of the competent authorities concerning the problems raised in these judgments;

5. invited also the Bulgarian authorities to continue to keep the Committee of Ministers informed of the applicants’ current situation, as regard the exercise of their freedom of assembly,

6. decided to resume consideration of all the measures necessary for the implementation of these judgments at their 1007th meeting (15-17 October 2007) (DH).

     
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