Execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights
United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden – PIRIN and others against Bulgaria
(Application No. 59489/00, judgment of 20 October 2005, final on 20 January 2006)
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 judgment in this case, transmitted by the Court to the Committee once it had become final;
Recalling that the violation of the Convention found by the Court in this case concerns an infringement of the freedom of association of an organisation which aims to achieve "the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria" due to the dissolution in 2000 of its political party, based on considerations of national security (alleged separatist ideas) when the applicants had not hinted at any intention to use violence or other undemocratic means to achieve their aims (violation of Article 11)(see details in Appendix);
Recalling that a finding of violations by the Court requires, over and above the payment of just satisfaction awarded by the Court in its judgments, the adoption by the respondent state, where appropriate:
- of individual measures to put an end to the violations and erase their consequences so as to achieve as far as possible restitutio in integrum; and
- of general measures preventing similar violations;
Recalling that the obligation of the respondent state regarding the individual measures in this case, implies allowing the applicants to ask for a new registration of their political party in the framework of proceedings which are in accordance with the requirements of the Convention and in particular of Article 11 (for further details see the information document CM/Inf/DH(2007)8);
Recalling that following the Court's judgment, the applicants requested on three occasions before the domestic courts the registration of their political party and that the Committee of Ministers followed the proceedings in question up to their outcome;
Recalling that it has expressed concerns more particularly as regard the fact that the decision of the first instance court on the second request for registration of the applicants' political party reiterated grounds incriminated by the Court;
Stressing in this respect that the judicial decisions relating to the applicants' third request for registration do not reiterate such grounds and are exclusively based on the non-compliance with the law of the material acts for the constitution of the party and of the related documents to be submitted;
Having noted with satisfaction the declaration of the government according to which it “sees no obstacle to the applicants' obtaining the registration of their organisation as a political party on the condition that the requirements of the Constitution of the state and the formal requirements of the Political Parties Act are met, without any grounds such as those incriminated by the European Court being opposed to the applicants”;
Underlying in this context that the Political Parties Act, as modified in January 2009, reduced from 5000 to 2500 the level of members required to form a political party and that this new level seems, in addition, likely to resolve the problems encountered by the applicants in forming their party in conformity of the requirement of the 2005 Political Parties Act;
Having considered that in view of the above considerations, it seems that the applicants can at present apply for the registration of their party in proceedings which are in conformity with Article 11 of the Convention;
Having examined also the general measures and in particular the awareness-raising measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that applicable domestic law is interpreted in conformity with the Convention and thus to prevent violations similar to that found by the European Court (see details in Appendix);
Noting that the government undertook to continue to organise awareness-raising activities in the field of application of Article 11 of the Convention, including visits to the Council of Europe of judges in particular from the competent courts;
Having satisfied itself that the respondent state paid the applicants the just satisfaction provided in the judgment (see details in Appendix),
DECLARES, having examined the measures taken by the respondent state (see Appendix), that it has exercised its functions under Article 46, paragraph 2, of the Convention in this case and
DECIDES to close the examination of this case.
Appendix to Resolution CM/ResDH(2009)120
Information about the measures to comply with the judgment in the case of
United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden – PIRIN and others against Bulgaria
Introductory case summary
This 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. (violation of Article 11).
The European Court found that this constituted a radical interference in the applicants' right to freedom of association which was prescribed by law and pursued a legitimate aim but was not “necessary in a democratic society”. The Court noted in this respect that 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 step 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 (§61 of the judgment).
I. Payment of just satisfaction and individual measures
a) Details of just satisfaction
Costs and expenses
Paid on 29/05/2006
Payment deadline: 20/04/2006
The applicants have expressly waived interest
b) Individual measures
1) Procedures for re-registration of the political party
a) First request for re-registration (2006-2007): the representatives of UMO Ilinden - PIRIN decided to introduce an application for the registration of their party on the basis of the new 2005 Political Parties Act, even though this law raised the number of required members for the registration of a new party from 500 to 5000. The request was rejected by the court of the City of Sofia in October 2006 for non-compliance with the registration formalities under the law on political parties of 2005. The Supreme Court of Cassation confirmed the decision of the first-instance court (decision of 14/02/2007).
The applicants addressed several complaints to the Committee with respect to these proceedings.
The applicants indicated in particular that certain actions of the police had the aim of intimidating their members. They indicated that as a result of these actions they would not be able at present to gather the 5000 members required for a new political party under the 2005 Political Parties Act. 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.
b) Second application for re-registration (2007): Faced with the situation described above, UMO Ilinden - PIRIN complained of the fact that further registration proceedings on the basis of the new Political Parties Act would be doomed to failure having regard to the problems encountered on meeting the requirement of 5000 members. They maintained in this respect that according to the transitional provisions of this law, existing parties are not subject to new registration and in consequence may continue to function even if they do not meet the requirements for a new registration. In other words, if the party had not been dissolved in 2000 it would not have been subject to the 5000-member requirement. In view of these particular problems, the Committee invited the Secretariat, in co-operation with the Bulgarian authorities and the applicants, rapidly to examine the avenues at the applicants' disposal with a view to obtaining the registration of UMO Ilinden - PIRIN (see the decision adopted at the 997th meeting, June 2007).
Following the consultations between the Secretariat, the Bulgarian authorities and the representatives of UMO Ilinden - PIRIN, the Secretariat wrote to the Bulgarian authorities suggesting that the most appropriate and swift avenue for obtaining the erasure of the consequences of the violation established - and thus the registration of the party - appeared to be a new application for registration on the basis of the new Political Parties Act. Indeed this law, if interpreted in the light of Bulgaria's obligations following the judgment of the Court, appeared to allow the registration of a party on the basis on the list of 6 000 members presented before the courts in the registration proceedings of 2006-2007.
In the light of this information, the applicants immediately re-founded a political party with the same name and similar statutes as that which had been unjustifiably dissolved. They lodged a new application for registration in July on the basis of the list of 6 000 members gathered in 2006. This new application was rejected by the Court of the City of Sofia (decision of 23/08/2007). In this decision, the court reiterated the grounds for unconstitutionality of the party's political programme already challenged by the European Court's judgment in this case. No reference was made to the judgment of the European Court in the present case. The court also found that the members' list was no longer valid and added also certain grounds related to formal deficiencies. The first-instance court's judgment was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Cassation (decision of 11/10/2007). The grounds on which the Supreme Court of Cassation relied concern only the fact that the list of members was not up to date. Moreover, it should be noted that the first two refusals to re-register mentioned above are the subject of two new applications before the European Court (Nos. 41561/07 and 20972/08).
In May 2008, the applicants complained of new actions of the police towards their members. The Bulgarian authorities indicated that these actions concerned examination of witnesses in the framework of criminal proceedings opened in 2008 on indications of forgery of documents regarding the registration of this party in 2006.
c) Third application for re-registration (2008-2009): In October 2008, the applicants lodged a new application for the registration of their party with the competent court. The application was based on the transitional provisions of the 2005 Political Parties Act according to which the parties registered at the time of the entry into force of the law (01/04/2005) must put their statutes in conformity with the provisions of the law by 30/06/2006. The applicants applied for the registration of certain amendments in the statutes of the party pointing out that the party should be considered as an existing one. They also asked for an extension of the time-limit provided by the transitional provisions. The applicants motivated their application inter alia on the obligation for restitutio in integrum following from the European Court's judgment in this case.
The Sofia City Court dismissed the application by a decision of 19/12/2008. The court indicated that UMO Ilinden - PIRIN was not a registered party at the time of the entry into force of the 2005 Act and that, consequently, the applicants could not base their application on the transitional provisions of that law. The court also found that, assuming that the application was aimed at a new registration of the party, the legal requirements concerning the foundation of a political party were not fulfilled. The first-instance court's judgment was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Cassation (decision of 19/05/2009). The grounds on which the Supreme Court of Cassation relied concern exclusively the non-respect of registration formalities under the 2005 Political Parties Act. It is important to note that in these proceedings the national courts referred to the judgment of the European Court. However, they indicated that they were not in a position to examine all the consequences of the European Court's judgment as to the merits, since the preliminary question they had to decide related exclusively to compliance with the law of the material acts for the constitution of the party and of the related documents to be submitted.
2) Decrease of the number of members required
In the meantime, in January 2009, the Political Parties Act was amended. According to the amendments introduced, the number of members required at present for the foundation of a political party dropped from 5 000 to 2 500.
3) Declaration of the government as regards the possibility of registering the party
The government declared that it “sees no obstacle to the applicants' obtaining the registration of their organisation as a political party on the condition that the requirements of the Constitution of the state and the formal requirements of the Political Parties Act are met, without any grounds such as those incriminated by the European Court being opposed to the applicants”.
II. General measures
1) Awareness-raising measures
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, 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 applicable 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. It may be downloaded from Internet, at www.blhr.org/bibl.htm.
Following the decisions adopted by the Committee of Ministers in the framework of the case of the UMO Ilinden-PIRIN and others in October 2007 and in June 2008, several training activities have been organised.
A seminar for judges and prosecutors on freedom of association and assembly with the participation of the Council of Europe was organised by the National Institute of Justice in October 2007. Another seminar on this subject, for judges, prosecutors, representatives of the Ombudsman's Office, lawyers and NGOs was organised in December 2007 by the Ministry of Justice and the Department for execution of judgments. Yet another training activity for mayors and police chiefs took place in May 2008. Another seminar for judges and prosecutors was organised by the National Institute of Justice in June 2008. In October 2008 a group of judges from the Supreme Court of Cassation, of prosecutors and of representatives of the Government Agent's Office paid a study visit to the Council of Europe during which they participated in a working seminar.
The Government undertook to continue to organise awareness raising activities in the field of application of Article 11 of the Convention, including visits to the Council of Europe of judges in particular from the competent courts.
The judgment of the European Court was published on the website of the Ministry of Justice www.mjeli.government.bg <http://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 judgment was 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.
III. Conclusions of the respondent state
The government considers that the measures adopted will prevent similar violations and that Bulgaria has thus complied with its obligations under Article 46, paragraph 1 of the Convention.
1 Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 December 2009 at the 1072nd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies