Non-Governmental Organisations

Recommendation adopted on 27 January 2011

“Sanctions and liability in respect of NGOs”

The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe,

Welcomes the third annual report of the Expert Council on NGO Law on “Sanctions and liability in respect of NGOs”,

Expresses its appreciation to the members of the Expert Council for their continued assiduous work,

Takes note of a number of problems identified by the Expert Council in the field of sanctions and liability in respect of NGOs,

Recommends, in consequence, that the national authorities in those countries where these deficiencies occur take appropriate steps to amend the relevant legislation or practice:

    1. It should be ensured that the grant of legal personality to an NGO protects its founders, members, officers and staff from any liability for its debts and obligations except where these are directly attributable to misconduct or neglect of duties by them;
    2. No sanction should be applied by virtue simply of the NGO to which a person belongs or in whose activities he or she participates not having legal personality or being registered or otherwise recognised;
    3. Restrictions on members of the armed forces and the police and on public officials belonging to NGOs should be reviewed and eliminated where they are not necessary to protect the integrity of their position or to maintain public confidence in their impartiality and integrity;
    4. The regulatory requirements for NGOs should be reviewed and limited to ones that serve legitimate public interests;
    5. NGOs should be given an adequate opportunity to comply with regulatory requirements before sanctions are imposed on them or their members, officers and staff unless the nature of the non-compliance is not capable of being rectified.
    6. The grounds for prohibiting or dissolving an NGO should always be framed in precise terms and courts should subject to the strictest scrutiny both the evidence that such grounds exist and the need for such a measure.

Recalling that the Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on “The legal status of NGOs in Europe” provides a bedrock and guidance for the Expert Council’s work,

Urges all appropriate organs of the Council of Europe and all relevant national authorities

    1. To become more deeply aware of CM/Rec (2007)14;
    2. To act in all appropriate areas to promote its widespread dissemination and implementation;
    3. To take steps to use the Recommendation in training activities for public authorities and the NGO community

Draws the attention to all partners in the Council of Europe Quadrilogue to the valuable contribution the work of the Expert Council is making to strengthening specific aspects of the Rule of Law.