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Reforms to protect free association after environmental group denied legal status

Koretskyy and Others v. Ukraine  | 2008

Reforms to protect free association after environmental group denied legal status

…the Civic Committee intended to pursue peaceful and purely democratic aims and tasks … Nevertheless, the authorities used a radical, in its impact on the applicants, measure which went so far as to prevent the applicants’ association from even commencing its main activities.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, April 2008

Background

Four Ukrainians with an interest in protecting their local environment came together to form a group. They applied to register their association, under the name “Civic Committee for the Preservation of Wild (Indigenous) Natural Areas in Bereznyaky”.

However, the authorities refused to register their association. The Kiev Department of Justice cited technicalities, effectively preventing the group from properly forming.  The group appealed to the national courts, but their request was rejected.

The group had to end their activities and it was dissolved soon afterwards.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The aims of the environmental group had been entirely peaceful and democratic. The Ukrainian authorities had given no proper reasons for preventing it from being set up. The national law on the registration of groups had been too vague, giving the authorities unreasonable powers to prevent people from coming together to support common goals. 

The ability to form a legal entity in order to act collectively in a field of mutual interest is one of the most important aspects of the right to freedom of association…

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, April 2008

Follow-up

In 2013 a new Law on Civil Associations established proper rules for setting up civil associations. It gave associations new freedoms to carry out their work. It also set strict limits on when an association could be denied legal recognition, or have its work interfered with. The power of the authorities to interfere with associations would be subject to judicial review. 


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