The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Bulgaria to pay 33, 220 euro in damages arising from cases brought by the “United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden” and others over refusal of registration and banning of rallies.
The ECHR announced its findings in the cases of the “United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden”, Yordan Ivanov and others, and Kiril Ivanov vs Bulgaria, on January 11 2018.
The first two cases concerned complaints about the authorities’ refusal to allow the registration of an association in Bulgaria, the “United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden”, in rulings in 2014-16 and 2012-13 respectively.
The third complaint concerned the banning of rallies by people who are linked to that group in September 2006 and September 2007.
Ilinden is based in south-west Bulgaria in an area known as the Pirin region. Its organisers aim to achieve the recognition of a Macedonian minority and organise commemorative events at various sites in the region.
Among other things, they allege that there have been massacres of the minority in the past and that rights’ problems persist. The Court has dealt with similar complaints by the group in the past and found violations of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention.
In the first of the new applications, the “United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden” and two of its members complained about the Bulgarian authorities’ refusal to register the group as an association in court rulings delivered in 2014 at first-instance and on appeal in 2015. The Supreme Court of Cassation ruled against the admissibility of a further appeal in 2016.
One of the reasons given by the first-instance court was that it found that the stated aims of the association showed that it intended to stir up national and ethnic hatred.
The second complaint was made by nine Bulgarian nationals, of whom the first two are the chairman and deputy chairman of Ilinden, who are also applicants in the first case.
They complained about an earlier refusal by the authorities to register their group as an association in proceedings which ended after the Supreme Court of Cassation refused to admit an appeal on points of law in 2013.
As well as finding deficiencies in the registration papers, the courts also raised issues with the stated aims of the organisation. In particular, the first-instance court found that its aims were directed against the security of the rest of the country’s citizens and would lead to hostile relations between Macedonians who had allegedly faced discrimination and other Bulgarians.
In the third case, Kiril Kostadinov Ivanov complained about the authorities’ refusal to allow two rallies, one in September 2006 by the Macedonian Initiative Committee, and one by Ilinden in September 2007.
Ivanov, who is the brother of one the applicants in the first two cases, was instrumental in organising both events. The authorities’ reasons for refusing to allow the first rally included the fact that it would clash with a concert planned for the same day, particularly because Ivanov’s event was to be political in nature.
The applicants in all three cases complained in particular under Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association). Kiril Ivanov also complained under Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).
Violation of Article 11 – in the two first cases and, in the case of Kiril Ivanov, in relation only to the rally planned for 30 September 2006, Violation of Article 13 – in the case of Kiril Ivanov, in relation to the rally planned for 30 September 2006.
The court awarded damages of 12,000 euro to the “United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden”, with costs of 1,220, in the case of Yordan Ivanov and others, ordered damages of 12,000 euro and costs of 2,000 euro, and in the case of Kiril Ivanov, 6,000 euro./IBNA