ECHR Fines Bulgaria for Violating 'Macedonians'' Right to Peaceful Assembly

Bulgaria in EU | October 18, 2011, Tuesday // 15:40|  views

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Bulgaria has been found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in three lawsuits filed by two Macedonian organizations, OMO Ilinden and OMO Ilinden Pirin, and by individual members of the two formations, the press office of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) said in a statement.

ECHR came up with a pronouncement on a fourth lawsuit initiated by OMO Ilinden Pirin where it did not find any violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The main complaint of the applicants was that their right to peaceful assembly and association had been violated.

There were accompanying complaints of an unjust judicial process and discrimination.

All lawsuits were related to a series of bans issued by the authorities on peaceful gatherings of the units in the period 2004-2009, as well as the refusal to register OMO Ilinden as a civic organization and OMO Ilinden Pirin as a political party.

ECHR only reviewed the lawsuits based on Article 11 of the Convention (right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others).

The Strasbourg-based court found that the right protected by Article 11 of the Convention had been violated in three of the cases and satisfied the claim for a full compensation.

Taking into consideration the refusals of Bulgarian courts to register OMO Ilinden, ECHR emphasized that they contradict standards upheld by democratic societies because they do not respond to urgent social needs and constitute disproportionate restrictions to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, even if it is taken for granted that OMO Ilinden preaches separatist ideas through peaceful means.

ECHR applied a similar approach when estimating the adequacy of banning peaceful rallies of Macedonians in Bulgaria in the other two cases.

ECHR ruled that Bulgaria should pay EUR 18 000 to OMO Ilinden and EUR 9000 to OMO Ilinden Pirin.

In all cases where it identified violations, the Strasbourg-based court ordered Bulgaria to pay compensations higher than the usual because the breach of the said right had occurred repeatedly, causing the organizations to feel immensely oppressed.

The latest three ECHR decisions stating violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association in Bulgaria add up to a total of eight decisions establishing such infringements against representatives of that minority.

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Tags: European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, European Convention on Human Rights, Omo Ilinden Pirin


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