Case no 44363/02
58. The association was in fact deprived of a legal entity status for the entire duration of this delayed registration procedure. Although the return of documents for rectification of deficiencies may not be regarded as a formal and final refusal to register the association under the domestic law, the Court, leaving aside the domestic interpretations of “formal refusal”, considers that the repeated failures by the Ministry of Justice to issue a definitive decision on state registration of the association amounted to de facto refusals to register the association.
59. Moreover, the Court notes that, even assuming that theoretically the association had a right to exist pending the state registration, the domestic law effectively restricted the association's ability to function properly without the legal entity status. It could not, inter alia, receive any “grants” or financial donations which constituted one of the main sources of financing of non-governmental organisations in Azerbaijan (see Article 3 of the Law On Grant). Without proper financing, the association was not able to engage in charitable activities which constituted the main purpose of its existence. It is therefore apparent that, lacking the status of a legal entity, the association's legal capacity was not identical to that of state-registered non-governmental organisations.
60. The Court considers that, whereas the applicants were the founders of the association, the significant delays in its state registration, which resulted in its prolonged inability to acquire the status of a legal entity, amounted to an interference by the authorities with the applicants' exercise of their right to freedom of association.back