Case no 18598/91
On 20 September 1988 the Minister for Public Order sent a circular to all police departments in which he stated that members of the police were prohibited from joining unions and that any activity along those lines would be punished in the appropriate manner. The circular also forbade the associations established "from exercising union activities, namely, from openly claiming to represent police staff", for the purpose of protecting the social, financial, economic or other interests of staff members. Lastly, the circular asked departmental superintendents to ensure that the circular was distributed to each member of the police force and to inform them that anyone taking part in union activities would be severely punished.
A second circular, dated 17 November 1988 and also issued by the Ministry of Public Order, was addressed to the prefects, whom it asked to appeal against any decision by a Regional Court concerning the establishment of an association by members of the police. The prefects were also informed that at any time, even after the expiry of the period for bringing an appeal, they could apply to the competent court for the dissolution of the association. (...)
Relying on article 11, (...) the three applicants (...) complain that the circulars from the Ministry of Public Order constitute an interference in their right to freedom in trade union matters. (...)
The Commission observes in limine that in this case all three applicants can claim to be victims of a violation of the Convention.
The Commission recalls, however, that the first circular of 20 December [sic] 1988 was suspended by another dating from 6 October 1989 and that the second circular, dated 17 November 1988, merely encouraged the prefects to appeal against any decision at first instance authorising the creation of associations of police officers. It should be pointed out that the applicant association was lawfully entered in 1988 in the register of associations of the Athens Regional Court and that its lawfulness has never been disputed.
The Commission also observes that the applicant association today numbers approximately 33,000 members and that, accordingly, the circulars in question do not appear to have had the effect of dissuading police officers from joining it.
The Commission therefore considers that the circulars from the Ministry of Public Order do not constitute an interference in the exercise of the applicants' right under Article 11 of the Convention to form and join trade unions.