Case no 40269/02
48. The Court observes that according to section 16 of the Associations of Citizens Act “the registration of an association may be refused if its articles of association or other documents submitted for the registration contravene the legislation of Ukraine”. The Act does not specify whether that provision refers only the substantive incompatibility of the aim and activities of an association with the requirements of the law, in particular with regard to the grounds for the restrictions on the establishment and activities of associations contained in section 4 of the same Act, or also to the textual incompatibility of the articles of association with the relevant legal provisions. Given the changes to the text of the Civic Committee’s articles on which the authorities were insisting in the present case, the Court notes that the provision at issue allowed a particularly broad interpretation and could be read as prohibiting any departure from the relevant domestic regulations of associations’ activities. Thus, the Court finds that the provisions of the Associations of Citizens Act regulating the registration of associations are too vague to be sufficiently “foreseeable” for the persons concerned and grant an excessively wide margin of discretion to the authorities in deciding whether a particular association may be registered. In such a situation, the judicial review procedure available to the applicants could not prevent arbitrary refusals of registration.
49. Nevertheless, in the particular circumstances of the case, the Court does not find it necessary to decide whether the above considerations alone can serve a basis for finding a violation of Article 11 of the Convention. It notes that there are certain elements of the case which are closely linked to the issue of the quality of the law applied in the present circumstances, which require the Court to continue the examination of the case and to turn to the question whether the interference pursued one or more legitimate aims and was “necessary in a democratic society”. In particular, the Court must verify whether the specific restrictions on the activities of associations, listed at paragraph 45 above, correspond in principle to a “pressing social need” and, if so, whether they are proportionate to the aims sought to be achieved (see Gorzelik and Others, cited above, §§ 94‑105).back