Gorzelik v. Poland [GC], 17 February 2004 [ECtHR]

no. 44158/98

(c)  The Court's assessment

   (i)  General principles

88.  The right to freedom of association laid down in Article 11 incorporates the right to form an association. The ability to establish a legal entity in order to act collectively in a field of mutual interest is one of the most important aspects of freedom of association, without which that right would be deprived of any meaning (see Sidiropoulos and Others v. Greece, judgment of 10 July 1998, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1998-IV, p. 1614, § 40).

Indeed, the state of democracy in the country concerned can be gauged by the way in which this freedom is secured under national legislation and in which the authorities apply it in practice (ibid.). In its case-law, the Court has on numerous occasions affirmed the direct relationship between democracy, pluralism and the freedom of association and has established the principle that only convincing and compelling reasons can justify restrictions on that freedom. All such restrictions are subject to a rigorous supervision by the Court (see, among many authorities, United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v. Turkey, judgment of 30 January 1998, Reports 1998-I, pp. 20 et seq., §§ 42 et seq.; Socialist Party and Others v. Turkey, judgment of 25 May 1998, Reports 1998-III, pp. 1255, et seq,. §§ 41 et seq.; and Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others, cited above, §§ 86 et seq.).

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