Rutkowski v Poland (decision), 16 April 2002 [ECtHR]

Case no 30867/96

1. The applicant complains, invoking Article 11 of the Convention, that the refusals to accept him as a member of local branches of the Polish Hunting Association breached his freedom of association. He also complains in substance under Article 8 of the Convention that the authorities did not comply with their positive obligations under this provision as regards his efforts to be accepted as a member of that Association.


The Government contend, inter alia, that the situation complained of by the applicant was remedied on 11 June 1995 when he was accepted as a candidate for membership of the K. Circle. Therefore, the applicant cannot claim to be a victim of any breach of the Convention. 

The applicant states that from August 1992 until May 1997 he was refused admission by five hunting circles, despite his persistent efforts and appeals. However, he acknowledges that in 1997, after a probationary period as a candidate at the S. Circle, and after passing the relevant examination before the panel of the Regional Board of the Polish Hunting Association, he became a fully fledged member of the Association. Moreover, he also obtained that year a permit to carry weapons, issued by the Ciechanów Police Headquarters, which made it possible for him to hunt. 

In these circumstances, the Court considers that it is not necessary to examine the merits of this aspect of the applicant’s claims for, as matters stand, it is now open to the applicant to practice hunting within the legal framework provided by domestic law. Accordingly, even assuming that the applicant’s complaints fall within the ambit of Articles 8 or 11 of the Convention, the applicant may no longer claim to be a victim, within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention, of the alleged violation of his right to respect for his private life, or of his freedom of association. It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

2. The applicant next complains that the decisions of the Hunting Association and the authorities breached his right to a fair hearing.


The Court recalls that, according to the principles enunciated in its case-law, it has first to ascertain whether there was a dispute (“contestation” in the French text) over a right which can be said, at least on arguable grounds, to be recognised under domestic law (see, amongst other authorities mutatis mutandis, the Zander v. Sweden judgment of 25 November 1993, Series A no. 279-B, § 22; the Neigel v. France judgment of 18.02.1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-II, § 38).  The dispute must be genuine and serious; it may relate not only to the actual existence of a right but also to its scope and the manner of its exercise; finally, the result of the proceedings must be directly decisive for the right in question.

In the present case, the proceedings in question exclusively concerned the applicant’s admission to various local branches of the Polish Hunting Association, a private entity dealing with a private pastime or hobby, rather than, for example, a professional body exercising certain statutory obligations delegated by the State, to which members of that profession are obliged by law to belong in order to earn their livelihood. The Court notes that the applicant had no right or basic need to be a member of the Hunting Association. In these circumstances, the Court considers that the proceedings complained of did not relate to the determination of the applicant’s “civil rights and obligations”. Accordingly, Article 6 § 1 of the of Convention was not applicable to the proceedings concerned. It follows that this part of the application is incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention. 

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