Capacities to be Enjoyed by Non-Governmental Organizations

Artyomov v Russia (decision), 7 December 2006 [ECtHR]

Case no 17582/05

It remains for the Court to ascertain whether the refusal to register the political party bearing the name “Russian All-National Union” was proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued.

The Court, firstly, distinguishes the present case from the cases in which the refusal of registration prevented an association of citizens from even commencing its activities (see Sidiropoulos, § 46; Gorzelik, § 105; and United Communist Party of Turkey, § 51, all cited above). In the instant case the legal status or activities of the public movement “Russian All-National Union”, which took the decision to re-organise itself into a political party under the same name, have not been affected by the refusal to register that party. It has lawfully existed since 1998 and its activities or membership have not been restricted in any way.

Secondly, the Court notes that the prohibition against explicit ethnic or religious affiliation was of a limited remit: it applied solely to political parties but not to any other type of public associations. As the Court has had an opportunity to observe, political parties are a form of association essential to the proper functioning of democracy, but it is only natural that the participation of citizens in the democratic process is to a large extent achieved through belonging to associations in which they may integrate with each other and pursue common objectives collectively (see United Communist Party of Turkey, § 25; and Gorzelik, § 92, both cited above). As noted above, the applicant’s ability to lead a public association – whether based on ethnic affiliation as in the instant case, or otherwise – in the pursuit of that association’s objectives has been unhampered.

The Court concludes, therefore, that it was not the applicant’s freedom of association per se that was restricted by the State (cf. Gorzelik, cited above, § 106). What has been affected, though, is the ability of the association under his leadership to nominate candidates in elections. Had the political party “Russian All-Nation Union” obtained registration, it would have become eligible to stand for election, including election to the national Parliament. In this connection, the Court reiterates that, given the special role of political parties, States have considerable latitude to establish the criteria for participation in elections, which vary in accordance with the historical and political factors peculiar to each State (see Podkolzina v. Latvia, no. 46726/99, § 33, ECHR 2002‑II; and Gitonas and Others v. Greece, judgment of 1 July 1997, Reports 1997‑IV, pp. 1233-34, § 39). The Russian Constitutional Court has expounded on the reasons which led it to conclude that in modern-day Russia it would be perilous to foster electoral competition between political parties based on ethnic or religious affiliation. Regard being had to the principle of respect for national specificity in electoral matters, the Court does not find that these reasons were arbitrary or unreasonable.

It follows that the authorities did not prevent the applicant from forming an association to express and promote the specific aims embraced by it, but from creating a legal entity which, following its registration, would have become entitled to stand for election. Given that the national authorities were entitled to consider that the contested interference met a “pressing social need” and given that the interference was not disproportionate to the legitimate aims pursued, the refusal to register the applicant’s political party can be regarded as having been “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Article 11 § 2 of the Convention.

It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

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Rights enjoyed as legal persons Not to be subject to discrimination Rights not conferred Other rights To lobby and not to be subject to territorial restrictions To freedom of expression To apply to the European Convention on Human Rights To the successful attainment of ends To be treated as a political party To challenge administrative decisions