Capacities to be Enjoyed by Non-Governmental Organizations

X v Federal Republic of Germany (decision), 14 July 198 [ECtHR]

Case no 9234/81

The applicant association was refused locus standi for an administrative court action against a decision by which the authorities had authorised the use of a particular site for the construction of a nuclear power station. The association invoked grounds of environmental protection and public health, but it was found that these claims did not involve an assertion of the association's own rights.

The association now claims in the first place that the refusal of locus standi amounted to an interference with its freedom of association as guaranteed by Article 11 of the Convention. The association does not deny that the intended court action did not concern its own legal rights, but claims that associations should generally have the right to seize the courts on all matters falling within the ambit of their statutory activities, irrespective of the existence of a legal interest of their own.

The Commission, however, considers that the freedom of association does not include or imply such a right. It only requires that private associations should be able to pursue their statutory aims by all lawful means. There may be no interference with such activities except if justified under Article 11, paragraph 2 of the Convention. But on the other hand it is not required that the State take positive action in order to provide private associations with special means enabling them to pursue their aims. Associations are treated like all other plaintiffs in that they have to show a legal interest of their own if

they want to bring a court action. Unless this is the case, there can therefore be no question of an interference with their freedom of association. The possibility of suing . irrespective of a legal interest, is not an element necessarily inherent in the notion of freedom of association, nor was it in the circumstances of this particular case indispensable for the effective enjoyment of this freedom (cf. mutatis mutandis the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the National Union of Belgian Police Case, para. 38, and in the Swedish Engine Drivers' Union Case, para. 39).

It follows that the applicant association's above complaint is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph 2 of the Convention.


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