Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, Political Expression
Microtech Contracting Corp. v. Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York
Closed Expands Expression
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Ismayil Asgar oglu Ismayilov attempted to register a public association that he founded. The government of Azerbaijan delayed the registration beyond the national statutory limits and eventually denied the application all together. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the delays constituted a violation of Article 11 that guarantees the right to public association.
Azerbaijan’s national law prescribes a ten day period for the Ministry of Justice to respond to a registration request from an organization. In this case, the Ministry took several months to respond to the plaintiff’s registration requests.
On September 30, 1999, the plaintiff applied to register his public association with the Ministry of Justice. On February 11, 2000, the Ministry returned the registration application, with a note that the association’s charter failed to meet a provision of Azerbaijan’s law on public associations. The association redrafted the charter per the Ministry’s note and resubmitted the application on July 24, 2000. On December 28, 2000, the ministry refused the registration again on the basis of the charter violating Azerbaijan’s law on NGOs. The plaintiffs revised their charter and submitted the application again on August 28, 2002, and received another denial in December 2002 on the basis of the charter failing a provision of the NGO law.
In the meantime, on October 25, 2002, the plaintiff filed a suit with a district court against the Ministry of Justice for failing to register his association within the legal time limits. The court ruled that the association’s charter failed to comply with Azerbaijan’s national legislation and thus the Ministry’s actions were lawful. The plaintiff appealed but the district court’s decision was upheld through the higher judicial branches.
The ECtHR determined that failure to register an organization within the statutory time limits amounted to a de facto refusal to register the plaintiff’s association. Without a legal status, the association did not have the legal capacity to engage in its activities, even if some limited activities were possible. Moreover, although Azerbaijan amended its laws pertinent to state registration of entities, the ECtHR reviewed the domestic law as it was applicable in the time of the case.
Interference with Article 11 is permissible as long as it is prescribed by law and pursues legitimate aims set out in the same Article. In this case, the delays were not prescribed by law because the Ministry took months to respond to registration requests, when the law set a ten day limit. Moreover, the Court determined that Azerbaijan’s legislation did not offer protection against delays.
Thus, the ECtHR found that the extended delays amounted to state interference with the plaintiff’s Article 11 rights.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The ruling protects public associations and NGOs from undue government delays in their registration.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Interference will not be justified under the terms of Article 11 of the Convention unless it is “prescribed by law”, pursues one or more of the legitimate aims set out in paragraph 2 of that Article and is “necessary in a democratic society” for the achievement of that aim or aims .
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The decision protects public associations and NGOs from undue government delays in their registration.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.