Table of Contents
Click to navigate chapters
Full text: Freedom of Assembly (PDF)
Full text: Freedom of Association (PDF)
Click for more on our litigation project

1. What is included in the notion of an association?

In his first thematic report to the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association clarified that an

“association” refers to any groups of individuals or any legal entities brought together in order to collectively act, express, promote, pursue or defend a field of common interests.[1]

Associations may take a variety of diverse forms, including, but not limited to, civil society organizations, clubs, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious associations, political parties, trade unions, foundations or online associations.[2] They may thus be formed for a variety of purposes: personal, cultural, political or otherwise. The key qualification is the freedom to function in unison towards some kind of joint goal. All of these different types of associations are protected under international law.


  1. UN Human Rights Council, First Thematic Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27, 21 May 2012, para. 51.
  2. UN Human Rights Council, First Thematic Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27, 21 May 2012, para. 52.
  3. UN Human Rights Council, First Thematic Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27, 21 May 2012, para. 56.
  4. UN Human Rights Council, Fourth Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/29/25, 28 April 2015, para. 59.
  5. AComHPR, Draft Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, 22 September 2016, Freedom of Association, art. I.1.
  6. AComHPR, Draft Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, 22 September 2016, Freedom of Association, art. I.8.
  7. Movement for Democratic Kingdom v Bulgaria, EComHR, Judgment of 29 November 1995, para. 2.
  8. Venice Commission, Opinion on the Compatibility with Universal Human Rights Standards of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code on the Rights of Non-Registered Associations of The Republic of Belarus, 18 October 2011.
  9. Republican Party of Russia v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 12 April 2011, para. 105; see also, Zhechev v Bulgaria, ECtHR, Judgment of 21 June 2007, para. 56.
  10. UN Human Rights Council, First Thematic Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27, 21 May 2012, para. 57.
  11. UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, UN Doc. A/HRC/17/27, 16 May 2011, para 2; see also, First Thematic Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maini Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27, 21 May 2012, para 32(e).
  12. UN Human Rights Council, The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/21/16, 11 October 2012, para. 1; see also UN Human Rights Council, The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/24/5, 8 October 2013, para. 2.
  13. UN General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, UN Doc. A/66/290, 10 August 2011, para. 61.
  14. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, 1 June 2011, para. 6(a).
  15. Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association at the conclusion of his visit to the Sultanate of Oman, 13 September 2014; see also UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/29/25/Add.1, 27 April 2015, para 34.
  16. IACHR, Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Expression and the Internet, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.CIDH/RELE/INF.11/13, 31 December 2013, para. 11.
  17. UN General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, UN Doc. A/66/290, 10 August 2011, para. 37.
  18. OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission, Joint Guidelines on Freedom of Association, 2015, para. 270.
  19. UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 12/16 Freedom of expression and opinion, UN Doc A/HRC/RES/12/16, 12 October 2009, para. 5(p)(i).
  20. Young, James and Webster v United Kingdom, ECtHR, Judgment of 13 August 1981, para. 63.
  21. UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, A/HRC/26/29, 14 April 2014, para. 72.
  22. Wallman v. Austria, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/80/D/1002/2001, 1 April 2004, para. 9.5.
  23. Chassagnou v France, ECtHR, Judgment of 29 April 1999, para. 101.
  24. Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v. Belgium, ECtHR, Judgment of 23 June 1981, paras. 64-5.
  25. Sigurdur A. Sigurjonsson v. Iceland, ECtHR, Judgment of 30 June 1993, para. 31.