The obligations of the State to promote and protect freedom of association under international law are twofold. On the one hand, there is a negative obligation not to interfere with rights (see Association Section 6). On the other hand, there is a positive obligation upon the State to facilitate the exercise of the right.
States should take measures so that citizens who wish to come together to form associations are facilitated and encouraged to do so by the overall social, legal and political framework. An enabling environment for the exercise of the right to freedom of association should be free from fear, threats or intimidation. It is the duty of the State to prevent attacks and investigate violations of the right. As underscored by regional bodies (e.g., the IACtHR and the ECtHR), the obligations of the State should not be limited to the association’s formation but should extend to the association’s ability to carry out the purposes for which it was established. The protection afforded by the right to freedom of association lasts for an association’s entire life.
In a case involving the right to freedom of association of human rights defenders, the IACtHR phrased the positive obligation as follows:
The ECtHR similarly states that the positive obligation is necessary to render the exercise of the right to freedom of association practical and effective: