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  • 11. Reporting requirements

    In the legitimate interests of transparency and accountability, States may require that certain types of associations file reports in specific circumstances. International standards provide that such reporting not be arbitrary or burdensome. The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association has recognized that States may request reports, but asserts that:

    such a procedure should not be arbitrary and must respect the principle of non-discrimination and the right to privacy as it would otherwise put the independence of associations and the safety of their members at risk.[1]

    The right to freedom of association includes the duty of States “to protect individuals and associations against defamation, disparagement, undue audits and other attacks in relation to funding they allegedly received.”[2]

    The Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR have also issued guidelines emphasizing that reporting requirements should not be burdensome, and shall be proportionate to the size of the association and the scope of its activities, taking into consideration the value of its assets and income.”[3] A joint opinion on the Kyrgyz Republic further cautioned that excessive reporting burdens can hinder the exercise of freedom of associations:

    Excessively burdensome or costly reporting obligations could create an environment of excessive State monitoring over the activities of non-commercial organizations. Such an environment would hardly be conducive to the effective enjoyment of freedom of association. Reporting requirements must not place an excessive burden on the organization. [4]

    In Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi v. Turkey, the ECtHR held that financial-inspection mechanisms should not be abused for political purposes:

    [i]n order to prevent the abuse of the financial-inspection mechanism for political purposes, a high standard of ‘foreseeability’ must be applied with regard to laws that govern the inspection of the finances of political parties, in terms of both the specific requirements imposed and the sanctions that the breach of those requirements entails.[5]

    AComHPR Draft Guidelines 43 and 44 extensively discuss the parameters of reporting requirements, outlining the conditions under which reporting may not be considered burdensome, including limiting reporting to an annual submission to a single body. Some extracts:

    Reporting requirements shall not be overly burdensome.

    Yearly reporting requirements are adequate – an association shall not be required to report on every project or acquisition of funding. The law shall not require associations to make public their sources of funding other than through such yearly reports. Prior reporting requirements shall not be imposed.

    Reporting requirements shall be entirely laid out in a single piece of legislation, and reports shall only be required to a single governmental body.

    Any yearly reporting requirements shall not require extensive details, but shall rather be aimed at ensuring financial propriety.

    Reporting requirements shall be proportionate to the size and scope of the organization. In no circumstances shall not-for-profit associations be subjected to greater reporting requirements than for-profit entities.

    Reporting requirements shall not be used as a way to limit or target associations.[6]

    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. 65.
    2. UN Human Rights Council, Second Thematic Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/23/39, 24 April 2013, para. 37.
    3. OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission, Joint Guidelines on Freedom of Association, 2015, para. 104.
    4. Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR, Joint Interim Opinion on the Draft Law amending the Law on non-commercial Organisations and other legislative Acts of the Kyrgyz Republic, 16 October 2013, para. 69.
    5. Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 26 April 2016, para. 88.
    6. AComHPR, Draft Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, 22 September 2016.