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2. Who has the right to freedom of association?

Everyone has the right to freedom of association according to the ICCPR, Article 22(1); ACHR, Article 16(1); ECHR, Article 11(1) and the ACHPR, Article 10(1). The ICCPR and the ECHR explicitly include the right to form and join trade unions, and the ACHR clarifies it encompasses “the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political economic, labor, social, cultural, sports or other purposes.” The ACHPR adds the caveat that this right is afforded to every individual “provided that he abides by the law” [Link to objectives].



  1. ICCPR, art. 2(1).
  2. Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, art. 15.
  3. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, art. 7(c).
  4. Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 15.
  5. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, art. 26 and art. 40.
  6. See 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/26/29, 14 April 2014, para. 20.
  7. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, art. 29(b).
  8. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 31, Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant, Adopted 29 March 2004, para. 10.
  9. Escher, et al. v. Brazil, IACtHR, Judgment of 6 July 2009, para. 170.
  10. Convention of the Council of Europe on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, Treaty No.144, para. A(3)(b).
  11. Cisse v France, ECtHR, Judgment of 9 April 2002, para. 50.
  12. Good v. Botswana, AComHPR, Judgment of 26 May 2010, para. 163.
  13. 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/26/29, 14 April 2014, para. 61.
  14. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, art. 36; see also Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, art. 2(5).
  15. 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, para. 69.
  16. Huilca‐Tecse v. Peru (Merits, Reparations and Costs), IACtHR, Judgment of March 3, 2005, para. 72; see also IACHR, Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, OEA/Ser/L/V/II Doc. 66, 31 December 2011, paras. 158-9.
  17. See Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) v. Turkey, ECtHR, 13 February 2003, and Sindicatul “Pastorul cel bun” v. Romania, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 9 July 2013, para. 70.
  18. ICCPR, art. 2(2).
  19. ACHR, art. 16 (3).
  20. ECHR, art. 11.
  21. Nilsen and Johnsen v. Norway, ECtHR, Judgment of 25 November 1999, para. 44.
  22. Trade Union of the Police in the Slovak Republic and others v. Slovakia, ECtHR, Judgment of 25 September 2012, para. 64. Note the dissenting opinion which found that the threats expressed by the Minister did violate the freedom of association.
  23. Rekvenyi v Hungary, ECtHR, Judgment of 20 May 1999, paras. 47-49.
  24. Strzelecki v. Poland, ECtHR, Judgment of 10 April 2012, paras. 51, 52, 54, 57. Available only in French.
  25. Adefdromil v. France, ECtHR, Judgement of 2 October 2014, para. 42-44. Only available in French. Para 42: “Elle [the Court] rappelle également que le paragraphe 2 n’exclut aucune catégorie professionnelle de la portée de l’article 11 ; il cite expressément les forces armées et la police parmi celles qui peuvent, tout au plus, se voir imposer par les États des « restrictions légitimes », sans pour autant que le droit à la liberté syndicale de leurs membres ne soit remis en cause.“ See also, Matelly v. France, ECtHR, Judgement of 2 October 2014, para. 56-58.
  26. Matelly v, France, ECtHR, Judgement of 2 October 2014, para 70. Only available in French.
  27. OSCE/ODIHR, Handbook on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Armed Forces Personnel, Chapter 9: Military Unions and Associations, 2008, p. 73. In 2010 the Committee of Ministers on the human rights of members of the armed forces of the Council of Europe, adopted a recommendation that explicitly recognized the right to associate, form a union and join a political party. Restrictions should meet the three prong test.