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  • 12. Suspension or dissolution of associations

    Suspension and the involuntary dissolution of an association are among the severest restrictions on freedom of association. Such measure must always comply with the requirements of Article 22(2) of the Covenant. Given the severity of these measures, they may only be used when there is a clear and imminent threat to for example national security of public[1] in accordance with the interpretations of international human rights law. It must be strictly proportional to the legitimate aim pursued and used only when softer measures would be insufficient.[2]

    The Human Rights Committee applies a strict proportionality assessment for dissolutions.[3] Article 56 of the Draft African Guidelines mirrors this high standard for assessing the proportionality of the measure, and has emphasized that it should be a measure of last resort only:

    Suspension or dissolution of an association by the government may only be applied where there is a clear and imminent danger resulting in a flagrant violation of national law, in compliance with international human rights law and as a matter of last resort.



    1. Note that the legitimate aims which may be protected are exhaustively enumerated in article 22 of the ICCPR: national security, public safety, public order, protection of public health or morals and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
    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 75.
    3. Belyatsky v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/90/D/1296/2004, Views of 24 July 2007, para. 7.5.
    4. Belyatsky v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/90/D/1296/2004, Views of 24 July 2007, para. 7.5; see also Korneenko v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/88/D/1274/2004, Views of 31 October2006, para.7.7.
    5. AComHPR, Report of the Study Group on Freedom of Association & Assembly in Africa, 2014, p. 24; see also Interights and Others v Mauritania, AComHRP, 4 June 2004, paras. 80-84.
    6. OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission, Joint Guidelines on Freedom of Association, 2015, para. 35.
    7. Tebieti Mühafize Cemiyyeti and Israfilov v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 8 October 2009, para. 82; United Communist Party of Turkey v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 30 January 1998, paras. 46, 54, 61.
    8. IACHR, Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, OEA/Ser/L/V/II Doc. 66, 31 December 2011, at para. 168; see also 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 75-76.
    9. 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, paras. 77, 100.
    10. Sindicatul “Pastorul cel bun” v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 9 July, 2013, para. 70.
    11. United Communist Party of Turkey and others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 20 January 1998, para. 33.
    12. ILO, Digest of decisions and principles of the Freedom of Association Committee of the Governing Body of the ILO, Fifth (revised) edition, para. 699 (2006).
    13. 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, April 24 2013, para 38(e).
    14. Viktor Korneenko et al. v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/88/D/1274/2004, Views of 31 October 2006, paras. 7.2-7.4.
    15. Aleksander Belyatsky et al. v Belarus, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/90/D/1296/2004, Views of 7 August 2007, para. 7.5.
    16. Aleksander Belyatsky et al. v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/90/D/1296/2004, Views of 7 August 2007, para. 7.3.
    17. Aleksander Belyatsky et al. v. Belarus, HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE, UN Doc. CCPR/C/90/D/1296/2004, Views of 24 July 2007, para. 7.3-7.5.
    18. Tebieti Mühafize Cemiyyeti and Israfilov v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 8 October 2009, para. 82.
    19. 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. 113.
    20. Tebieti Mühafize Cemiyyeti and Israfilov v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 8 October 2009, para. 84-91.
    21. United Communist Party and Others v Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 30 January 1998.
    22. See Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 13 February 2003, para. 98-100.
    23. See Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) v. Turkey, ECtHR, 2003, para. 98; see also Yazar and others v Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 9 April 2002, para. 49.
    24. Vona v Hungary, ECtHR, Judgment of 9 July 2013, para. 57.
    25. Vona v Hungary, ECtHR, Judgment of 9 July 2013, paras. 71-72.
    26. Eusko Abertzale Ekintza – Accion Nacionalista Vasca v. Spain, ECtHR, Judgment of January 15, 2013, para 73. Available in French.
    27. Les Authentiks and Supras Auteuil 91 v. France, ECtHR, Judgment of 27 October 2016, para. 83. The rule is available only in French. A summary is available in English.
    28. Les Authentiks and Supras Auteuil 91 v. France, ECtHR, Judgment of 27 October 2016, para. 84.
    29. Interights and Others v Mauritania, AComHPR, June 2004, para. 3.
    30. Interights and Others v Mauritania, AComHPR, June 2004, paras. 81-82.
    31. UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai, Amicus Curiae before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the case of Laurent Munyandilikirwa versus Rwanda, January 2015, para. 43.
    32. For a specific application of this argument see UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Maina Kiai, Amicus curiae before the Constitutional Court of Bolivia, April 2015, paras. 34, 42, 49.