Charity Law

Case Notes: Central and Eastern Europe

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 3, Issue 1, September 2000


Registration of Human Rights Association Annulled

By Dragan Golubovic

In a bid to further increase pressure on NGOs before the September elections, the Ministry of Interior Affairs recently annulled the registration of the Committee for Human Rights, an association registered in the town of Leskovac (Decision No. 213-326 of 23.08. 2000).

The Ministry held that the members of the organization – contrary to its statutory purposes – engaged in “certain political activities,” which gave rise to the application of Article 29(1) of the Law on Associations (Official Gazette of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, 24/1982). Article 29 (1) reads that an association shall be dissolved if it has exercised the freedom of association in a manner that offends public morals.

The decision appears ill founded and controversial in several aspects. First, no reference is made to the specific political activities that gave rise to the dissolution of the association. Second, the decision only refers to the members of an association, and hence, it is not clear whether they engaged in the alleged political activities on behalf of the association or as private persons. Furthermore, there is no provision in the law that provides that an association shall be dissolved if it engages in activities that do not comply with its statutory purposes.[1] Hence, among the grounds cited in the law for the dissolution of an association, the Ministry chose to resort to the ground that an association’s actions offend the public morals, presumably because the meaning of this notion appears to be inherently vague. Nevertheless, the nexus between the alleged political (non-statutory) activities and the offense in this case seems to be anything but well established.

Interestingly, the decision also refers to the criminal procedure pending against the president of the association for the alleged violation of financial regulations. Pursuant to Article 28 of the Law on Associations, persons convicted of certain categories of crimes or persons charged with criminal offenses may not be founders of an association, pending investigation. Although the Ministry fell short of invoking the language of Article 28, it nevertheless felt compelled to make reference to the pending criminal procedure.

[1] Article 29 of the Law enumerates the following grounds for the dissolution of an association: violation of the constitutional order; endangerment of the independence of the country; violation of the human rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution; endangerment of peace and international cooperation; harassment on the basis of nationality; inflammation of national, racial and religious hatred and intolerance; solicitation of criminal acts; and the exercise of the freedom of association in a manner which offends the public morals.