Public Benefit

Case Notes: Newly Independent States

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 3, Issue 2, December 2000


Case Concerning the Refusal to Register a Public Interest Human Rights Organization

By Petru Stratan
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of Moldova

The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Moldova refused to register the Bureau of Legal Advice on Individual Rights, a public interest human rights organization. In its decision, the Ministry states that the organization proposed to “monitor and participate as observers of the process of administration of justice” which contradicts Moldovan procedural law. In addition, the Ministry stated “three founders are not enough to secure the division of executive, controlling and other functions”, even though the law says that at least three persons may found such organizations. [1]

On May 22, 2000, the Court of Appeal also refused the registration of the organization on different grounds, stating that the founders chose the wrong constituent form. The Court stated that the form chosen “does not allow them to act in protection of rights of others as proposed in the statutory documents”[2]and that “this contravenes the essence of a non-governmental organization… These [goals] cannot be effectuated by this organizational form.”[3]

On July 19, 2000 the Supreme Court of Justice annulled the Court of Appeal’s decision, sending the case back to the Court of Appeal for re-examination on the grounds that the Court of Appeal “did not verify if the refusal of Ministry of Justice violated the right to association granted by article 11(2) of the European Convention.”[4] The Supreme Court found the considerations of the Court of Appeal to be in error.

The Court of Appeal re-examined the case on October 29, 2000 and issued a decision that obligated the Ministry of Justice to register the organization, stating there are “no grounds for refusal to register.”[5] However, the Court refused to grant compensation of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages incurred. Both the founders (asking for compensation of damages) and Ministry of Justice (against decision to register on procedural grounds asking re-examination) appealed, so the case is once again pending examination before the Supreme Court of Justice.


[1] Note art. 14(2) of the law on non-governmental organizations states “Non-governmental associations can be constituted upon the initiative of at least 3 citizens and/or of one or more juridical persons-non-governmental organizations”

[2] See art. 2(1) “Non-governmental organizations are constituted to undertake activities aiming at protection and implementation of civil, economic, social, cultural and other rights,… ”

[3] See Decision of the Court of Appeal, 22.05.2000, judge Ion Corolevschi, in Bureau of Legal Advice on Individual Rights v. Ministry of Justice of Republic of Moldova.

[4] See Decision of the Supreme Court of Justice, 19 July, 2000, judges Anastasia pascari, Vasile Tataru, Dumitru Visterniceanu, in Bureau of Legal Advice on Individual Rights v. Ministry of Justice of Republic of Moldova.

[5] See Decision of the Court of Appeal, 29.10.2000, judge Tudor Lazar, in Bureau of Legal Advice on Individual Rights v. Ministry of Justice of Republic of Moldova.


Moscow Branch of the Salvation Army Denied Re-Registration under 1997 Law“on Freedom of Cconscience and on Religious Associations”

A recent ruling in the Moscow City Court may place obstacles in the path of religious-based organizations wishing to operate in Russia.

Slavic Center for Law and Justice
News release

November 29, 2000

Moscow City Court ruling on “Salvation Army” Case: Precedent May Be Used to Persecute Religious Organizations having Centers Abroad

Yesterday, on the 28th of November, the Moscow City Court dismissed the cassation filed by the “Salvation Army” Moscow branch. Vladimir Ryakhovsky of the Slavic Center for Law and Justice believes that thus a dangerous precedent was created that may be used to challenge the registration of many other organizations having centers abroad.

In fact, the ruling confirmed the decision of the Presnensky district court which read that the “Salvation Army”, Protestant Christian organization, is a “military association”. “It is difficult to imagine something as absurd as that”, – Ryakhovsky says.

The Moscow branch of the “Salvation Army” was refused state re-registration and appealed to the Presnensky court. The Court, however, did not even review some of the points of this appeal, ruled that the refusal was justified. The court also came to the conclusion that the “Salvation Army” was a “military association” and, being subordinated to the foreign center, might not be reregistered as organization enjoying full right but could only exist as a representation of a foreign religious organization in Russia. This last point directly contradicts the interpretation of the law on religion given by the Constitutional Court of Russia in its ruling of April, 13, 2000.

“The decision of the Presnensky Court contains so many mistakes in terms of law and procedure that it must have been overturned by the court of cassation right away”, – Ryakhovsky believes. However the Moscow City Court left it unchanged and having full legal force.

The court decision puts the “Salvation Army” Moscow branch under direct threat of dissolution as the term of reregistration expires on December 31. Besides it can form a legal basis to challenge registration of other religious organizations with the centers abroad which include the Roman-Catholic Church, many Protestant denominations, the Jehova’s Witnesses, the Mormons, etc. “This decision must be canceled by all means”, – Vladimir Ryakhovsky says.

The Salvation Army Case has also received coverage in the Washington Post:

David Hoffman, Moscow Court Puts Salvation Army in Limbo, Wash. Post, December 7, 2000, at A30.