Dissolution of a foundation on account of its insufficient financial resources, did not breach the freedom of assembly and association.
MIHR Foundation v. Turkey 07.05.2019 (no. 10814/07)
Freedom of assembly and association. Dissolution of a foundation of civilization, knowledge, welfare and prosperity on account of its insufficient financial resources. Τhe Ankara District Court, had not ordered the dissolution of the MİHR foundation on account of its constitution or any incompatible activities, but it had simply declared it dissolved because its resources were insufficient to cover its expenses and that it was no longer capable of fulfilling its registered purposes in order to preserve credibility of the system of public-interest foundations in Turkey. No violation of Article 11, since the reasons given for justifying the dissolution of the Foundation were sufficient and serious, had met a socila need and was therefore necessary in a democratic society.
Article 6 § 1
The applicant is a foundation known by the acronym MİHR (Medeniyet, İrfan, Hayır, Refah Vakfı –
foundation of civilisation, knowledge, welfare and prosperity). It was registered as a Turkish
foundation in 1989 with the main purposes of providing assistance to the needy in the areas of
Islam, modern technologies and nuclear physics, and of organising classes, setting up universities or
joining existing universities.
In 2005 the Ankara District Court ordered the dissolution of the MİHR foundation on the ground that
its resources were insufficient to cover its expenses and that it was no longer capable of fulfilling its
registered purposes. Its financial assets were transferred to another foundation pursuing similar
aims. The judgment was upheld by the Court of Cassation in 2006.
In 2014 the foundation’s request for re-registration was rejected by the domestic courts. An
individual appeal has been pending since January 2018 before the Turkish Constitutional Court.
Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association)
The Court first observed that the MİHR foundation had not been dissolved on account of its
constitution or any incompatible activities, but had simply been declared dissolved because it could
no longer afford to carry out its activities in order to fulfil its registered aims. The domestic civil
courts had found that it was no longer doing anything to fulfil its aims, because it no longer had any
assets except for two buildings which generated its sole revenue from small rents, any donations it
received were minimal, the income indicated in its balance sheet both before and after the
dissolution procedure had been insignificant, and its publication or radio broadcasting activities had
been restricted, mainly for economic reasons.
The Court further noted that the aims of the applicant foundation, which had been expressly set out
in its constitution, namely “research, advice and publications in the field of the main natural or social
sciences, establishment of universities or faculties with the aim of pursuing such research, economic
and commercial activities, various types of social assistance, etc.”, corresponded to aims of public
utility or general interest. It took the view that to expect from the applicant foundation that it should
meet minimum financial criteria was justified by the need to preserve the efficiency and credibility
of the system of public-interest foundations in Turkey.
Consequently the Court concluded – without prejudice to the question of the re-establishment of
the applicant foundation, which was still pending in the national courts –, that the reasons given to
find that the applicant foundation had been dissolved for financial difficulties were “relevant and
sufficient”. This measure had met a pressing social need, was proportionate to the legitimate aims
pursued and was therefore necessary in a democratic society. There had not therefore been a
violation of Article 11 of the Convention.
Article 6 (right to a fair hearing)
The Court found that the Ankara District Court had carefully examined, in accordance with the
requirements of adversarial proceedings, the findings of experts at the request of the parties,
including that of the foundation, and had taken them into account in its assessment of evidence as
set out in its sufficiently reasoned judgment. Having regard to all the information before it, the Court
concluded that the choice of experts and the assessment of their reports did not show any lack of
fairness in the domestic proceedings. Accordingly, this part of the application was manifestly
ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention(echrcaselaw.com editing).