ECHR ruling on right of military personnel to join representative association

In the same week as the Justice Secretary announces manifesto proposals to quit the European Court of Human Rights or disregard its rulings, there has been a dramatic new development in the ECHR position on the right of military personnel to form or join a trade union or representative military association.

In the cases of ADEFDROMIL v France and Matelly v. FranceMatelly v. France, the Chamber held that there had been a violation of the right of freedom of association. It concluded that, while the exercise by military personnel of freedom of association can be subject to legitimate restrictions, a blanket ban on forming or joining a trade union is contrary to the Convention.

Article 11 of the Convention reads:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

In other words, lawful restrictions may be imposed if justified, but the Court took the view that a blanket restriction cannot be justified.

Human rights and forces personnel

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