The European Court of Human Rights has communicated the complaint in Association 'Accept' and Others v Romania. The applicants are members of an NGO in Romania that exists to promote the rights of sexual minorities.
The complaint relates to the requirement under Romania law that all organisations provide details of their membership for publication in the public register of associations. The applicants complain under Articles 8, 11 and 14 (as well as Article 6 and Article 1 of Protocol 12) of the European Convention on Human Rights that this requirement unnecessarily interferes with their freedom of association, their right to respect for private life, and that it is discriminatory.
The applicants claim that the requirement to disclose membership information is discriminatory because it does not take into account that, as members of a group that advocates for the rights of sexual minorities, members fear that if their names and addresses are published it will compromise their safety given the degree of intolerance in Romania towards homosexuality. Discrimination is created, they allege, because the law treats all organisations equally and does not take into account their special circumstances and needs.
This is an interesting complaint because rather than complaining about differential treatment created by law the applicants are complaining about the failure of law to recognise difference.
There is case law in the Court to support the applicants. In Thlimmenos v Greece the Court held that:
'[...] the right under Article 14 not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under the Convention is violated when States treat differently persons in analogous situations without providing an objective and reasonable justification [...] However, the Court considers that this is not the only facet of the prohibition of discrimination in Article 14. The right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under the Convention is also violated when States without an objective and reasonable justification fail to treat differently persons whose situations are significantly different.'
This supports the applicants' complaint that a law that applies to everyone equally and thereby fails to recognise the serious and negative consequences for vulnerable groups amounts to (indirect) discrimination under Article 14 of the Convention.