I. THE GOVERNMENT’S PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS

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52. The Government reiterated and expanded, in the light of recent developments, upon their objections made at the admissibility stage of the proceedings. They submitted that certain discrepancies in the applicants’ statements before various authorities demonstrated the abusive nature of the applications. The Government further maintained that domestic remedies had not been exhausted and that the applications were manifestly ill-founded.

Commenting the Commission’s decision on Ilinden’s locus standi, the Government, while not disputing in their memorial the Commission’s conclusion, stated that the judicial decisions of 1990 and 1991 (see above paragraphs 11-13) had the legal effect of a ban on Ilinden’s activities as an association and as a group of individuals. At the oral hearing the Government’s agent asked the Court to find, on that ground, that the applicant association had no locus standi. The standing of Mr Stankov was not called into question. The Government considered, however, that he was not validly represented before the Court, as he had not authorised Mr Ivanov, his representative, to delegate his power to act to Mr Hincker, who – moreover – had only mentioned Ilinden in his letter to the Court announcing his participation as counsel. The Government further questioned, for the first time in their submissions on Article 41, the validity of Mr Hincker’s power to represent the applicant association, there having been no collective decision by the association’s members authorising Mr Ivanov to delegate his power to act to another person.

53. The applicants invited the Court to rule on the merits.

54. The Court recalls that, under the Convention system as in force after 1 November 1998, where the respondent Government repeat objections raised and examined at the admissibility stage, its task is to verify whether there are special circumstances warranting re-examination of questions of admissibility (Velikova v. Bulgaria, no. 41488/98, § 57, ECHR 1999-V; and Basic v. Austria, no. 29800/96, § 34, to be published in the court’s official reports).

The provision of Article 35 § 4 in fine of the Convention, which allows the Court to declare an application inadmissible at any stage of the proceedings, does not signify that a respondent State is able to raise an admissibility question at any stage of the proceedings if it could have been raised earlier (see paragraph 88 of the Explanatory Report to Protocol No. 11 to the Convention and Rule 55 of the Rules of Court) or to reiterate it where it has been rejected.

55. It is true that, unlike the Velikova and Basic cases, in the present instance the questions of admissibility were examined by the Commission, prior to the entry into force of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention, and not by the Court. The Court observes nevertheless that, pursuant to Article 5 § 3 in fine of Protocol No. 11, applications declared admissible by the Commission and transmitted to the Court without the Commission having completed their examination, shall be dealt with “as admissible cases”. The judgment of the Chamber in such cases is not final, subject to the provisions of Article 44 § 2 of the Convention.

The Court finds, therefore, that in cases falling under Article 5 § 3 in fine of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention it will only re-open questions of admissibility if there are special circumstances warranting such re-examination.

56. In the present case the Government essentially reiterated their objections as to the admissibility of the application, which had already been examined and rejected by the Commission in its decision of 29 June 1998.

57. The Court notes that the Commission dealt with the Government’s arguments in detail and gave full reasons for its decision. Having carefully examined the Government’s submissions, including their comments in the light of new developments, there are no new elements which would justify a re-examination of the admissibility issues in the present case.

In respect of Mr Stankov’s legal representation before it, the Court is satisfied, on the basis of the authorisation forms signed by him and Mr Ivanov (see paragraph 2 above), that he is validly represented. The Court finally does not find anything which would cast doubt on Mr Hincker’s power to represent Ilinden. The Court leaves open the question whether the Government are estopped from raising that question for the first time in their submissions on Article 41 of the Convention. The Government’s preliminary objections are therefore dismissed.