1. The case originated in two applications (nos. 29221/95 and 29225/95) against Bulgaria lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights (“the Commission”) under former Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by Mr Boris Stankov and the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden (“the applicants”). The applications were introduced on 29 July 1994. Additional complaints were introduced on various dates between 1994 and 1997 (see the annex to the Commission’s partial decision of 21 October 1996 and the Commission’s final decision on admissibility of 29 June 1998).
2. The applicants appointed as their representative Mr Iordan Kostadinov Ivanov, a Bulgarian citizen residing in Sandanski, who was chairman of the applicant association for an unspecified period. In June 1998 Mr Ivanov, in turn, instructed Mr L. Hincker, a lawyer practising in Strasbourg. Mr Hincker first wrote on 19 June 1998 but did not intervene in the proceedings until the oral hearing (see below paragraph 7). The Bulgarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mrs G. Samaras, of the Ministry of Justice.
3. The applicants alleged a violation of Article 11 of the Convention in respect of the authorities’ refusal to allow the holding of their commemorative meetings on 31 July 1994, 22 April and 30 July 1995, and 20 April and 2 August 1997.
4. Having joined the applications and declared them partly inadmissible on 21 October 1996, the Commission declared the remainder admissible on 29 June 1998. As the Commission had not completed its examination of the case by 1 November 1999, the case was transmitted to the Court on that date in accordance with Article 5 § 3, second sentence, of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention.
5. The applications were allocated to the First Section of the Court (Rule 52 § 1 of the Rules of Court). Within that Section, the Chamber that would consider the case (Article 27 § 1 of the Convention) was constituted as provided in Rule 26 § 1 of the Rules of Court.
6. By letter of 9 May 2000 the parties were invited to submit written observations on the merits before 30 June 2000. By letter of 22 June 2000 the applicants submitted short observations on the merits. The Government’s memorial was filed on 25 July 2000.
7. A hearing, which was initially scheduled for 12 September 2000 but was postponed upon the Government’s request, took place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 17 October 2000 (Rule 59 § 2).
There appeared before the Court:
(a) for the Government Mrs G. SAMARAS, Ministry of Justice, Agent;
(b) for the applicants Mr L. HINCKER, Avocat, Counsel, Mrs M. LEMAITRE, Adviser.
Mr Iordan Kostadinov Ivanov, chairman of the applicant association, was also present. The Court heard addresses by Mr Hincker and Mrs Samaras.
8. On 24 October 2000 the applicants’ lawyer filed written submissions on the claims for just satisfaction made at the hearing. The Government replied on 29 December 2000.