CASE OF KARACS v. HUNGARY
(Application no. 29143/09)
15 December 2015
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Karacs v. Hungary,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Nona Tsotsoria, President,
Gabriele Kucsko-Stadlmayer, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 24 November 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 29143/09) against Hungary lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by five Hungarian nationals, Mr Imre Karacs, Mrs Edit Karacsné Isaszegi, Ms Zsófia Karacs, Mr Gergely Karacs and Ms Luca Karacs (“the applicants”), on 26 May 2009 (as regards the first applicant) and 23 December 2014 (as regards the remaining applicants), respectively. The second, third, fourth and fifth applicants were represented by the first applicant.
2. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr Z. Tallódi, Agent, Ministry of Justice.
3. On 26 January 2015 the application was communicated to the Government.
4. The applicants were born in 1965, 1967, 1996, 1998 and 2000 respectively and live in Isaszeg. The first and second applicants are spouses and parents of the third, fourth and fifth applicants.
5. The applicants lived as specially protected tenants in a flat owned by the local government of Budapest 12th District. Due to the seriously deteriorated condition of the flat, in December 1995 they concluded an agreement with a view to moving to another property of the local government. Subsequently, a dispute arose between the parties concerning the applicants’ rights flowing from the tenancy.
6. In a first set of civil proceedings, the first applicant challenged the validity of the agreement concluded in December 1995. The Buda Central District Court dismissed the first applicant’s claim on 27 March 1996. The judgment became final at first instance.
7. In September 1997 the first applicant brought a new action against the local government in relation to the tenancy agreement. This action was also dismissed by the Buda Central District Court; and the first instance judgment was upheld by the Budapest High Court in 2000, on a date not specified in the application.
8. On 28 August 2001 the first applicant brought a third action before the Budapest High Court, claiming damages sustained in connection to the tenancy dispute.
9. On 6 August 2002 the second, third, fourth and fifth applicants joined the first applicant’s action.
10. Both the Budapest High Court and the Budapest Court of Appeal, the latter acting as a second instance court, turned down the applicants’ claims. The dates of the judgments were not specified in the application.
11. The applicants lodged a petition for review. On 1 October 2014 the Kúria confirmed the final judgment. The judgment was served on the applicants on 4 December 2014.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
12. The applicants complained that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
13. The Government contested that argument.
14. The period to be taken into consideration began on 28 August 2001 for the first applicant and on 6 August 2002 for the other applicants. It ended on 1 October 2014. It thus lasted some 13 years and 1 month for the first applicant and 12 years and 2 months for the other applicants, for three levels of jurisdiction.
15. In view of such lengthy proceedings, this application must be declared admissible in so far as the complaint concerning the third set of proceedings is concerned (see paragraphs 8 to 11 above).
16. To the extent that the first and second sets of proceedings are concerned (see paragraphs 6 and 7 above), the complaint was submitted outside the six-month time-limit to be counted from the final judgments adopted in those proceedings and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.
17. The Court has frequently found violations of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in cases raising issues similar to the one in the present application (see, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII and Gazsó v. Hungary, no. 48322/12, § 17, 16 July 2015).
18. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court considers that the Government have not put forward any fact or convincing argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion in the present case. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement.
There has accordingly been a breach of Article 6 § 1.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 READ IN CONJUNCTION WITH ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
19. The applicants further complained of the fact that there was no effective remedy available to them by which to accelerate the proceedings. They relied on Article 13 of the Convention.
20. The Government contested that argument.
21. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) or inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
22. The Convention institutions have already held that there is no effective domestic remedy available in respect of the protraction of civil proceedings in Hungary (see Gazsó, cited above, § 21). The Government have not shown that the situation has changed in the meantime, either in terms of acceleratory or compensatory remedies.
For these reasons, there has been a violation of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
23. Relying on Article 41 of the Convention, the applicants claimed the following sums in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage and costs and expenses, all combined:
(i) the first applicant: 50,000 euros (EUR);
(ii) the second applicant: EUR 12,000;
(iii) the third, fourth and fifths applicants: EUR 8,000 each.
24. The Government contested these claims.
25. The Court does not discern any causal link between the violation found and the pecuniary damage alleged; it therefore rejects this claim. On the other hand, it considers that the applicants must have sustained some non-pecuniary damage. Ruling on the basis of equity, it awards them jointly EUR 6,300 under that head.
26. According to the Court’s case-law, an applicant is entitled to the reimbursement of costs and expenses only in so far as it has been shown that these have been actually and necessarily incurred and are reasonable as to quantum. In the present case, regard being had to the documents in its possession and the above criteria, the Court considers it reasonable to award the applicants, who were not represented by a lawyer, jointly EUR 500 for all costs incurred.
27. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the complaint concerning the protraction of the third set of proceedings admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
3. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants jointly, within three months, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 6,300 (six thousand three hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 500 (five hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 15 December 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Fatoş Aracı Nona Tsotsoria
Deputy Registrar President