CASE OF NÉMETH v. HUNGARY
(Application no. 25411/10)
17 February 2015
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Németh v. Hungary,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Helen Keller, President,
Robert Spano, judges,
and Abel Campos, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 27 January 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 25411/10) against the Republic of Hungary lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Hungarian national, Mr Sándor Németh (“the applicant”), on 20 April 2010.
2. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr Z. Tallódi, Agent, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.
3. On 9 April 2013 the application was communicated to the Government.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
4. The applicant was born in 1966 and lives in Budapest.
5. In March 2003 the applicant brought an action against Budapest IX District Municipality, claiming the release of public information in the context of a real estate dispute. So far the Pest Central District Court, the Budapest Regional Court and the Budapest Court of Appeal have dealt with the case.
6. On 19 March 2011 the examination of the case was suspended, pending the adjudication of a preliminary question in another procedure. This latter case appears to be pending at the appellate level.
7. According to the information available in the case file, the litigation is still pending.
8. The applicant complained that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. He also invoked Article 10 in this regard.
The Government contested that argument.
9. The Court considers that this complaint falls to be examined under Article 6 § 1 alone.
10. The period to be taken into consideration began in March 2003 and has not yet ended. It has thus lasted for over eleven years and nine months for three levels of jurisdiction.
In view of such lengthy proceedings, this complaint must be declared admissible.
11. 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).
12. 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 circumstances. 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.
13. The applicant also complained under Article 13 about the absence of an effective remedy to accelerate the proceedings.
The Government did not comment on this point.
The Court has already held that there is no effective remedy available in Hungary to accelerate civil proceedings (see Bartha v. Hungary, no. 33486/07, § 21, 25 March 2014).
This complaint is therefore admissible. Moreover, the Court concludes that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention.
14. The applicant further complained that the length of the proceedings had infringed his right to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions, as guaranteed by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
15. The Court notes that this complaint is linked to the one examined above (see paragraphs 8 to 12) and must therefore likewise be declared admissible.
16. Having regard to its finding under Article 6 § 1 (see paragraph 12 above), the Court considers that it is not necessary to examine whether, in this case, there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (see Zanghě v. Italy, 19 February 1991, § 23, Series A no. 194-C).
17. Lastly, the applicant complained about the conduct of the domestic authorities in general terms, resulting, in his view, in unfairness. He relied on Article 6 § 1.
The Court notes that the proceedings are still pending; therefore these complaints must be regarded as premature, and rejected pursuant to Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.
18. Relying on Article 41, the applicant claimed 20,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
19. The Government contested the claim.
20. The Court considers that the applicant must have sustained some non-pecuniary damage. Ruling on the basis of equity, it awards him EUR 5,400 under that head.
21. The applicant made no costs claim.
22. 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 complaints under Articles 6 § 1 (length of the proceedings) and 13 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention on account of the protraction of the proceedings;
3. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention;
4. Holds that it is not necessary to examine separately the applicant’s complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, EUR 5,400 (five thousand four hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
6. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 17 February 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Abel Campos Helen
Deputy Registrar President