CASE OF SALESI c. ITALIE
(Application no. 13023/87)
26 February 1993
In the case of Salesi v. Italy1,
The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention")2 and the relevant provisions of the Rules of Court, as a Chamber composed of the following judges:
Mr R. Bernhardt, President,
Mr Thór Vilhjálmsson,
Mr F. Matscher,
Mr L.-E. Pettiti,
Mr C. Russo,
Mr N. Valticos,
Mr S.K. Martens,
Mrs E. Palm,
Mr F. Bigi,
and also of Mr M.-A. Eissen, Registrar, and Mr H. Petzold, Deputy Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 25 September 1992 and 2 February 1993,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:
The Commission’s request referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration whereby Italy recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46). The object of the request was to obtain a decision as to whether the facts of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its obligations under Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).
There appeared before the Court:
- for the Government
Mr G. Raimondi, magistrato,
on secondment to the Diplomatic Legal Service, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Co-Agent,
Mr B. Capponi, magistrato,
on secondment to the Ministry of Justice, Counsel;
- for the Commission
Mr G. Sperduti, Delegate;
- for the applicant
Mr G. Angelozzi, avvocato, Counsel.
The Court heard statements and addresses by them, as well as replies to its question.
The Government’s reply was supplemented by material received at the registry on 2 October 1992.
AS TO THE FACTS
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
"15. On 28 February 1986 the applicant instituted proceedings against the Minister of the Interior before the Rome magistrate’s court (pretore)",
seeking payment of a monthly disability allowance which the Lazio social-security department had refused her.
"16. Preparation of the case for trial began at the hearing of 21 May 1986, on which date the court ordered an expert opinion. The expert appointed took the oath at the hearing of 17 June 1986. At the end of the hearing held on 2 December 1986 the court ordered the Minister of the Interior to pay the allowance requested. The text of this decision was deposited with the registry on 16 December 1986.
17. On 21 April 1987 the Minister of the Interior appealed against the above decision and, on 5 May 1987, the President of the Rome District Court arranged for the appeal to be heard by the competent division of the court on 24 May 1989. On that date the Rome District Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the contested decision."
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
"All citizens who are unfit for work and lack the basic wherewithal to live shall be entitled to means of subsistence and welfare assistance.
The bodies and institutions set up or supported by the State shall be responsible for discharging the functions provided for in this Article.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION
GOVERNMENT’S FINAL SUBMISSIONS TO THE COURT
AS TO THE LAW
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 (art. 6-1)
"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal ..."
A. Applicability of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1)
In the present case, however, the question arises in connection with welfare assistance and not, as in the cases previously cited, social insurance. Certainly there are differences between the two, but they cannot be regarded as fundamental at the present stage of development of social security law. This justifies following, in relation to the entitlement to welfare allowances, the opinion which emerges from the aforementioned judgments as regards the classification of the right to social insurance benefits, namely that State intervention is not sufficient to establish that Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) is inapplicable.
As in the two cases previously referred to, other considerations argue in favour of the applicability of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) in the instant case. The most important of these lies in the fact that despite the public law features pointed out by the Government, Mrs Salesi was not affected in her relations with the administrative authorities as such, acting in the exercise of discretionary powers; she suffered an interference with her means of subsistence and was claiming an individual, economic right flowing from specific rules laid down in a statute giving effect to the Constitution (see paragraph 10 above).
The protection of this basic right is, moreover, organised in such a way that at the judicial stage disputes over it come within the jurisdiction of the ordinary court, the labour magistrate’s court (pretore del lavoro).
In sum, the Court sees no convincing reason to distinguish between Mrs Salesi’s right to welfare benefits and the rights to social insurance benefits asserted by Mrs Feldbrugge and Mr Deumeland.
Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) therefore applies in the instant case.
B. Compliance with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1)
The applicant and the Commission said there was, whereas the Government denied it.
There has therefore been a breach of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 50 (art. 50)
"If the Court finds that a decision or a measure taken by a legal authority or any other authority of a High Contracting Party is completely or partially in conflict with the obligations arising from the ... Convention, and if the internal law of the said Party allows only partial reparation to be made for the consequences of this decision or measure, the decision of the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party."
In the Government’s submission, she had not sustained any pecuniary damage; she could have applied for enforcement of the judgment at first instance and, moreover, she had secured recognition of her entitlement to the disputed allowance and to the arrears, adjusted for inflation, together with interest at the statutory rate.
As to the non-pecuniary damage, the mere finding of a breach, if any, would in itself provide sufficient just satisfaction for the purposes of Article 50 (art. 50).
B. Costs and expenses
In the absence of any objections on the part of the Government, the Court awards the amount sought in its entirety.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that Article 6 (art. 6) applies in the instant case and that there has been a breach of it;
2. Holds that the respondent State is to pay to the applicant, within three months, 11,000,000 (eleven million) Italian lire in respect of damage and 7,140,000 (seven million one hundred and forty thousand) lire in respect of costs and expenses.
Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 26 February 1993.
1 The case is numbered 11/1992/356/430. The first number is the case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the relevant year (second number). The last two numbers indicate the case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications to the Commission.
2 As amended by Article 11 of Protocol No. 8 (P8-11), which came into force on 1 January 1990.
3 Cases nos. 8/1992/353/427 to 10/1992/355/429 and 12/1992/357/431 to 14/1992/359/433.
4 Note by the Registrar: for practical reasons this annex will appear only with the printed version of the judgment (volume 257-E of Series A of the Publications of the Court), but a copy of the Commission's report is available from the registry.