In the case of Trevisan v. Italy*,
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")** 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,
Having deliberated in private on 29 October 1992 and
2 February 1993,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the
Notes by the Registrar
* The case is numbered 12/1992/357/431. 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.
** As amended by Article 11 of Protocol No. 8 (P8-11), which came
into force on 1 January 1990.
1. The case was referred to the Court by the European
Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission") on 13 April 1992,
within the three- month period laid down by Article 32 para. 1
and Article 47 (art. 32-1, art. 47) of the Convention. It
originated in an application (no. 13688/88) against the Italian
Republic lodged with the Commission under Article 25 (art. 25)
by an Italian national, Mr Paolo Trevisan, on 2 February 1988.
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
2. In response to the enquiry made in accordance with
Rule 33 para. 3 (d) of the Rules of Court, the applicant stated
that he wished to take part in the proceedings and designated the
lawyer who would represent him (Rule 30).
3. On 25 April 1992 the President of the Court decided that,
pursuant to Rule 21 para. 6 and in the interests of the proper
administration of justice, this case and the cases of Pizzetti,
De Micheli, F.M., Salesi, Billi and Messina v. Italy* should be
heard by the same Chamber.
* Cases nos. 8/1992/353/427 to 11/1992/356/430, 13/1992/358/432
4. The Chamber to be constituted for this purpose included ex
officio Mr C. Russo, the elected judge of Italian nationality
(Article 43 of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the
President of the Court (Rule 21 para. 3 (b)). On the same day,
in the presence of the Registrar, the President drew by lot the
names of the other seven members, namely Mr Thór Vilhjálmsson,
Mr F. Matscher, Mr L.-E. Pettiti, Mr N. Valticos,
Mr S.K. Martens, Mrs E. Palm and Mr F. Bigi (Article 43 in fine
of the Convention and Rule 21 para. 4) (art. 43).
5. Mr Ryssdal assumed the office of President of the Chamber
(Rule 21 para. 5) and, through the Deputy Registrar, consulted
the Agent of the Italian Government ("the Government"), the
Delegate of the Commission and the applicant's lawyer on the
organisation of the proceedings (Rules 37 para. 1 and 38).
Pursuant to the order made in consequence, the Registrar
received, on 15 July 1992, the memorial of the applicant - whom
the President had given leave to use the Italian language
(Rule 27 para. 3). By a letter of 23 July the Government stated
that they wished to refer the Court to their observations before
the Commission. The Delegate of the Commission did not lodge
6. On 26 May the Chamber had decided to dispense with a
hearing, having found that the conditions for such a derogation
from the usual procedure were satisfied (Rules 26 and 38).
7. On 3 September the Commission produced the file on the
proceedings before it, as requested by the Registrar on the
8. As Mr Ryssdal was unable to attend the deliberations on
29 October, he was replaced as President of the Chamber by
Mr R. Bernhardt, the Vice-President of the Court (Rule 21
para. 5, second sub-paragraph).
9. On 20 October and 8 November 1992 respectively the
Government and the Commission filed their observations on the
applicant's claims for just satisfaction (Article 50 of the
Convention) (art. 50).
AS TO THE FACTS
10. Mr Paolo Trevisan resides in Padua. The facts established
by the Commission pursuant to Article 31 para. 1 (art. 31-1) of
the Convention are as follows (paragraphs 16-18 of its report):
"16. On 18 July 1986 the applicant instituted proceedings
against the AMP company before the Padua magistrate's
court (pretore) seeking an order requiring AMP to pay him
the arrears of salary to which he claimed entitlement,
together with damages in respect of the company's failure
to fulfil its obligations under his contract of employment
and the premature termination of that contract.
The case was placed on the list on an unspecified
17. The Padua magistrate's court arranged for a hearing
to be held on 23 October 1986 with a view to an attempt at
conciliation. The defendant company did not attend the
hearing. The court then arranged for the next hearing to
be held on 17 December 1986. On 4 May 1987 the Padua
magistrate's court ruled that it lacked territorial
jurisdiction over the case.
18. The applicant then instituted proceedings against
AMP before the Treviso magistrate's court on 9 June 1987.
Hearings were held on 12 January 1988 (appearance of the
parties), 5 February 1988 and 3 June 1988 (hearing of
witnesses). A fourth hearing at which the evidence was
examined took place on 31 January 1989. This was followed
on 19 December 1989 by a further hearing for one more
witness to give evidence. At a hearing which took place
on 1 June 1990 the defendant company put forward proposals
for a settlement of the dispute. A hearing was arranged
to take place on 26 June 1990 but had to be postponed
because of the absence of the defendant company. The next
hearing took place on 11 June 1991. This hearing was
adjourned to give the parties time to explore the
possibility of reaching a settlement. At the hearing of
26 June 1991 the parties filed their final submissions.
The judgment of the magistrate's court was given on the
same day and deposited with the registry on 6 July 1991.
This judgment partly upheld the applicant's claims."
11. No appeal was filed against the magistrate's court's
judgment and it became final on 7 July 1992.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION
12. Mr Trevisan lodged his application with the Commission on
2 February 1988. Relying on Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the
Convention, he complained of the length of the civil proceedings
instituted by him.
13. On 8 July 1991 the Commission declared the application
(no 13688/88) inadmissible as out of time (Article 26 in fine of
the Convention) (art. 26), as regards the period prior to
9 June 1987; it found it admissible for the rest. In its report
of 9 December 1991 (made under Article 31) (art. 31), it
expressed the opinion, by ten votes to one, that there had been
a violation of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1). The full text of
the Commission's opinion is reproduced as an annex to this
* Note by the Registrar: for practical reasons this annex will
appear only with the printed version of the judgment
(volume 257-F of Series A of the Publications of the Court), but
a copy of the Commission's report is available from the registry.
AS TO THE LAW
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 (art. 6-1)
14. The applicant alleged that his civil action had not been
tried within a "reasonable time" as required by Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention, according to which:
"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations
..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a
reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal ..."
The Government contested this claim, whereas the
Commission accepted it.
15. In view of the Commission's decision on the admissibility
of the application (see paragraph 13 above), the period to be
taken into consideration began on 9 June 1987, when the AMP
company was summonsed before the Treviso magistrate's court; it
ended on 7 July 1992, the date on which the latter's decision
became final (see paragraph 11 above).
16. The reasonableness of the length of proceedings is to be
determined with reference to the criteria laid down in the
Court's case-law and in the light of the circumstances of the
case, which in this instance call for an overall assessment.
17. The Government stressed that the post of magistrate at the
relevant court had been vacant when Mr Trevisan had brought his
action and had remained so until December 1987. In addition, the
numerous hearings which had been held between January 1988 and
June 1991 had been necessary in order to hear witnesses and to
examine an expert's report.
The applicant attacked the failure of the Italian State to
take appropriate action in the field of the administration of
justice, in particular as regards employment litigation.
18. In the Court's opinion, the case was of some complexity
but this does not in itself explain the length of the
proceedings. It is true that the parties' attempt at
conciliation resulted in some delay, for which the State cannot
be held responsible, but the same cannot be said of several
periods of inactivity, namely from 9 June 1987 to
12 January 1988, from 3 June 1988 to 31 January 1989 and from
26 June 1990 to 11 June 1991 (see paragraph 10 above, no. 18).
As to the argument based on the vacant post at the Treviso
magistrate's court, it should be recalled that Article 6 para. 1
(art. 6-1) imposes on the Contracting States the duty to organise
their judicial systems in such a way that their courts can meet
each of its requirements (see, among many other authorities, the
Tusa v. Italy judgment of 27 February 1992, Series A no. 231-D,
p. 41, para. 17).
The Court notes finally that special diligence is
necessary in employment disputes (see, among many other
authorities, mutatis mutandis, the Nibbio v. Italy judgment of
26 February 1992, Series A no. 228-A, p. 10, para. 18). Italy
moreover acknowledged this by amending, in 1973, the special
procedure laid down in this field and by introducing, in 1990,
emergency measures intended to speed up the conduct of such
19. In these circumstances and in view of what was at stake in
the proceedings for the applicant, the Court cannot regard as
"reasonable" the time which elapsed in this case.
There has therefore been a violation of Article 6 para. 1
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 50 (art. 50)
20. Under 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."
21. The applicant claimed 30,000,000 Italian lire for damage.
He maintained that in 1986, during the proceedings instituted in
the Padua magistrate's court, he had had to sell certain
property. In addition, his financial circumstances and his
standard of living had suffered. The Delegate of the Commission
in essence supported this claim.
In the Government's view, on the other hand, Mr Trevisan
had failed to show the existence of a causal connection between
the alleged breach and any pecuniary damage. As regards possible
non-pecuniary damage, a finding of a violation would in itself
constitute sufficient just satisfaction for the purposes of
Article 50 (art. 50).
22. The Court considers that the alleged pecuniary damage
cannot be taken into account, because it dates from a period
prior to 9 June 1987 (see paragraphs 13 and 15 above).
Nevertheless the applicant must have suffered a degree of
non-pecuniary damage, for which he should be awarded
B. Costs and expenses
23. The applicant also sought 6,477,130 lire for costs and
expenses referable to the proceedings before the Convention
organs. The Delegate of the Commission endorsed that claim.
The Government, on the other hand, considered that it was
founded on provisions, concerning lawyer's fees, which were part
of the Italian domestic legal system and which did not therefore
apply in the present case. However, they left the matter to be
determined by the Court.
24. Having regard to the evidence at its disposal and to its
case-law in this field, the Court awards the applicant the sum
claimed in its entirety.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1);
2. Holds that the respondent State is to pay to the
applicant, within three months, 10,000,000 (ten million)
Italian lire for non-pecuniary damage and 6,477,130 (six
million four hundred and seventy-seven thousand one
hundred and thirty) lire for costs and expenses;
3. Dismisses the remainder of the claim for just
Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public
hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on
26 February 1993.
Signed: Rudolf BERNHARDT
Signed: Marc-André EISSEN