(Application no. 67144/01)
13 June 2006
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Titiz and Others v. Turkey,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. COSTA, President,
Mr A.B. BAKA,
Mr R. TüRMEN,
Mr M. UGREKHELIDZE,
Mrs E. FURA-SANDSTRöM,
Ms D. JOčIENė,
Mr D. POPOVIć, judges,
and Mrs S. DOLLé, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 23 May 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 67144/01) against the Republic of Turkey lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by seven Turkish nationals, Mr Hasan Titiz, Ms Aliye Kaya, Mr Hüseyin Titiz, Mr Kenan Titiz, Mr Kemal Titiz, Ms Zarife Titiz and Ms Elif Titiz (“the applicants”), on 15 November 2000.
2. The applicants were represented by Mr Mahmut Akdoğan, a lawyer practising in Mersin. The Turkish Government (“the Government”) did not designate an Agent for the purposes of the proceedings before the Court.
3. On 15 September 2004 the Court decided to communicate the application to the Government. Under the provisions of Article 29 § 3 of the Convention, it decided to examine the merits of the application at the same time as its admissibility.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
4. The applicants were born in 1961, 1965, 1959, 1950, 1976, 1978 and 1979 respectively, and live in Mersin.
5. On 6 July 1993 the General Directorate of National Roads and Highways expropriated a plot of land belonging to the applicants in Mersin in order to build a motorway. A committee of experts assessed the value of the plot of land and the relevant amount was paid to the applicants when the expropriation took place.
6. Following the request of the applicants’ predecessor for increased compensation, on 14 July 1994 the Mersin Civil Court awarded him additional compensation of 463,140,750 Turkish liras (TRL), plus interest at the statutory rate, applicable at the date of the court’s decision, running from 6 July 1993, the date of the transfer of the title deeds to the land.
7. On 26 October 1998 the Court of Cassation upheld the judgment.
8. On 17 May 2000 the General Directorate of National Roads and Highways paid the applicants the amount of TRL 1,794,690,000, interest included.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
9. The relevant domestic law and practice are set out in the Akkuş v. Turkey judgment of 9 July 1997 (Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-IV).
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1
10. The applicants complained that the additional compensation for expropriation, which they had obtained from the authorities only after six years and ten months of court proceedings, had fallen in value, since the default interest payable had not kept pace with the very high rate of inflation in Turkey. They relied on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, which reads insofar as relevant as follows:
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”
11. The Government asked the Court to dismiss this complaint as inadmissible for failure to comply with the six-month time-limit under Article 35 § 1 of the Convention. For the purposes of that provision, time had started to run on 26 October 1998. However, the applicants did not lodge their application with Court until 15 November 2000, that is more than two years after the final domestic decision.
12. The Court notes that the complaint before it concerns solely the authorities’ delay in paying the additional compensation and the damage sustained by the applicants as a result.
13. Payment was finally made by the authorities on 17 May 2000. By lodging their application with the Court on 15 November 2000, the applicants complied with the requirement set out in Article 35 § 1 of the Convention. The preliminary objection of the Government must therefore be dismissed.
14. The Court finds that, in the light of the principles it has established in its case-law (see, among other authorities, Akkuş, cited above) and of all the evidence before it, this complaint requires examination on the merits and there are no grounds for declaring it inadmissible.
15. The Court has found a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 in a number of cases that raise similar issues to those arising here (see Akkuş, cited above, p. 1317, § 31).
16. Having examined the facts and arguments presented by the Government, the Court considers that there is nothing to warrant a departure from its findings in the previous cases. It finds that the delay in paying the additional compensation awarded by the domestic courts was attributable to the expropriating authority and caused the owners a loss additional to that of the expropriated land. As a result of that delay and the length of the proceedings as a whole, the Court finds that the applicants have had to bear an individual and excessive burden that has upset the fair balance that must be maintained between the demands of the general interest and protection of the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions.
17. Consequently, there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
18. The applicants also complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention of the unreasonable length of the court proceedings.
19. The Government again requested the Court to declare this complaint inadmissible for non-compliance with the six-month rule since the Court of Cassation upheld the first-instance court’s judgment on 26 October 1998, whereas the application was lodged with the Court on 15 November 2000.
20. The Court reiterates that it has accepted in cases concerning length of proceedings the principle that enforcement of a judgment given by any court must be regarded as an integral part of the “trial” for the purposes of Article 6 (see the Di Pede v. Italy and Zappia v. Italy judgments of 26 September 1996, Reports 1996-IV, pp. 1383-1384, §§ 20-24, and pp. 1410-1411, §§ 16-20 respectively).
21. The Court observes that the additional compensation awarded by the domestic courts was paid to the applicants on 17 May 2000. It therefore considers that the “trial” within the meaning of Article 6 ended on that date. The Court notes that the application was lodged less than six months later on 15 November 2000.
22. In the light of the foregoing, the Court dismisses the Government’s preliminary objection.
23. The Court notes that the complaint concerning the length of proceedings is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds.
24. In the light of its findings with regard to Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 above (paragraphs 15-17), the Court considers that no separate examination of the case under Article 6 § 1 is necessary.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
25. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
A. Pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage
26. The applicants sought compensation for pecuniary damage in the sum of 9,547 United States dollars (USD) (approximately 8,450 euros - EUR). They also claimed compensation for non-pecuniary damage of USD 5,000 (approximately EUR 4,150).
27. The Government contested their claims.
28. Using the same method of calculation as in the Akkuş judgment (cited above, p. 1311, §§ 35-36 and 39) and having regard to the relevant economic data, the Court awards the applicants, jointly, EUR 1,280 for pecuniary damage.
29. The Court considers that the finding of a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage suffered by the applicants.
B. Costs and expenses
30. The applicants also claimed USD 509.48 (approximately EUR 425) for the costs and expenses incurred before the domestic courts and USD 42 (approximately EUR 35) for those incurred before the Court.
31. The Government contested those claims.
32. According to the Court’s case-law, an applicant is entitled to reimbursement of costs and expenses only in so far as it has been shown that these have been actually and necessarily incurred and were reasonable as to quantum. In the present case, regard being had to the information in its possession and the above criteria, the Court rejects the claim for costs and expenses in the domestic proceedings and considers it reasonable to award the sum of EUR 35 for the proceedings before the Court.
C. Default interest
33. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest 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 application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention;
3. Holds that it is unnecessary to examine separately the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
4. Holds that the finding of a violation constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicants;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, jointly, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final according to Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into New Turkish liras at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 1,280 (one thousand two hundred and eighty euros) in respect of pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 35 (thirty-five euros) in respect of costs and expenses;
(iii) any taxes that may be chargeable on the above amounts;
(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;
6. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 13 June 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
S. DOLLé J.-P. COSTA