(Application no. 1419/02)
3 August 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 Schützenhofer v. Slovenia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr C. Bîrsan,
Mr B.M. Zupančič,
Mr V. Zagrebelsky,
Mrs A. Gyulumyan,
Mr E. Myjer,
Mr David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mrs I. Ziemele, judges,
and Mr V. Berger, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 11 July 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
7. On an unspecified date in 1994 the applicant made an agreement for sale with the company C. The applicant, who had already paid to C, afterwards withdrew from the agreement since he had not received the agreed goods.
On 12 December 1996 the applicant made a request that a date be set for a hearing. On 13 December 1996 the only judge working at the court at that time informed the applicant that the court lacked capacities and that the applicant’s case had not yet been allocated to any judge. The applicant made further three requests for a hearing on 19 March 1998, 22 January and 10 May 1999.
On 14 February 1997 and 27 May 1998 the court held hearings and on 8 June 1998 issued a decision declaring lack of jurisdiction and transferred the case to the Ptuj District Court (Okrožno sodišče na Ptuju).
Between 7 October 1997 and 30 September 2002 the applicant lodged eight preliminary written submissions and/or adduced evidence.
On 11 January 2000, he made a request that a hearing of a witness living in Austria and himself be carried out by an Austrian court – the Oberwart Local Court (Bezirksgericht Oberwart). On 13 April and 19 September 2001 he urged the Ptuj District Court to send a request to the Austrian court.
On 25 October 2001 the applicant filed a request for supervision with the president of the Ptuj District Court because of the delays in the proceedings.
On 27 November 2001 the request was forwarded to the Austrian authorities by the Slovenian Ministry of Justice (Ministrstvo za pravosodje). On 11 April 2002 the Ministry forwarded the minutes of the hearing it had received from Austria to the Ptuj District Court and on 22 April 2002 the applicant was requested to provide a translation of the minutes within 15 days. On 7 June 2002 the applicant submitted the translation, stating that he had received it from the court’s translator only on 28 May 2002.
Of the five hearings held before the Ptuj District Court between 16 September 1999 and 16 October 2002, none was adjourned at the request of the applicant.
At the last hearing the court decided to deliver a written judgment. The judgment, upholding the applicant’s claim, was served on the applicant on 29 October 2002.
On 16 November 2002 the judgment became final.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLES 6 § 1 AND 13 OF THE CONVENTION
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
Article 13 of the Convention reads as follows:
“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”
1. Article 6 § 1
It is true that the instant case was unusual in that that the hearing of the applicant and a witness was carried out by a foreign court. However, this fact did not contribute to the length of the proceedings in a significant way. Nor did the applicant’s conduct justify the long duration of the proceedings at issue. On the contrary, the Court considers that the responsibility for the length of the proceedings, which lasted more than seven years for only one level of jurisdiction, lies primarily with the Slovenian authorities.
Having examined all the material submitted to it, and having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court therefore finds that there has been a breach of Article 6 § 1 in that the length of the proceedings failed to meet the “reasonable-time” requirement.
2. Article 13
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“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.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 4,800 (four thousand eight hundred euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros) in respect of costs and expenses, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(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;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 3 August 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Berger Corneliu Bîrsan