(Application no. 54836/00)
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 Vidic 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:
2. The Slovenian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr L. Bembič, State Attorney-General.
3. The applicant alleged under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the length of the proceedings before the domestic courts to which he was a party was excessive.
4. On 6 March 2003 the Court decided to communicate the complaints concerning the length of the proceedings to the Government. Applying Article 29 § 3 of the Convention, it decided to rule on the admissibility and merits of the application at the same time.
1. The first set of proceedings – concerning the payment of damages
On 3 April 1991 the first-instance judgment of 6 June 1990 was quashed on appeal and remitted for re-examination in respect of two of the defendants. However, with respect to one of the defendants, the first-instance judgement was upheld and became final.
On 28 June 1994 the Convention entered into force with respect to Slovenia.
According to the Government, the first-instance court twice requested the applicant to correct his claim, namely on 26 June 1992 and on 26 August 1999. The applicant corrected his claim on 3 July 1992 and, after a further request, on 6 October 1999.
On 3 August 1999 the applicant lodged a request for supervision due to the delays in the proceedings.
In January 2000 and July 2000 the applicant was twice requested to submit enough copies of the corrected claim to enable the court to serve them on the defendants, which he apparently did by September 2000.
Following the request for the payment of expert fees of 28 November 2001, the applicant, on 6 December 2001, withdrew the proposal for the appointment of a horticultural expert.
Of the three hearings held on 28 March 2001, 22 June 2001 and 4 April 2003 none was adjourned at the request of the applicant. Hearings scheduled for 20 December 2000, 19 September 2001, 6 February 2002 and 19 April 2002 were adjourned because the summons had not been successfully served on the defendants.
Following the absence of the applicant at the hearing held on 7 June 2002 the (renamed) Ljubljana Local Court (Okrajno sodišče v Ljubljani) suspended the proceedings (mirovanje postopka) and resumed them again on 5 February 2003.
At the last hearing the court delivered a judgment, rejecting the applicant’s claim. It was served on the applicant on 2 July 2003.
The proceedings are still pending.
2. The second set of the proceedings – concerning the removal of a barrier
According to the Government, none of at least eight hearings scheduled between 2 June 1992 and 14 July 1997 were held since the court did not succeed in serving the writ of a claim and summons on A.D. and/or S. D.
In the meanwhile, on 28 June 1994, the Convention entered into force with respect to Slovenia.
According to the Government, after the court had tried twenty times to serve the writ of claim, the latter was finally served on A.D. on 14 May 1999.
Between 25 September 1995 and 22 April 1999 the applicant five times urged the court to speed up the proceedings. He also made a complaint concerning the length of the proceedings to the Slovenian Ombudsman for Human Rights (Varuh človekovih pravic).
Of the three hearings scheduled between 8 September 1999 and 31 May 2000 none was adjourned on the request of the applicant.
On 13 February 2000 the applicant requested a temporary injunction. The court decided on that request on 11 July 2000.
The applicant did not attend the hearing called for 11 September 2000 and as a result, the (renamed) Ljubljana Local Court suspended the proceedings (mirovanje postopka).
On 22 September 2000 the applicant appealed against that decision and requested the court to reinstate his case (vrnitev v prejšnje stanje).
On 17 November 2000 the court dismissed the applicant’s request and on 21 March 2001 the Ljubljana Higher Court approved the decision of 11 September 2000.
On 1 June 2001 the Ljubljana Local Court decided to terminate the proceedings on the basis of assumption that the applicant had withdrawn his claim.
10. The applicant appealed to the Ljubljana Higher Court.
On 9 January 2002 the court dismissed the applicant’s appeal finding that the applicant’s request and the appeal of 22 September 2000 could not have been considered as a request for a continuation of the proceedings.
The Ljubljana Higher Court’s decision was served on the applicant on 25 January 2002.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 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...”
As far as the first set of the proceedings is concerned, the relevant period has not yet ended and has therefore lasted about twelve years for two levels of jurisdiction. As to the second set of the proceedings, the relevant period ended on 25 January 2002, when the Ljubljana Higher Court’s decision was served on the applicant, and has thus lasted nearly seven years and seven months for two levels of jurisdiction.
There has accordingly been a breach of Article 6 § 1.
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 8,000 (eight thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 150 (one hundred fifty 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