(Application no. 30431/03)
20 July 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 Vajagić v. Croatia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr C.L. Rozakis, President,
Mr L. Loucaides,
Mrs F. Tulkens,
Mrs N. Vajić,
Mrs E. Steiner,
Mr K. Hajiyev,
Mr D. Spielmann, judges,
and Mr S. Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 29 June 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
A. Constitutional Court Act
“(1) The Constitutional Court shall examine a constitutional complaint whether or not all legal remedies have been exhausted if the competent court fails to decide a claim concerning the individual’s rights and obligations or a criminal charge against him or her within a reasonable time ...
(2) If a constitutional complaint ... under paragraph 1 of this section is upheld, the Constitutional Court shall set a time-limit within which the competent court must decide the case on the merits...
(3) In a decision issued under paragraph 2 of this section, the Constitutional Court shall assess appropriate compensation for the applicant for the violation of his or her constitutional rights ... The compensation shall be paid out of the State budget within three months from the date a request for payment is lodged.”
B. Constitutional Court’s practice
Following its previous practice (decisions no. U-III-2467/2001 of 27 February 2002, and U-IIIA/3638/2003 of 18 February 2004), the Constitutional Court held that only the inactivity of the judicial authorities was relevant for a breach of Article 29 § 1 of the Constitution. In its view it was not possible for proceedings before the administrative authorities to last unreasonably long because the statutes regulating those proceedings contained the presumption that the application had been dismissed if the administrative authorities failed to give a decision within the statutory time-limits (see paragraphs 25 and 26 above). The Constitutional Court therefore examined only the length of the proceedings in their part between the introduction of the complainant’s third action in the Administrative Court and the lodging of the constitutional complaint. It dismissed the constitutional complaint finding that the proceedings had lasted only seven days.
C. The statute governing expropriation
The 1994 Expropriation Act (Zakon o izvlaštenju, Official Gazette nos. 9/94, 35/94 and 114/01), adopted after Croatia’s independence, provides that the decision on compensation should be given at the same time the actual expropriation takes place. Sections 8 and 33 provide that compensation for expropriated property should equal the market value of that property at the time of the issuance of the first-instance decision in the expropriation proceedings.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL NO.1 TO THE CONVENTION
“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.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”
1. Compatibility ratione temporis
2. Exhaustion of domestic remedies
1. Applicability of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
2. Compliance with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION
“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.”
IV. 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.”
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) reserves the said question in whole;
(b) invites the Government and the applicant to submit, within the forthcoming six months, their written observations on the matter and, in particular, to notify the Court of any agreement that they may reach;
(c) reserves the further procedure and delegates to the President of the Chamber the power to fix the same if need be.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 20 July 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Søren Nielsen Christos Rozakis