(Application no. 30165/02)
14 November 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 Jurevičius v. Lithuania,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. Costa, President,
Mr A.B. Baka,
Mr I. Cabral Barreto,
Mrs A. Mularoni,
Mrs E. Fura-Sandström,
Ms D. Jočienė,
Mr D. Popović, judges,
and Mrs S. Dollé, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 24 October 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. The circumstances of the case
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
On 27 May 1994 the Constitutional Court examined the issue of the compatibility of the Constitution with the domestic laws on the restitution of property rights. In its decision the Constitutional Court held inter alia that possessions which had been nationalised by the Soviet authorities since 1940 should be considered as “property under the de facto control of the State”. The Constitutional Court also stated that, “The rights of a former owner to particular property have not been restored until the property is returned or appropriate compensation is afforded. The law does not itself afford any rights until it is applied to a concrete person in respect of specific property. In this situation the decision of a competent authority to return the property or to compensate has the legal effect that only from that moment does the former owner obtain property rights to the specific property.” The Constitutional Court also held that fair compensation for property which could not be returned was compatible with the principle of the protection of property.
In decisions of 15 June and 19 October 1994, the Constitutional Court emphasised that the notion of the restitution of property rights in Lithuania essentially denoted partial reparation. In this respect the Constitutional Court noted that the authorities of Lithuania, as a re-established State in 1990, were not responsible for the Soviet occupation half a century ago, nor were they responsible for the consequences of that occupation. The Constitutional Court held that since the 1940s many private persons had bought, in accordance with the legislation applicable at the material time, various properties which had been previously nationalised. The denial of these factual and legal aspects was impossible, and the domestic legislation on the restitution of property rights duly took into account not only the interests of the former owners, but also the interests of private persons who had occupied or purchased the property by way of lawful contracts.
On 20 June 1995 the Constitutional Court held that the choice by the Parliament of the partial reparation principle was influenced by the difficult political and social conditions, in that “new generations had grown, [and] new proprietary and other socio-economic relations had been formed during the 50 years of occupation, which could not be ignored in deciding the question of the restitution of property”.
On 8 March 1995 the Constitutional Court ruled that a person who qualifies for compensation for property which cannot be returned is entitled to choose the form of compensation (land or money) by giving written permission for the authorities to proceed with the decision. The Constitutional Court also held that the executive authorities have discretion to decide on appropriate compensation in each case, but that a person is entitled to contest the compensation offered thereby through a court action.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL NO. 1 TO THE CONVENTION
1. Nationalisation of the land and the applicant’s claim for the return in kind of the whole of his parents’ former property
“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.”
2. Non-restitution of the applicant’s property rights to his parents’ former land in Laisvės alėja 18, Kaunas
3. Non-execution of the court decision of 5 February 1999
4. Non-restitution of the applicant’s property rights to his parents’ former land in Šv. Gertrūdos street 6, Kaunas
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal ...”
III. 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 should enforce the remainder of the judgment of 5 February 1999 in the applicant’s favour, in full satisfaction of his pecuniary damage, within three months from the date on which the present judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention;
(b) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within the same three month period, EUR 6,000 (six thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable, which sum is to be converted into the national currency of that State at the rate applicable on the date of settlement;
(c) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount 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 14 November 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
S. Dollé J.-P. Costa