by S.C. PATIROM S.A.
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting on 2 June 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Boštjan M. Zupančič,
Ann Power, judges,
and Stanley Naismith, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 14 September 2005,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 16 June 2008 requesting the Court to strike the application out of the list of cases and the applicant’s reply to that declaration,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, S.C. PATIROM S.A., is a Romanian joint-stock company based in Roman. It was represented before the Court by Ms Ileana Leoveanu, a lawyer practising in Bucharest. The Romanian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr Răzvan-Horaţiu Radu.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
The applicant is a successor of a company, S.
On 4 February 1999 S. brought proceedings against other companies seeking, inter alia, payment of rent due and eviction from commercial premises. It had been allowed to produce two expert reports.
On 13 October 2000 the Neamţ County Court allowed the action in part, considering that S. was the owner of the commercial premises.
The defendant companies, F. and D., appealed, claiming that the building at issue was not commercial premises but a warehouse. A new expert report to assess the matter at issue was produced in the proceedings.
On 26 July 2001 the Bacău Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and dismissed the action by S. Based on the evidence adduced in the case, it found that the property at issue was a warehouse belonging to F.
The applicant lodged a further appeal alleging, inter alia, that the courts had ignored the expert reports.
On 15 March 2005 the High Court of Cassation and Justice, by a final decision, dismissed the appeal as groundless, considering that the property at issue had never belonged to S.
The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the length of the proceedings.
Under the same Article, it complained that the outcome had been unfair and that the domestic courts had failed to assess the facts correctly, had misinterpreted the domestic law and had only taken into account the evidence proposed by the opposing parties.
Lastly, the applicant complained under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 that it had been deprived of its possessions.
A. Length of proceedings
The applicant’s first complaint relates to the length of the proceedings.
By letter dated 16 June 2008 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by this part of the application. They further requested the Court to strike out the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.
The declaration provided as follows:
“Le Gouvernement déclare – au moyen de la présente déclaration unilatérale – qu’il reconnaît la durée excessive de la procédure interne engagée par la partie requérante.
Le Gouvernement déclare être prêt à verser à la partie requérante au titre de satisfaction équitable la somme de 1 000 EUR, montant qu’il considère comme raisonnable au vu de la jurisprudence de la Cour. Cette somme qui couvrira tout préjudice matériel et moral ainsi que les frais et dépens, ne sera soumise à aucun impôt. Elle sera versée en lei roumains au taux applicable à la date du paiement sur le compte bancaire indiqué par la partie requérante, dans les trois mois suivant la date de la notification de la décision de la Cour rendue conformément à l’article 37 § 1 de la Convention européenne des droits de l’Homme. A défaut de règlement dans ledit délai, le Gouvernement s’engage à verser, à compter de l’expiration de celui-ci et jusqu’au règlement effectif de la somme en question, un intérêt simple à un taux égal à celui de la facilité de prêt marginal de la Banque centrale européenne, augmenté de trois points de pourcentage.
Le Gouvernement invite respectueusement la Cour à dire que la poursuite de l’examen de la requête n’est plus justifiée et à la rayer du rôle en vertu de l’article 37 § 1 c) de la Convention.”
In a letter of 26 September 2008, the applicant asked the Court to reject the Government’s declaration. It reiterated that it had raised other complaints that had not been addressed by the declaration and expressed the view that the sum mentioned in the Government’s declaration was unacceptably low.
The Court reiterates that Article 37 of the Convention provides that it may at any stage of the proceedings decide to strike an application out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to one of the conclusions specified under (a), (b) or (c) of paragraph 1 of that Article. Article 37 § 1 (c) enables the Court in particular to strike a case out of its list if:
“for any other reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application”.
It also reiterates that in certain circumstances, it may strike out an application under Article 37 § 1(c) on the basis of a unilateral declaration by a respondent Government even if the applicant wishes the examination of the case to be continued.
To this end, the Court will examine carefully the declaration in the light of the principles emerging from its case-law, in particular Tahsin Acar v. Turkey, ([GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI); Meriakri v. Moldova ((striking out), no. 53487/99, 1 March 2005); WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland ((dec.) no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007); and Lazar v. Romania ((dec.), no. 30159/03, 25 November 2008).
The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Romania, its practice concerning complaints about the violation of the right to a hearing within a reasonable time (see, for example, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43; Cârstea and Grecu v. Romania, no. 56326/00, 15 June 2006; and SC COMPRIMEX S.A. v. Romania, no. 32228/02, 30 September 2008).
Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the Government’s declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed, the Court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application (Article 37 § 1(c)). Furthermore, the fact that the Government did not address the other complaints raised by the applicant is not sufficient to invalidate the unilateral declaration, bearing in mind, in particular, that those complaints are inadmissible in the circumstances of the case (see below).
In light of the above considerations, and in particular given the clear and extensive case-law on the topic, the Court is satisfied that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto does not require it to continue the examination of this part of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine).
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
B. Remaining complaints
The applicant further complained about the outcome of the proceedings and about the way the courts had examined the evidence and interpreted the law, and alleged a violation of its property rights.
The Court has examined the remainder of the complaints as submitted by the applicant. However, having regard to all the material in its possession, and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, the Court finds that they do not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention or its Protocols. It follows that this part of the application must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government’s declaration in respect of the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention (length of proceedings) and of the modalities for ensuring compliance with the undertakings referred to therein;
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in so far as it relates to the above complaint in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Stanley Naismith Josep Casadevall
Deputy Registrar President