by Danuta NOWAK and Michał KRYNICKI
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 23 June 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 23 August 2002,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The first applicant, Ms Danuta Nowak, is a Polish national who was born in 1967 and lives in Rzeszów. The second applicant is her son, Michał Krynicki, born in 1987. The respondent Government are represented by Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
While in primary school, the second applicant followed religious instruction in school. The first applicant submits that she agreed to his attending religious instruction only to avoid harassment by other pupils. She is a non-believer.
During the fifth year he ceased to attend the course, essentially because the teacher was reacting negatively to his attempts to discuss various religious problems arising out of the courses.
During the sixth year, still in primary school, some teachers adopted a hostile attitude towards him. He obtained worse marks than before, certain teachers became unfriendly and incited other pupils to bully him.
In June 2000 the second applicant finished primary school. In September 2000 he started to attend secondary school (gimnazjum). As he was ostracised by teachers and classmates, on 2 April 2001 the first applicant complained to the Education Authority in Rzeszów. She submitted that her son was ostracised by his fellow pupils since he had ceased to attend religious instruction and that the school authorities had failed to take any measures to address this problem. On 12 May 2001 the first applicant petitioned the Ombudsman, complaining that the school authorities were harassing her son.
In a reply of 22 May 2001 the local Education Authority stated that an enquiry had been held and that it had been found that the second applicant had been on occasions unruly in school and that the teachers had not been guilty of any professional misdemeanour or negligence.
On 6 June 2001 the first applicant petitioned the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, complaining again that her son was being harassed by the school authorities. In a reply of 7 September 2001 the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights informed the first applicant that the Education Authority in Rzeszów had conducted an enquiry and that the applicant’s complaints had not been confirmed.
On 17 September 2001 the first applicant requested the Rzeszów District Prosecutor to institute criminal proceedings on charges of harassment of her son. On 29 October 2001 the applicant wrote to the Minister of Education, reiterating her complaints.
On 31 December 2001 the Rzeszów District Prosecutor refused to institute criminal proceedings as requested by the first applicant.
On 8 February 2002 the local non governmental organisation, the Committee for the Protection of Children, submitted a letter to the prosecutor, in which it emphasised that there had been serious discrepancies in the testimony of various witnesses, which had not been properly taken into consideration by the prosecuting authorities. It was emphasised that the decision of the prosecuting authorities had left many important questions unanswered.
By a decision of 12 March 2002 the Rzeszów Regional Court dismissed the applicant’s appeal.
In May 2002 the applicant complained to the Rzeszów Appellate Prosecutor that both the first and second instance prosecutors had been superficial in their assessment of the evidence and had failed to order the school and the Education Authority to submit relevant documents to them. In a reply of 28 May 2002 the Regional Prosecutor stated that the proceedings had been conducted in accordance with the law and the conclusions were lawful and correct.
In a letter of 30 April 2002 the first applicant complained to the Minister of Justice, stressing that the conflict in her son’s school had arisen against the background of his not attending religious instruction.
The Ministry referred this letter to the Appellate Prosecutor who, in a reply of 1 July 2002, stated that he found no grounds on which to accept the applicant’s criticism.
The first and second applicant complained under Article 9 of the Convention that the second applicant had been exposed to harassment by the school authorities and his fellow pupils on account of his not following religious education. They submitted that no effective measures had been taken by the school authorities to address the second applicant’s difficult situation. The prosecuting authorities had discontinued the proceedings, having found that the school authorities had no case to answer, despite the fact that he had become ill because of his being bullied and persecuted in school.
They complained that they had been discriminated against by the authorities on account of their convictions.
The first applicant complained, in substance under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention, that the State had failed to respect her right to ensure that her son received education in conformity with her philosophical convictions in that it had failed to organise a course in ethics as provided for by the applicable laws and to take effective measures to curb the harassment to which her son was exposed.
On 12 February 2008 the Court communicated the present case to the Government. By a letter of the same date the Registry of the Court also invited the applicant to submit documents concerning the grant of legal aid. There was no reply to that letter.
By a letter of 25 June 2008 the Court invited the applicants to submit their reply to the observations submitted by the Government.
Having received no reply, by a registered letter of 16 October 2008 the Registry of the Court pointed out to the applicants that the deadline for submitting their observations had expired and invited them to submit their observations by 5 November 2008. The Registry also warned the applicants that in the absence of a reply the Court may infer that they had lost interest in the case.
By a letter of 1 November 2008 the first applicant informed the Registry that she could not understand the letters in English which had been sent to her. By a letter of 20 November 2008 the Registry reminded the applicants that under Rule 36 §§ 2 of the Court’s Rules, following notification of the application to the respondent Contracting Party under Rule 54 § 2 (b), the applicant should be represented by lawyer in accordance with paragraph 4 of this Rule, unless the President of the Chamber decided otherwise. The applicants were again invited to submit documents concerning the grant of legal aid by 12 December 2008.
There was no reply to this letter.
All correspondence to the applicants was accompanied by translations into Polish.
By a registered letter of 23 January 2009 the applicants were warned that in the absence of further reaction on their part the Court might conclude that they were no longer interested in pursuing the application and decide to strike it out of its list of cases. They were invited to inform the Court, by 13 February 2009, whether they intended to pursue their application.
The applicants failed to reply.
In the light of the above, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 of the Convention, the Court considers that the applicants do not intend to pursue their application. Furthermore, the Court finds no special circumstances regarding respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols which require the continuation of the examination of the application. Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Early Nicolas Bratza