by Wiesław KUŹLAK
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 26 November 2003,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Wiesław Kuźlak, is a Polish national who was born in 1958 and lives in Wrocław. The Polish Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
1. Civil proceedings for compensation against the Director of the Bydgoszcz Detention Centre
On 2 January 1995 the applicant lodged with the Bydgoszcz Regional Court (Sąd Okręgowy) a claim for compensation for lack of medical treatment in the Bydgoszcz Detention Centre.
On 26 February 2002 the Bydgoszcz Regional Court dismissed the applicant’s claim.
The applicant lodged an appeal against that judgment.
On 23 October 2002 the Gdańsk Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny) dismissed the applicant’s appeal.
On an unspecified date the applicant lodged a cassation appeal.
On 29 July 2003 the Supreme Court refused to entertain the cassation appeal.
2. Proceedings under the 2004 Act
On 26 October 2004 and on 19 November 2004 the applicant lodged complaints with the Gdańsk Court of Appeal under section 5 of the Law of 17 June 2004 on complaints about a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time (Ustawa o skardze na naruszenie prawa strony do rozpoznania sprawy w postępowaniu sądowym bez nieuzasadnionej zwłoki) (“the 2004 Act”). He sought a ruling declaring that the length of the proceedings in his case had been excessive and requested an award of just satisfaction in the amount of 10,000 Polish zlotys.
On 6 December 2004 the Gdańsk Court of Appeal rejected the applicant’s complaints. The court held that the 2004 Act did not apply in the applicant’s case because the proceedings in question had been terminated prior to the applicant’s length complaints.
3. Claim for damages under the 2004 Act
On 26 December 2004 the applicant lodged a claim for damages. He relied on section 16 of the 2004 Act which entered into force on 17 September 2004, read in conjunction with Article 417 of the Civil Code.
The applicant sought a ruling declaring that on account of the excessive length of the proceedings before the Regional Court he had sustained pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage. He claimed 20,000 Polish zlotys (PLN) (approx. EUR 4,800 at the relevant time).
On 8 May 2006 the Bydgoszcz District Court (Sąd Rejonowy) gave judgment and dismissed the applicant’s claim on the ground that he had failed to prove that the proceedings in question had been lengthy and that he had incurred any pecuniary losses as a consequence of a breach of the reasonable-time requirement.
On 21 June 2006 the Gliwice Regional Court dismissed the applicant’s appeal. A cassation appeal was not available.
4. Monitoring of the applicant’s correspondence
On 11 and 18 January 2005 the Court received four letters from the applicant. The envelopes bear the following stamps: “Censored on 29 December 2004”, “Censored on 29 December 2004”, “Censored on 6 January 2005” and “Censored on 12 January 2005” and illegible signatures.
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
1. Domestic remedies against length of judicial proceedings
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning remedies for the excessive length of judicial proceedings, in particular the applicable provisions of the 2004 Act, are stated in the Court’s decisions in the cases of Charzyński v. Poland, no. 15212/03 (dec.), §§ 12-23, ECHR 2005-V and Ratajczyk v. Poland, no. 11215/02 (dec.), ECHR 2005-VIII and the judgment in the case of Krasuski v. Poland, no. 61444/00, §§ 34-46, ECHR 2005-V.
2. Censorship of correspondence
The relevant domestic law concerning the censorship of prisoners’ correspondence is set out in the Court’s judgment in the case of Michta v. Poland, no. 13425/02, §§ 33-39, 4 May 2006.
The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the proceedings for compensation against the Director of the Bydgoszcz Detention Centre had been excessively long and unfair.
In respect of the monitoring of the applicant’s correspondence, the Court raised the issue of a possible breach of Article 8 of the Convention of its own motion.
On 5 April 2009 the Court received the following declaration from the Government:
“I, Jakub Wołąsiewicz, Agent of the Government of Poland, declare that the Government of Poland offer to pay PLN 20,000 (twenty thousand Polish zlotys) to Mr Wiesław Kuźlak with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, will be free of any taxes that may be applicable and it will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In the event of failure to pay this sum within the said three-month period, the Government undertake to pay simple interest on it, from expiry of that period until settlement, at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points. The payment will constitute the final resolution of the case.”
On 14 May 2009 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicant:
“I, Wiesław Kuźlak, note that the Government of Poland are prepared to pay me the sum of PLN 20,000 (twenty thousand Polish zlotys) with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses will be free of any taxes that may be applicable and it will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 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.
I accept the proposal and waive any further claims against Poland in respect of the facts giving rise to this application. I declare that this constitutes a final resolution of the case.”
The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols and finds no reasons to justify a continued examination of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention). In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the case out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza