by Rodica BODNARIU
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting on 7 July 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Boštjan M. Zupančič,
Luis López Guerra,
Ann Power, judges,
and Santiago Quesada, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 22 January 2007,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 2 February 2009 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, Ms Rodica Bodnariu, is a Romanian national who was born in 1939 and lives in Bucharest. The Romanian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr. Răzvan Horaţiu Radu, from 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.
On 24 May 1968, the applicant was the victim of a severe accident on the Romanian territory caused by a car of a German company. She suffered serious body injuries needing expensive treatment for recovery. A German insurance company concluded a convention (called Protocol) on 4 November 1971 with the applicant in order to cover the amounts needed for the medical treatment of the applicant. The applicant alleged that on 21 April 1972 she was forced by the Romanian state authorities to conclude a transaction pursuant to which the amount of damages granted to her by the German insurance company through the Protocol was considerably reduced.
On 10 June 1999, the applicant filed an action with the Bucharest County Court for the annulment of the transaction. Her action was dismissed on the ground that she did not pay the stamp duties ordered by the court. The judgment was upheld by a decision of 6 April 2000 of the Bucharest Court of Appeal
On 2 May 2001, the Supreme Court of Justice allowed the appeals on points of law filed by the applicant, quashed the decision rendered in appeal and the judgement and sent the file back to the Bucharest County Court for re-examination.
In a judgement of 8 April 2003, the Bucharest County Court dismissed the applicant’s action on the ground that there was no sufficient evidence to prove that the transaction that allegedly deprived the applicant of a certain amount of money was ever concluded. The said judgement was upheld by a final decision of the Bucharest Court of Appeal rendered on 28 September 2006.
A. Length of proceedings
The applicant complained about the length of the proceedings. She relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention which, in so far as relevant, provides as follows:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
By a letter dated 30 January, 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 pénale dans laquelle la partie requérante s’était constituée partie civile.
Le Gouvernement déclare être prêt à verser conjointement à la partie requérante au titre de satisfaction équitable la somme de 1 200 EUR, montant qu’il considère comme raisonnable au vu de la jurisprudence de la Cour. Cette somme qui couvrira le préjudice 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 25 February the applicant expressed the view that the sum mentioned in the Government’s declaration was unacceptably low.
The Court recalls 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 recalls 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 the Tahsin Acar v. Turkey, [GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI, WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland (dec.) no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007 and Sulwińska v. Poland (dec.) no. 28953/03).
The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Romania, its practice concerning complaints about the violation of one’s right to a hearing within a reasonable time (see, for example, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII; Cocchiarella v. Italy [GC], no. 64886/01, §§ 69-98, ECHR 2006 ....; Majewski v. Poland, no. 52690/99, 11 October 2005; Nicolau v. Romania, no. 1295/02, 12 January 2006, Cârstea and Grecu v. Romania, no. 56326/00, 15 June 2006 and Cârjan v. Romania, no. 42588/02, 25 January 2007).
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)).
Moreover, 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 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 complaints in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Santiago Quesada Josep Casadevall