Press release issued by the Registrar
Sartory v. France (application no. 40589/07)
EXCESSIVE LENGTH OF COMPENSATION PROCEEDINGS
BEFORE THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURTS
Violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The applicant was invited to submit a claim for just satisfaction (Article 41) but failed to reply; the Court therefore made no award. (The judgment is available only in French.)
The applicant, Guy Sartory, is a French national who was born in 1955 and lives in Fontaine (France). He worked as a police inspector at the relevant time. In 1994 he was transferred to another city “in the interests of the service” after the Minister of the Interior found that he had divulged information to the press concerning the operation of the Grenoble police. He challenged his transfer in the administrative courts and the Administrative Court of Appeal found in his favour. The proceedings lasted from September 1995 to April 2002.
In December 2002 Mr Sartory brought a claim for compensation in the Grenoble Administrative Court, alleging that the length of the proceedings concerning his transfer had been excessive. In January 2006 his claim was referred to the Conseil d’Etat, which (by virtue of Decree no. 2005-911 of 29 July 2005) had jurisdiction to deal with actions of this kind at first and last instance. In May 2007 the Conseil d’Etat allowed the applicant’s claim and awarded him 3,000 euros in compensation.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time), Mr Sartory complained that the length of proceedings in the administrative courts concerning his transfer had been excessive, thereby depriving him of any opportunity to enjoy a normal career. He further argued that the compensation he had been awarded on that account by the Conseil d’Etat was insufficient.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 7 September 2007.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Renate Jaeger (Germany),
Jean-Paul Costa (France),
Rait Maruste (Estonia),
Mark Villiger (Liechtenstein),
Isabelle Berro-Lefèvre (Monaco),
Zdravka Kalaydjieva (Bulgaria), judges,
and also Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar.
Decision of the Court
The Court reiterated that an applicant could no longer claim to be the “victim” of a violation of the Convention if the authorities had acknowledged the violation, at least in substance, and afforded appropriate and sufficient redress.
In Mr Sartory’s case, the Court observed that the Conseil d’Etat had clearly acknowledged the violation, namely the excessive length of the proceedings concerning his transfer. However, it found that the redress afforded (3,000 euros) had not been appropriate and sufficient. It considered that that amount might have constituted appropriate redress if the compensation proceedings had not been excessively lengthy; however, that had not been the case. The French courts had failed to act expeditiously in determining the claim for compensation, a remedy which by its very nature required a speedy decision. The Conseil d’Etat should therefore have awarded Mr Sartory a larger amount to compensate for the additional delay, so as not to penalise him a second time.
Mr Sartory could accordingly still claim to be the “victim” of a violation of his right to a hearing within a reasonable time. The Court thus went on to examine whether there had been a violation of that right.
The Conseil d’Etat had itself found that the length of the proceedings concerning the applicant’s transfer had been excessive, noting in particular that the case had not entailed any special difficulty. The Court reiterated, moreover, that employment disputes by their nature called for a particularly expeditious decision, in view of what was at stake for those concerned, their personal and family life and their career. However, Mr Sartory had had to wait more than six years to have his transfer set aside.
The Court concluded that the length of the proceedings had been excessive and that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1.
This press release is a document produced by the Registry; the summary it contains does not bind the Court. The judgments are accessible on its Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
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Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (tel: + 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
1 Under Article 43 of the Convention, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17 member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.