CASE OF MERZHOYEV v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 68444/01)
8 October 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Merzhoyev v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Sverre Erik Jebens,
Giorgio Malinverni, judges,
and André Wampach, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 17 September 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. Deposit of savings and attempts to recover them
B. Court proceedings
“According to telegram no. 26-3-2/281a of the Central Bank of Russia dated 22 December 1997, branches of the Chechen Savings Bank were closed by virtue of a decision of the Management Board of the Savings Bank of Russia. These branches were removed from the State Register of Lending Agencies.
It is clear from the case file that all the branches of the Savings Bank of Russia in the territory of the Chechen Republic were wound up, and powers of attorney issued to the managers of [these branches] were revoked and annulled.
The aforementioned circumstances are confirmed by decision no. 127 of the Management Board of the Savings Bank of Russia dated 16 December 1996.
At present there is no [legal] mechanism which could enable the transfer of deposits from branches of the Savings Bank of the Chechen Republic to the Moscow branch of the Savings Bank of Russia.
In such circumstances [the applicant's] claim to restore and transfer his indexed deposits from ... the Chechen [Savings] Bank to the Moscow branch of the Savings Bank of Russia should be denied.”
C. Further developments
1. Information submitted prior to the decision on admissibility
2. Information submitted after the decision on admissibility
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
I. THE GOVERNMENT'S PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS
A. Non-exhaustion of domestic remedies
B. Jurisdiction ratione temporis and ratione personae
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1 TO THE CONVENTION
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”
A. Submissions by the parties
1. The applicant
2. The Government
B. The Court's assessment
1. Events before 5 May 1998
44. The Court observes at the outset that in 1996 the management bodies of the Savings Bank of Russia decided to ban for an indefinite period any operations in respect of deposits made with the Chechen Savings Bank, and then to wind it up. Those decisions, which both pre-dated the ratification of the Convention by Russia, served as the basis for the Savings Bank's repeated refusal to return the applicant's deposits and constituted therefore an interference with the applicant's property rights. The Court further considers that such interference amounted to a de facto deprivation of the applicant's possessions since the right of the depositors of the Chechen Savings Bank, including the applicant, to dispose of their funds was de facto extinguished by virtue of the aforementioned two decisions (see Cherkashin v. Russia (partial decision), no. 7412/02, 30 March 2006, and Pupkov v. Russia (dec.), no. 42453/02, 17 January 2008).
2. Events after 5 May 1998
(a) Applicability of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
(b) Compliance with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
Done in English, and notified in writing on 8 October 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
André Wampach Nina
Deputy Registrar President