by Plamen KARASIAK
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 15 September 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 28 March 2007,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Plamen Karasiak, is a Bulgarian national who was born in 1970 and is currently detained in Wołów Prison. 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. The applicant’s pre-trial detention
On 13 January 2004 the applicant was arrested by the police on suspicion of drug trafficking.
On 14 January 2004 the Zielona Góra District Court remanded him in custody in view of the reasonable suspicion that he had committed the offences in question. It further stressed the need to secure the proper conduct of the proceedings, in particular the need to hear numerous witnesses. The court also referred to the fact that the applicant was a Bulgarian national and that he might abscond or go into hiding.
On 12 April 2004 the Zielona Góra District Court extended the applicant’s detention. The court relied on the grounds originally given and the fact that the applicant was a habitual offender. It also stressed the likelihood that a heavy penalty would be imposed on him. It further relied on the fact that the offences were committed in the ambit of an organised criminal group.
On 5 May 2004 the applicant was served with a bill of indictment.
On 12 July 2005 the Zielona Góra District Court extended the applicant’s detention. It relied on the grounds previously given.
On 4 April 2006 the Poznań Court of Appeal further extended the applicant’s detention. The applicant appealed.
On 8 June 2006 the Poznań Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
Subsequently, in the course of the proceedings the applicant’s detention was extended regularly by the Zielona Góra District Court and the Poznań Court of Appeal. The courts repeated the grounds originally given for his detention. The applicant appealed unsuccessfully against the majority of the decisions.
On 27 October 2006, on the applicant’s motion, the Zielona Góra District Court decided that the applicant should be assisted during the proceedings by an interpreter.
On an unspecified date the applicant lodged an application with the District Court for his detention to be lifted and replaced by another preventive measure. On 16 February 2007 the District Court dismissed the application, emphasising that the reasons for keeping the applicant in pre-trial detention were still valid.
On 9 July 2007 the Zielona Góra District Court gave judgment and sentenced the applicant to six years and six months’ imprisonment. The applicant appealed.
On 10 July 2007 the applicant lodged an application with the District Court for the judgment to be translated into Bulgarian. On 28 December 2007 the District Court dismissed the application. It stated that the applicant knew the language well enough to understand the judgment and that he had no problems of comprehension during the entire proceedings. On 13 January 2008 the applicant appealed against the District Court decision. On 6 February 2008 the Zielona Góra Regional Court ordered the translation of the judgment.
On 11 June 2008 the Zielona Góra Regional Court decided to further extend the applicant’s detention until 13 December 2008.
On 21 August 2008 the Poznań Court of Appeal upheld the judgment given in the first instance.
2. The applicant’s complaint under the 2004 Act
On 15 November 2006 the applicant lodged a complaint under 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”).
On 13 March 2007 the Zielona Góra Regional Court dismissed the applicant’s complaint. The court justified the length of the case by its particular complexity, which stemmed from the number of defendants and charges brought against them. It held that the hearings were scheduled at regular intervals and that there had been no inactivity or undue delay on the part of the authorities. It accordingly held that there had been no breach of the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time in the period after 17 September 2004.
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning the imposition of pre trial detention (aresztowanie tymczasowe), the grounds for its extension, release from detention and rules governing other “preventive measures” (środki zapobiegawcze) are summarised in several judgments concerning similar cases (see, among others, Gołek v. Poland, no. 31330/02, §§ 27-33, 25 April 2006, and Celejewski v. Poland, no. 17584/04, §§ 22-23, 4 August 2006).
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning remedies for the excessive length of judicial and enforcement 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 in its judgment in the case of Krasuski v. Poland, no. 61444/00, §§ 34 46, ECHR 2005-V.
The applicant complained under Article 5 § 3 of the Convention that his pre-trial detention had been excessively long. He also complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention of the excessive length of the criminal proceedings pending against him. He further complained under Article 6 § 3 (d) of the Convention that he had been unable to examine witnesses during the proceedings, in particular that he had been excluded from the hearing room when they had been examined. Relying on Article 6 § 3 (e) of the Convention he alleged that he had not had the assistance of an interpreter during the proceedings. Lastly, invoking Article 14 of the Convention he claimed in general terms that he had been discriminated against during the proceedings because of his nationality.
On 15 July 2009 the Court received the following declaration from the Government:
“I, Jakub Wołąsiewicz, Agent of the Polish Government, declare that the Government of Poland offer to pay PLN 8,000 (eight thousand Polish zlotys) to Mr Plamen Karasiak 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 17 July 2009 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicant:
“I, Plamen Karasiak, note that the Government of Poland are prepared to pay me the sum of PLN 8,000 (eight 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.
Fatoş Aracı Nicolas Bratza
Deputy Registrar President