by Milan LIBIČ
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 22 September 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 9 July 2005,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government requesting the Court to strike part of the application out of the list of cases and the applicant’s reply thereto,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Milan Libič, is a Slovak national who was born in 1953 and lives in Michalovce. The Slovak Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mrs M. Pirošíková.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
On 28 April 1986 the applicant lodged a civil action for distribution of matrimonial property against his former wife.
In 1989 the ordinary courts decided on a part of the claims.
At the time when the recognition by the former Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, to which Slovakia is one of the successor States, of the right of individual petition took effect (18 March 1992), the Vranov nad Topľou District Court was dealing with the remaining claims concerning possession of a gold necklace and payment of the equivalent of 170 euros (EUR). These claims were hived off into a separate set of proceedings in 1987.
On 12 April 2005 the District Court granted a part of the applicant’s claim and dismissed the remaining part. The decision was upheld by the Prešov Regional Court and became final on 23 December 2005.
On 7 April 2005 and 23 August 2006 the Constitutional Court declared inadmissible the applicant’s two complaints about the length of the proceedings concerning his action of 1986.
A. Length of proceedings
The applicant complained that the length of the proceedings had been contrary to Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the relevant part of which provides:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
On 25 June 2009 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by the length of proceedings complaint. They further requested the Court to strike out this part of the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention. The declaration provided as follows:
“The Government acknowledge both the applicant’s status of the victim within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention and the unreasonable duration of the domestic proceedings in which the applicant was involved.
I, Marica Pirošíková, the Agent of the Government of the Slovak Republic before the European Court of Human Rights, declare that the Government offer to pay ex gratia to the applicant Mr Milan Libič the sum of EUR 3,000 (three thousand euros). This sum shall cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage together with any costs and expenses incurred by the applicant with respect to the violation of his right under the Convention.
The Government would suggest that the above information is accepted by the Court as “any other reason” justifying the striking out of the case of the Court’s list of cases, as referred to in Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.
In the event of the Court’s decision pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the Convention, the Government undertake to pay to the applicant the declared sum within the three months from the date of notification of the decision. 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. This payment will constitute the final settlement of the case.”
The applicant argued that due to the length of the proceedings he had suffered psychological trauma and his state of health had deteriorated.
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”.
The Court also recalls that under certain circumstances, it may strike out an application or part thereof under Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention 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 judgment (Tahsin Acar v. Turkey, [GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI); Meriakri v. Moldova ((striking out), no. 53487/99, 1 March 2005); Swedish Transport Workers Union v. Sweden ((striking out), no. 53507/99, 18 July 2006) and Van Houten v. the Netherlands ((striking out), no. 25149/03, ECHR 2005-IX).
The Court has established in a number of cases 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-....). Furthermore, it has already had occasion to address complaints related to alleged breach of one’s right to a hearing within a reasonable time in cases against the Slovak Republic (see, for example, Kuril v. Slovakia, no. 63959/00, §§ 35-43, 3 October 2006, Rapoš v. Slovakia, no. 25763/02, §§ 27-34, 20 May 2008, or Bič v. Slovakia, no. 23865/03, §§ 33-41, 4 November 2008).
Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the Government’s declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed (which is consistent with the amounts awarded in similar cases), the Court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of this complaint (Article 37 § 1 (c)) (see, for the relevant principles, Tahsin Acar as cited above; and also Haran v. Turkey, no. 25754/94, judgment of 26 March 2002). Moreover, in the 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).
B. Remaining complaints
Relying on Article 13 of the Convention the applicant claimed that he did not have at his disposal an effective remedy for his complaint about the length of the proceedings. He further complained under Article 17 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 that due to their length it was impossible for him to have the judgments enforced and to enjoy his property.
However, in the light of all the materials 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 (see also Töviš v. Slovakia (dec.), no. 35316/05, 4 December 2007).
It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded and 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 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 concerns the length of the proceedings complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza