by Pavol POLKA
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 12 May 2003,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Pavol Polka, is a Slovakian national who was born in 1957 and lives in Zilina. The Government of the Slovak Republic (“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.
1. Monitoring and disclosure of the applicant’s telephone communications
The applicant is a judge. He was the president of the Zilina District Court between 1 January 1997 and 22 December 1999.
On 11 November 1999 a private publishing company published an issue of a weekly magazine which contained a feature article about the applicant. The article was written by a journalist and contained inter alia information concerning the applicant’s private life.
Claiming that the article was untrue and grossly libellous, the applicant sought protection of his personal integrity by filing several civil actions. The applicant also filed a criminal complaint against one or more unknown persons for slander and unauthorised usage of personal data.
In the context of ensuing proceedings journalists and representatives of the publishing company stated that the relevant information had been obtained by phone tapping carried out by the police. Specific reference was made to dates and police file numbers of audio tapes containing recordings of the applicant’s telephone conversations. A witness stated that it was common practice that the police leaked selected information to journalists with a view to manipulating public opinion against targeted persons. In his view, there had been an interest in stirring up a scandal about the applicant.
2. Criminal and other complaints concerning divulging of contents of intercepted telephone conversations
In a letter of 18 December 2002 the Zilina Regional Prosecutor informed the applicant that the tapping of his phones had been authorised by the Banská Bystrica Regional Court.
On 13 January 2003 the Inspection Service of the Ministry of the Interior took a decision to commence criminal proceedings against one or more unknown officers of the criminal and financial police on suspicion that they had committed the offence of unauthorised usage of personal data.
On 29 September 2003 the Inspection Service stayed the proceedings. It was established that the applicant’s telephone communications had been monitored in the period from 12 April to 10 October 1999. There was not enough evidence to bring charges against any individual liable for the leak.
3. Constitutional proceedings
Between 16 December 2002 and 22 January 2004 the applicant lodged three complaints with the Constitutional Court. He alleged a violation of several of his constitutional and Convention rights by the decision to authorise the monitoring of his telephone communications, by the monitoring itself and in connection with the divulging of the contents of his telephone communications.
The Constitutional Court declared the complaints inadmissible on 26 February 2003, 17 December 2003 and 28 January 2004.
In 2007, after he had been allowed to consult the relevant court file, the applicant lodged another complaint with the Constitutional Court.
In a judgment delivered on 4 February 2009 the Constitutional Court found that the Banská Bystrica Regional Court had infringed the applicant’s rights under, inter alia, Articles 6 § 1 and 8 of the Convention in that, by six decisions delivered between 6 April 1999 and 10 January 2000, it had authorised interception and recording of the applicant’s telephone communications.
The Constitutional Court quashed three of the decisions concerned and noted that it had already quashed the other three decisions in the context of a different set of proceedings concerning the rights of a different person. It granted EUR 20,000 to the applicant as just satisfaction and ordered the Regional Court to reimburse the costs of the constitutional proceedings to the applicant.
On 28 May 2009 the Government submitted to the Court a copy of the above Constitutional Court’s judgment of 4 February 2009. They argued that the applicant could no longer claim to be a victim of violation of his rights within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention.
In a letter of 18 August 2009 the applicant informed the Court that he wished to withdraw his application.
The Court takes note that following new developments in his case the applicant does not wish to pursue the application (Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention). It is satisfied that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention or its Protocols does not require the examination of the application to be continued (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention).
The application should therefore be struck out of the list of cases in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza