by Katarína PRIŠČÁKOVÁ
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 13 October 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 24 June 2005,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government requesting the Court to strike the application of the list of cases and the applicant’s reply thereto,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mrs Katarína Priščáková, is a Slovak national who was born in 1981 and lives in Košice. She was represented before the Court by Mrs H. Knopová, a lawyer practising in Košice. 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 21 July 1998 the applicant sued two defendants for compensation for damage to her health. On 8 November 2000 the Košice-okolie District Court discontinued the proceedings against the first defendant.
The proceedings were stayed on 10 September 2001 pending the outcome of insolvency proceedings involving the second defendant.
On 1 December 2004 the Constitutional Court rejected the applicant’s length of proceedings complaint as being manifestly ill-founded.
On 13 November 2006 the District Court discontinued the proceedings against the second defendant and allowed a third defendant to join the proceedings.
On 7 August 2008 the District Court delivered a judgment. The parties to the proceedings appealed.
On 15 April 2009 the Košice Regional Court delivered a decision by which it returned the case to the District Court.
On 22 April 2009 the District Court corrected a clerical error in its judgment of 7 August 2008 and ordered the defendant to pay the court fees for the appeal lodged. The proceedings are still pending.
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 17 August 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 Mrs Katarína Priščáková the sum of EUR 4,600 (four thousand six hundred 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 her 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 in her reply of 31 August 2009 rejected the Government’s initiative. She asked the Court to proceed with the examination of her complaint as no settlement had been reached with the Government in respect of just satisfaction.
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-V). 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; Sika v. Slovakia, no. 2132/02, §§ 28-35, 13 June 2006 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).
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
Since the proceedings concerned are still pending before the domestic courts, the Court’s strike-out decision is without prejudice to use by the applicant of other remedies to obtain redress for any delay in the proceedings which may occur after the date of this decision.
B. Remaining complaint
The applicant further complained that she had had no effective remedy at her disposal in respect of her complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. She relied on Article 13 of the Convention, which provides:
“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”
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 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
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;
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government’s declaration and of the modalities for ensuring compliance with the undertakings referred to therein;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza