by Jaroslav KONIARIK
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 3 November 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 10 December 2004,
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 to the applicant’s reply,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Jaroslav Koniarik, is a Slovak national who was born in 1934 and lives in Zilina. 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 1 February 1995 the applicant lodged a civil action with the PovaZská Bystrica District Court against more than 30 defendants, seeking judicial settlement of property disputes.
On 13 October 2003 the Constitutional Court found a violation of the applicant’s right under Article 48 § 2 of the Constitution to a hearing without unjustified delay. It ordered the District Court to proceed with the case, awarded the applicant 10,000 Slovakian korunas (SKK) (the equivalent of 242 euros (EUR) at that time) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and ordered the reimbursement of the applicant’s costs.
On 16 March 2006 the District Court found against the applicant. The decision was upheld by the Trenčín Regional Court on 20 February 2007.
On 16 December 2008 the Supreme Court declared the applicant’s appeal on points of law inadmissible.
On 9 March 2009 the District Court asked the applicant’s representatives to specify the costs for their legal representation.
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 30 July 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 Jaroslav Koniarik the sum of EUR 5,500 (five thousand five 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 his right under the Convention.
The Government would like to suggest that the above information be 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.
Provided the Court decides to adopt a 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 reiterated his complaint.
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, among others, 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).
It should therefore be struck out of the list in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.
B. Remaining complaints
Relying on Article 13 of the Convention the applicant claimed that he had not had at his disposal an effective remedy for his complaint about the length of the proceedings. He also complained under Article 6 § 3 (d) of the Convention that the courts had failed to hear important witnesses. He further complained that the ordinary courts had not respected the Constitutional Court’s order to proceed with the case and alleged a violation of Article 14 of the Convention, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12.
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 Šidlová v.Slovakia, no. 50224/99, § 77, 26 September 2006 and Sika v. Slovakia (dec.), no. 2132/02, 10 May 2005).
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.
Fatoş Aracı Nicolas Bratza
Deputy Registrar President