by Petar and Vojislav ŠARČEVIĆ
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting on 3 November 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Kristina Pardalos, judges,
and Sally Dollé, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 21 November 2006,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 19 January 2009 requesting the Court to strike the application out of its list of cases and the applicant’s reply thereto,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicants, Mr Petar Šarčević and Mr Vojislav Šarčević, are Serbian nationals who were born in 1927 and 1957 respectively and live in Valjevo. They were represented before the Court by Mr P. Savić, a lawyer practising in Belgrade. The Serbian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr S. Carić.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
On 5 May 1995 the applicants filed a property related civil claim against a third private party before the Municipal Court in Valjevo.
On 15 October 2008 the Municipal Court ruled partly in favour of the applicants.
On 24 March 2009 the District Court in Valjevo amended the decision of 15 October.
On an unspecified date the applicants filed an appeal on points of law to the Supreme Court, where the case appears to be still pending.
Under Article 6 § 1of the Convention, the applicants complained that the proceedings in question had lasted too long.
The application was communicated to the Government under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
By letter dated 19 January 2009, the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issues raised by the applicant. They further requested the Court to strike out the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.
The declaration, signed by the Government’s Agent, provided as follows:
“I declare that the Government of the Republic of Serbia is ready to accept that there had been a violation of the applicant’s rights under Article 6 paragraph 1 of the Convention and offer to pay to the applicants, Mr Petar and Vojislav Šarčević, the amount of EUR 4,600 ex gratia in respect of the application registered under no. 47927/06 before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, which covers any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs, shall be paid in dinar counter-value, free of any taxes that may be applicable and to an account [specified] by the applicants. The sum shall be payable within three months from the date of delivery of the ... decision by the Court. This payment will constitute the final resolution of the case.
The Government regret the occurrence of the actions which have led to the bringing of the present application.”
In two later submissions dated 11 June, and 15 July 2009, the applicants expressed the view that a strike-out of their case would not be justified.
The Court recalls that Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention enables the Court to strike a case out of its list if it finds that “it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application”, and it has done so in the past on the basis of certain unilateral declarations by respondent Governments even if the applicants had maintained their cases.
To this end, the Court will carefully examine the declaration made by the Government in the present case in the light of the principles emerging from its case-law (see Tahsin Acar v. Turkey, [GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI).
The Court notes that it has specified in a number of cases the nature and extent of the obligations which arise for a State Party under Article 6 of the Convention concerning the right to a hearing within a reasonable time (see, among many others, Cocchiarella v. Italy [GC], no. 64886/01, ECHR 2006; Kudła v. Poland [GC], no. 30210/96, ECHR 2000 XI; Ilić v. Serbia, no. 30132/04, 9 October 2007). Where the Court has found a breach of that provision it has awarded just satisfaction, the amount of which has depended on the particular features of the case.
Having regard to the nature of the concessions contained in the Government’s unilateral declaration in the present case, as well as the amount of compensation proposed (which can be considered reasonable in comparison with the Court’s awards in similar cases, when account is taken of the fact that only five years and seven months of the impugned proceedings fall within the Court’s competence ratione temporis, Serbia having ratified the Convention on 3 March 2004), the Court finds that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application (see, for the relevant principles, Tahsin Acar, cited above; Haran v. Turkey, no. 25754/94, judgment of 26 March 2002).
The Court is also satisfied that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto does not require it to continue with this examination (Article 37 § 1 in fine). Nevertheless, in the particular circumstances of the case, the Court considers that the State should still ensure that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that the proceedings are concluded as speedily as possible, taking into account the requirements of the proper administration of justice.
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
Since the impugned proceedings appear to be still pending, it is to be noted that the Court’s strike-out decision is without prejudice to the merits of the applicants’ domestic claim or, indeed, their ability to obtain redress for any additional procedural delay which may occur after the date of the present decision.
Finally, the Court recalls that, in accordance with Article 46 § 2 of the Convention, the Committee of Ministers is competent to supervise the execution of its final judgments only. However, should the respondent State, fail to comply with the terms of its unilateral declaration in the present case, the application could be restored to the Court’s list pursuant to Article 37 § 2 of the Convention (see Aleksentseva and 28 Others v. Russia (dec.), no. 75025/01, ECHR, 23 March 2006).
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.
Sally Dollé Françoise