41670/04 and 2469/05
by Ali and Shkelqim SUFJA
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 10 November 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above applications lodged on 16 November 2004,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government;
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicants, Mr Ali Sufja and Mr Shkelqim Sufja, are Albanian nationals who were born in 1970 and 1969 respectively. Mr Ali Sufja (“the first applicant”) appears to live in Lezha, Albania and Mr Shkelqim Sufja (“the second applicant”) appears to be currently serving a prison sentence in Albania. They were represented before the Court by Ms F. Mavilla, a lawyer practising in Bologna.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicants, may be summarised as follows.
On 25 February 2003 the applicants were arrested in Albania on the strength of a detention order issued by a Bologna investigating judge on 21 January 2003, according to which they had been charged with international drug trafficking. Their detention was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s final decision of 28 May 2003.
On an unspecified date the Albanian authorities refused the applicants’ extradition to Italy in accordance with Article 491 (f) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (“the CCP”), which prohibits the extradition of Albanian nationals. They further charged the applicants with the establishment and direction of a criminal organisation.
1. The first applicant’s detention from 28 July 2003 to 4 March 2004
On 17 June 2003, following an appeal by the first applicant, the Bologna District Court ordered his release from prison pending trial (“the release order”).
On 28 July and 3 October 2003 the Italian Embassy in Albania, (“the Embassy”), informed the Albanian Ministry of Justice, (“the Ministry”), by a note verbale of the release order.
On 17 November 2003 the first applicant lodged a request with the Lezha District Court, (“the District Court”), asking to be released in the light of the new circumstances. Together with his request, he submitted a copy of the release order and other supporting documents.
From 17 November 2003 to 20 February 2004 the Albanian authorities made attempts to confirm the authenticity of the documents as submitted by the first applicant. Meanwhile, on 16 February 2004 the Bologna District Court dropped the charges against the first applicant on the ground that he had not committed the alleged offence (“per non aver commesso il fatto”).
On 4 March 2004 the District Court released the applicant pending trial. It also referred to the release order and made the first applicant’s release conditional on his reporting to a police station.
On 3 October 2005 the Tirana Assize District Court acquitted the applicant of the charges against him.
2. The second applicant’s detention from 30 August 2004 to 3 October2005
On 18 August 2004 the Bologna investigating judge ordered the second applicant’s release pending trial, on the basis of Article 303 of the Italian CCP, which lays down the maximum permitted periods of detention pending trial.
On 30 August 2004 the Embassy informed the Ministry by a note verbale of the release order.
On 4 October 2004 the second applicant requested to be released in the light of the new circumstances. It appears that together with his request, he submitted a copy of the release order.
It appears that from 13 October 2004 to 3 October 2005 the Albanian authorities tried to confirm the authenticity of the documents as submitted by the second applicant.
On 3 October 2005 the Tirana Assize District Court (“the Assize District Court”) found the second applicant guilty of the establishment and direction of criminal organisations involved in international drug trafficking and sentenced him to twelve years’ imprisonment. The court failed to make any reference to the Bologna judge’s decision of 18 August 2004.
The second applicant failed to inform the Registry whether he had appealed against the Assize District Court’s decision of 3 October 2005 and against the unlawfulness of his detention from 30 August 2004 to 3 October 2005.
The applicants essentially complained under Article 5 § 1 of the Convention that they had been unlawfully detained between 28 July 2003 and 4 March 2004 in respect of the first applicant and between 30 August 2004 to 3 October 2005 in respect of the second applicant. They also argued that there had been a breach of Article 5 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
By letters dated 18 September 2008 and 8 July 2009, sent by registered post, the applicants’ representative was notified that the period allowed for submission of the applicants’ observations had expired on 17 July 2008 and that no extension of time had been requested. The applicants’ representative’s attention was drawn to Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention, which provides that the Court may strike a case out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the applicant does not intend to pursue the application. The applicants’ representative received the last letter on 16 July 2009. However, no response has been received.
The Court considers that, in these circumstances, the applicants may be regarded as no longer wishing to pursue their applications, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention. Furthermore, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 in fine, the Court finds no special circumstances regarding respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols which require the continued examination of the cases. In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the cases out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the applications out of its list of cases.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza