by Jerzy WIĘCKOWSKI
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 24 November 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 12 January 2007,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 6 August 2009 requesting the Court to strike the application out of the list of cases and the applicant’s reply to that declaration,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Jerzy Więckowski, is a Polish national who was born in 1959 and lives in Szczecin. The Polish Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
1. Proceedings on the merits of the case
On 22 December 2000 the applicant was dismissed from his work. On 5 January 2001 he filed a claim against his employer for a declaration that the notice of termination was null and void. As he subsequently withdrew the claim, the proceedings were discontinued by the Szczecin District Court on 19 September 2001.
On 7 August 2003 the applicant filed a new claim against his employer for reinstatement and compensation. On 12 March 2007 the Szczecin District Court gave a partial judgment in the case, dismissing the applicant’s claim for a declaration that the notice of termination was null and void. The appeal against that part of the claim was dismissed on 29 August 2007 by the Szczecin Regional Court.
On 8 October 2007 the Szczecin District Court gave a second judgment in the case, dismissing the applicant’s claim for compensation against his employer. On 4 March 2008 the Szczecin Court of Appeal upheld that judgment.
On 14 May 2008 the Supreme Court rejected the applicant’s cassation appeal.
In a judgment of 30 September 2008 the Szczecin District Court dismissed the applicant’s claim for reinstatement. On 4 March 2009 the Szczecin Regional Court dismissed his appeal.
2. Proceedings under the 2004 Act
On 30 August 2006 the applicant lodged a complaint under the 2004 Act about the excessive length of the proceedings before the Szczecin District Court.
By a decision of 29 September 2006 the Szczecin Regional Court confirmed that the proceedings had indeed been lengthy. The court considered that an award of PLN 1,000 would be adequate. It refrained from giving directions to the lower court as to the further conduct of the proceedings.
The applicant complained under Article 6 §1 of the Convention about the excessive length of the proceedings.
He also alleged that the remedy provided under the 2004 Act had proved to be ineffective in his case, in breach of Article 13 of the Convention, as the amount of compensation awarded to him was too low.
The applicant complained about the length of the proceedings and that he had no effective remedy at his disposal. He relied on Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention which, in so far as relevant, provide as follows:
Article 6 § 1
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
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.
By letter dated 6 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 application. They further requested the Court to strike out the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.
The declaration provided as follows:
“The Government hereby wish to express – by way of a unilateral declaration – its acknowledgment of the fact that the length of the civil proceedings in the present case was in breach of the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the applicant can be considered a victim of a violation of his right to a hearing within “a reasonable time” and the decision of the Poznań Regional Court of 21 March 2005 did not constitute “appropriate and sufficient” redress.
Consequently, the Government are prepared to pay the applicant PLN 18,000 which they consider to be reasonable in the light of the Court’s law. The sum referred to above, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, will be free of any taxes that may be applicable. It will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 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.
The Government would respectfully suggest that the above declaration might 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...”
In a letter of 11 September 2009 the applicant expressed the view that the sum mentioned in the Government’s declaration was unacceptably low.
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”.
It also recalls that in certain circumstances, it may strike out an application under Article 37 § 1(c) 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); WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland (dec.) no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007; and Sulwińska v. Poland (dec.) no. 28953/03).
The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Poland, its practice concerning complaints about the violation of one’s right to a hearing within a reasonable time and about the lack of an effective remedy capable of providing redress for a breach of this right (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 ....; Majewski v. Poland, no. 52690/99, 11 October 2005; Wende and Kukówka v. Poland, no. 56026/00, 10 May 2007; Kudła v. Poland [GC], no. 30210/96, ECHR 2000-IX; and Charzyński v. Poland (dec.) no. 15212/03, HR 2005- ...).
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 the application (Article 37 § 1(c).
The Court further notes that this decision constitutes a final resolution of this application only in so far as the proceedings before the Court are concerned. It is without prejudice to the use by the applicant of other remedies before the domestic courts to claim further compensation in respect of the length of the impugned proceedings.
Moreover, in 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 the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine).
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government’s declaration under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention and of the modalities for ensuring compliance with the undertakings referred to therein;
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza