by Zoran JANKOVIC and Vesna MANDIC
against the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting on 24 November 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska, judges,
and Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 23 May 2006,
Having regard to the decision to grant priority to the above application under Rule 41 of the Rules of Court,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicants,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicants, Mr Zoran Jankovic and Ms Vesna Mandic, are Serbian nationals who were born in 1946 and 1957 respectively, and live in Leskovac, Serbia. The Macedonian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mrs R. Lazareska Gerovska. The Serbian Government were invited to intervene in the proceedings (Article 36 § 1 of the Convention). However, by letter of 3 October 2008 they notified the Court that they did not wish to exercise their right to do so.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
On 2 December 1995 the applicants, while travelling in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in their car, ran off the road into an abyss.
On 27 February 1996 they brought, through their legal representative, a compensation claim against the public undertaking responsible for road maintenance alleging that the accident had been caused by a landslide. On 30 April 2002 the Veles Court of First Instance ruled partly in favour of the applicants. After one remittal, the applicants’ case was finally decided by the Skopje Court of Appeal’s decision of 13 October 2005. According to the copy of a receipt slip submitted by the Government, this latter decision was served on the applicants’ representative on 4 November 2005.
The applicants complained under Article 6 of the Convention about the inordinate length of the proceedings, that the national courts had wrongly assessed evidence and that their lawyer had not represented them correctly. They also complained that they had not had an interpreter and that the decisions in their case had been written in Macedonian.
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal ...”
The Government objected that the applicants had submitted the application outside the six-month time-limit given the date of service of the final decision to the applicants’ representative.
The Court reiterates at the outset that, according to Article 35 § 1 of the Convention, it may only deal with an individual application lodged with it within a period of six months from the date on which the final decision was taken. The Court further recalls that the six-month period runs from the date on which the applicant’s lawyer became aware of the decision completing the exhaustion of the domestic remedies, notwithstanding the fact that the applicant only became aware of the decision later (see Keskin and Others v. Turkey (dec.), no. 36091/97, 7 September 1999; Bölükbaş and Others v. Turkey (dec.), no. 37793/97, 12 October 1999; and Pejic v. Croatia (dec.), no. 66894/01, 19 December 2002).
In the instant case the Court observes that the decision of the Skopje Court of Appeal was adopted on 13 October 2005. Even assuming that the applicants became aware of that decision on 20 February 2006 as they alleged, this date cannot be taken as the starting date for the running of the six-month time-limit. In view of the evidence submitted by the Government, the Court finds it established that the applicants’ representative received the Skopje Court of Appeal’s decision on 4 November 2005, which is the point when the six-month period started to run.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares the application inadmissible.
Claudia Westerdiek Peer Lorenzen