by Teodor HAMMEL
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 15 December 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 23 May 2006,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 20 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 Teodor Hammel, is a Slovakian national who was born in 1944 and lives in Bratislava. He was represented before the Court by Ms H. Kováčiková, a lawyer practising in Bratislava. The Slovakian 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 9 November 1997 the applicant lodged a civil action for the protection of his personal rights with the Bratislava III District Court.
On 3 November 2005 the Constitutional Court found that the Bratislava III District Court had violated the applicant’s right under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention to a hearing within a reasonable time. It ordered the Bratislava III District Court to proceed without further delay, awarded 40,000 Slovakian korunas (SKK), (the equivalent of 1,025 euros (EUR) at that time), to the applicant as just satisfaction in respect of non-pecuniary damage and ordered the reimbursement of the applicant’s costs.
On 24 January 2006 the applicant complained to the Constitutional Court that the District Court had not respected the judgment of 3 November 2005.
On 20 February 2006 the Constitutional Court dismissed the applicant’s complaint as inadmissible.
In October 2009 the case was still pending before the first-instance court.
The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the unreasonable length of the proceedings. Without invoking any provision of the Convention he also complained that he had no effective remedy at his disposal in that respect.
A. Length of proceedings
The applicant complained about the length of the proceedings. He relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention which, in so far as relevant, provides as follows:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
By a letter dated 17 August 2009 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by this part of 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 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 Teodor Hammel the sum of EUR 5,200 (five thousand two 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 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.
In the event of the Court’s 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 apply 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 argued that the sum mentioned in the Government’s declaration was unacceptably low taking into account the length of the proceedings and the fact that they are still pending before the first-instance court.
The Court observes 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 observes that in certain circumstances, it may strike out an application or part thereof 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); 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-....). 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, for example, Kuril v. Slovakia, no. 63959/00, §§ 35-43, 3 October 2006, Rapoš v. Slovakia, no. 25763/02, §§ 27-34, 20 May 2008, or 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).
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
Since the proceedings concerned are still pending before the domestic courts, the Court’s strike-out decision is without prejudice to use by the applicant of other remedies to obtain redress for any delay in the proceedings which may occur after the date of this decision.
Without invoking any Article of the Convention the applicant complained that he did not have at his disposal an effective remedy for his complaint about the length of the proceedings.
The Court has examined this complaint under Article 13 of the Convention, which provides:
“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.”
The Court reiterates that the word “remedy” within the meaning of Article 13 does not mean a remedy which is bound to succeed, but simply an accessible remedy before an authority competent to examine the merits of a complaint (see, for example, Šidlová v. Slovakia, no. 50224/99, § 77, 26 September 2006). In the light of this principle the Court finds that the fact that the Constitutional Court’s decision did not have an accelerating effect and that the redress obtained by the applicant from the Constitutional Court was not sufficient for Convention purposes do not render the remedy under Article 127 of the Constitution in the circumstances of the present case incompatible with Article 13 of the Convention (see also Solárová and Others v. Slovakia, no. 77690/01, § 56, 5 December 2006, with further references).
It follows that this complaint 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
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government’s declaration in respect of the complaint under Article 6 § 1 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 so far as it relates to the above complaint in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza