by BoZena BEŇOVÁ and Ľubomír BEŇO
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 15 May 2006,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement in respect of the second applicant’s complaints,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government in respect of the first applicant’s complaints and the observations in reply submitted by the first applicant,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicants, Mrs BoZena Beňová (“the first applicant”) and Mr Ľubomír Beňo (“the second applicant”), are Slovakian nationals who were born in 1947 and 1979 respectively and live in Košice. 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 15 February 1999 the first applicant filed an action with the Prešov
District Court in the matter of an inheritance. The second applicant was later indicated by her as one of the heirs.
On 14 April 2004 the Prešov District Court discontinued the proceedings.
On 10 May 2004 the first applicant appealed.
On 30 November 2004 the Košice Regional Court quashed the decision and returned the case to the Prešov District Court.
On 10 March 2005 the first applicant complained to the Constitutional Court about the length of the proceedings.
On 28 April 2005 the case was divided by the Prešov District Court into two separate sets of proceedings.
On 11 May 2005 the Constitutional Court found that the Prešov District Court had violated the first applicant’s right under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention to a hearing within a reasonable time.
The Constitutional Court ordered the Prešov District Court to proceed with the case without further delay and awarded 60,000 Slovakian korunas (SKK) (the equivalent of 1,545 euros (EUR) at that time) to the first applicant as just satisfaction in respect of non-pecuniary damage. It also ordered the District Court to reimburse the first applicant’s legal costs.
On 7 December 2005 the Prešov District Court dismissed the first applicant’s claim examined in one of the sets of proceedings.
On 21 December 2005 the first applicant appealed.
On 31 January 2006 the Košice District Court quashed the decision and returned the case to the first-instance court.
On 9 June 2006 both applicants jointly lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court claiming a violation of their right under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention to a hearing within a reasonable time.
On 14 September 2006 the Constitutional Court declared admissible the second applicant’s complaint and dismissed the first applicant’s complaint as manifestly ill-founded. It held that after the Constitutional Court’s decision of 11 May 2005 the length of the periods between the District Court’s procedural steps was not excessive.
On 14 December 2006 the Constitutional Court found that the Prešov District Court had violated the second applicant’s right under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention to a hearing within a reasonable time.
The Constitutional Court awarded SKK 20,000 (the equivalent of EUR 575 at that time) to the second applicant as just satisfaction in respect of non-pecuniary damage. It also ordered the District Court to reimburse the second applicant’s legal costs.
The case was decided on 17 and 24 August 2006 and the decisions became final in September 2006.
The applicants complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the length of the proceedings and under Article 13 of the Convention about the lack of an effective remedy.
The applicants complained about the length of the proceedings. They also complained that they had no effective remedy at their disposal in respect of their above complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
They relied on Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention which in its relevant part provides:
“Article 6 - Right to a fair trial
1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ... everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal ...”
“Article 13 - Right to an effective remedy
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.”
A. As regards the second applicant
On 2 June 2009 and 25 June 2009 the Court received friendly settlement declarations signed by the parties under which the second applicant agreed to waive any further claims against the Slovakia in respect of the facts giving rise to his application against an undertaking by the Government to pay him EUR 2,000 to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, which 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 payment will constitute the final resolution of the case.
The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols and finds no reasons to justify a continued examination of the application in so far as it concerns the second applicant (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention).
In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the application in respect of the second applicant out of the list.
B. As regards the first applicant
1. As to the alleged violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
The Government argued that the first applicant could no longer claim to be a victim, within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention, of a violation of her right to a hearing within a reasonable time. They pointed out that the Constitutional Court by its judgment of 11 May 2005 had provided the first applicant with preventive and compensatory redress. The Government considered this redress adequate and sufficient. As regards the period after the Constitutional Court’s decision, the Government, with reference to the Constitutional Court’s judgment of 14 September 2006, argued that no more delays had occurred.
The first applicant disagreed.
The Court notes that at the time of the first decision of the Constitutional Court the proceedings had lasted 6 years, 2 months and 26 days for two levels of jurisdiction. The Constitutional Court awarded the applicant the equivalent of EUR 1,545 as just satisfaction in respect of non-pecuniary damage. This amount can be considered as providing adequate and sufficient redress to the applicant in view of the Court’s established case-law (see Scordino v. Italy (no. 1) [GC], no. 36813/97, §§ 178-213, ECHR 2006-... and Cocchiarella v. Italy [GC], no. 64886/01, §§ 65-107, ECHR 2006-...).
In view of the above, in respect of the proceedings examined by the Constitutional Court, the Court concludes that the first applicant had lost her status as a victim within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention.
The Court further notes that after the delivery of the Constitutional Court’s judgment the proceedings before the District Court lasted 1 year and 4 months. In its decision of 14 September 2006 the Constitutional Court found that the length of the periods between the District Court’s procedural steps was not excessive.
The Court finds no reason for disagreeing with that conclusion.
It follows that the first applicant’s complaint of the length of the proceedings is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
2. As to the alleged violation of Article 13 of the Convention
The Court notes that Article 13 applies only where an individual has an “arguable claim” to be the victim of a violation of a Convention right (see Boyle and Rice v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 27 April 1988, Series A no. 131, § 52).
The Court has found above that the first applicant’s complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention was manifestly ill-founded. In these circumstances, the first applicant has no arguable claim for the purposes of Article 13 of the Convention.
It follows that the first applicant’s complaint of violation of Article 13 of the Convention 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
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in so far as it concerns the second applicant’s complaints under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza