by Jolanta BARTOSIAK
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 13 January 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 16 October 2007,
Having regard to the decision to apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the case together,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Ms Jolanta Bartosiak, is a Polish national who was born in 1971 and lives in Szydłowiec. The Polish Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
a. Criminal proceedings instituted by the applicant
On 10 November 2004 the applicant filed a private bill of indictment with the Szydłowiec District Court. She accused a journalist, who had published an article critical of her and her husband in a weekly magazine, of libel.
On 15 December 2004 the Szydłowiec District Court found that it was not competent ratione loci to examine the case and had it transferred to the Warsaw District Court.
It transpires that during the following five months the case went back and forth between the Szydłowiec and Warsaw District Courts due to their failure to declare the decision taken on 15 December 2004 legally binding.
On 18 May 2005 it was finally decided that the case would be examined by the Warsaw District Court.
On 1 June 2005 the Warsaw District Court scheduled the first hearing in the case for 1 September 2005.
On 1 September 2005 the Warsaw District Court decided to set the mediation procedure in motion through the relevant authorities.
On 26 October 2006 the Warsaw District Court ordered a conciliatory meeting to be held.
It appears that for some months afterwards the case again circulated between different courts due to their failure to establish which of them was competent ratione loci to examine it.
On 10 July 2007 the Warsaw District Court decided to discontinue the proceedings in the case due to the unjustified absence of the applicant from a conciliatory meeting despite the fact that she had been properly summoned. She appealed.
On 21 September 2007 the Warsaw Regional Court upheld the decision. The court found that pursuant to the relevant statute, a mediation procedure was to be discontinued if a party to the proceedings failed to attend a conciliatory meeting. In particular, this rule applied if a private prosecutor was absent without justification.
b. Proceedings under the 2004 Act
On 9 July 2007 the applicant filed a complaint with the Warsaw Regional Court under the Law of 17 June 2004 on complaints about a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time (Ustawa o skardze na naruszenie prawa strony do rozpoznania sprawy w postępowaniu sądowym bez nieuzasadnionej zwłoki – “the 2004 Act”). She alleged that the length of the criminal proceedings before the Warsaw District Court had been excessive and requested 10,000 Polish zlotys in damages.
On 14 September 2007 the Warsaw Regional Court accepted the applicant's complaint and found that the proceedings in the case had indeed exceeded a “reasonable” time. In particular, the court found the very long intervals between the hearings held in the case to be entirely unjustified.
The court refused, however, to grant the applicant any compensation.
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning remedies for the excessive length of judicial proceedings, in particular the applicable provisions of the 2004 Act, are set out in the Court's decisions in the cases of Charzyński v. Poland (dec.), no. 15212/03 §§ 12-23, ECHR 2005-V and Ratajczyk v. Poland (dec.), no. 11215/02 ECHR 2005-VIII, and the judgment in the case of Krasuski v. Poland, no. 61444/00, §§ 34-46, ECHR 2005-V.
The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention that the proceedings in her case had exceeded a “reasonable” time.
On 5 December 2008 the Court received the following declaration from the Government:
“I, Jakub Wołąsiewicz, agent of the Government, declare that the Government of Poland offer to pay 6,000 Polish zlotys to Ms Jolanta Bartosiak with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, 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 payment will constitute the final resolution of the case.”
On 1 December 2008 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicant:
“I, Jolanta Bartosiak, the applicant, note that the Government of Poland are prepared to pay me the sum of 6,000 Polish zlotys with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, 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. From the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.
I accept the proposal and waive any further claims against Poland in respect of the facts giving rise to this application. I declare that this constitutes a 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 (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention). In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the case out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza