AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
by Ventsislav Valchev VALCHEV
The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting on 3 February 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Zdravka Kalaydjieva, judges,
and Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 13 July 2004,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Ventsislav Valchev Valchev, is a Bulgarian national who was born in 1966 and lives in Haskovo. He is represented before the Court by Mr Rumen Darakev, a lawyer practising in Sofia.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
1. The factual background of the case
On 7 October 1993 the applicant imported into Bulgaria a car, which he had bought in the Czech Republic.
On 15 October 1993, during a customs inspection, the authorities noticed irregularities in the registration documents of the car, so on 16 October they seized it for further inspection, in the course of which it was established that the said documents as well as the number of the car’s engine had been forged, which constituted a customs and a criminal offence.
In a letter of 4 May 1994 the district public prosecutor’s office refused to open criminal investigation against the applicant for lack of sufficient evidence that he had been aware of the above offence.
On 11 November 1994 the Head of the Customs Office in Svilengrad fined the applicant and confiscated the car because of the above customs offence.
Following the applicant’s appeal, in a judgment of 27 October 1995 the Svilengrad District Court granted the appeal and quashed the order.
Meanwhile, on 7 September 1994 the car had been destroyed due to a fire in the garage of the customs office.
On an unspecified date in the beginning of 1996 the applicant initiated an action under the State and Municipalities Responsibility for Damage Act (SMRDA) for damages stemming from the unlawful confiscation of his car and from its subsequent destruction before the Haskovo District Court.
On an unspecified date in 1996 the District Court found that it was not competent to examine the action and transferred the case to the Haskovo Regional Court.
In the course of the proceedings before the Regional Court the applicant amended the amount and the grounds for the claimed damages several times, claiming in addition to the price of the car, plus statutory interest and non-pecuniary damages, also the depreciation of the car due to the subsequent inflation processes in the country, and filed a subsidiary claim for the price of the car, plus interest as of the date of the car’s seizure.
In a judgment of 6 January 1998 the Regional Court granted part of the applicant’s claim for the price of the car, plus penalty interest as of the date of its seizure and awarded him all the claimed non-pecuniary damages.
On appeal by both parties, in a judgment of 4 November 1999 the Plovdiv Court of Appeal quashed the lower court’s judgment for procedural violations as it lacked clear reasoning in respect of the two separate claims filed by the applicant.
On further appeal, in a judgment of an unspecified date of 2000 the Supreme Court of Cassation quashed the lower court’s judgment for procedural violations and remitted the case to a different panel of the Court of Appeal.
In a judgment of 10 November 2000 the Court of Appeal once again remitted the case to the Regional Court for procedural violations.
In a judgment of 31 June 2001 the Regional Court granted the applicant’s claim for the price of the car and the non-pecuniary damages, plus interest as of the date of its seizure; rejected it on the part of the claimed damages due to the inflation and terminated the proceedings in respect of the subsidiary claim.
On appeal, in a judgment of 19 July 2002 the Court of Appeal quashed the lower court’s judgment on the claimed damages due to the inflation and awarded them to the applicant.
In an additional judgment of 27 February 2003 the Court of Appeal awarded the applicant the statutory interest on the awarded amounts.
On appeal by the other party, in a final judgment of 11 February 2004 the Supreme Court of Cassation quashed the lower court’s judgment and granted part of the applicant’s claim, awarding him the price of the car, plus interest as of 27 October 1995, when the confiscation order was quashed by the District Court as it found that according to the case-law of the Supreme Court the damages under the SMRDA should be awarded as of the date the unlawful act had been quashed.
B. Relevant domestic law
After an amendment of 16 July 1999 Article 217a of the Code of Civil Procedure (1952) provided that parties in civil proceedings could file a complaint before the higher instance courts if the proceedings were being protracted. Those courts then had the power to issue binding instructions to the lower instance courts on how to process the case.
A. Complaints under Article 6 § 1 about the length of the civil proceedings and under Article 13 of the Convention
The applicant complained under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention about the length of the civil proceedings and the lack of an effective remedy in that respect.
The relevant part of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention provides:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations...., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
Article 13 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 considers that it cannot, on the basis of the case file, determine the admissibility of this complaint and that it is therefore necessary, in accordance with Rule 54 § 2 (b) of the Rules of Court, to give notice of this part of the application to the respondent Government.
B. The remainder of the applicant’s complaints
The Court has examined the remainder of the applicant’s complaints as submitted by him. However, in the light of all the material in its possession, and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, the Court finds that they do not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention or its Protocols.
It follows that this part of the application must be rejected as being manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to adjourn the examination of the applicant’s complaints concerning the length of the civil proceedings and the lack of effective remedies relating thereto;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Claudia Westerdiek Peer Lorenzen