EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Press release issued by the Registrar
FAIMBLAT v. ROMANIA
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its lead Chamber judgment1 in the case of Faimblat v. Romania (application no. 23066/02).
The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the Romanian courts’ dismissal of the applicants’ action for recovery of a nationalised property.
Under Article 41 of the Convention (just satisfaction), the Court awarded the applicants 6,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 200 for costs and expenses.
In its judgment delivered today the Court observed that the violation found revealed a major structural problem in Romania resulting from the defectiveness of the legislation on the restitution of nationalised property and its application. Approximately 50 similar cases were pending before the Court which could in the future give rise to further judgments concluding that there had been a violation of the Convention. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments), the Court therefore urged Romania to take as soon as possible the legislative, administrative and budgetary measures necessary to ensure the rapid execution of final decisions concerning nationalised real estate.
(The judgment is available only in French.)
1. Principal facts
The applicants are two Romanian nationals, Salomeia Faimblat, who was born in 1947 and died in 2008, and her brother Solomon Faimblat, who was born in 1949 and lives in Tulcea (Romania).
A property belonging to their father was confiscated by the Romanian State in 1941 by virtue of a decree concerning real property owned by Jews. It was then nationalised in 1950 pursuant to a nationalisation decree.
On 27 April 2001 the applicants brought administrative proceedings before the Tulcea Town Council, in accordance with the provisions of Law no. 10/2001 on the legal rules applicable to real property wrongfully nationalised between 1945 and 1989, with a view to recovering possession of the property.
Concurrently, they applied to the Tulcea Court of First Instance seeking a declaration that the nationalisation had been illegal. On 13 September 2001 their action was declared inadmissible on the ground that they were required to follow the administrative procedure provided for by Law no. 10/2001. That judgment was upheld on appeal in April 2002.
On 18 May 2006 Tulcea Town Council said that the property could not be returned, as it had been demolished, and that the applicants were entitled to compensation under Law no. 10/2001. To date, Mr Faimblat has received no compensation.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 31 May 2002.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Casadevall (Andorra), President,
Elisabet Fura-Sandström (Sweden),
Corneliu Bîrsan (Romania),
Alvina Gyulumyan (Armenia),
Egbert Myjer (Netherlands),
Ineta Ziemele (Latvia),
Luis López Guerra (Spain), judges,
and also Stanley Naismith, Deputy Section Registrar.
3. Summary of the judgment1
The applicants relied in particular on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) with regard to the dismissal by the Romanian courts of their action for recovery of a property nationalised in 1950, alleging an infringement of their right of access to a court.
Decision of the Court
Article 6 § 1
The Court noted that the domestic courts had not verified whether the administrative authorities had complied with the procedure laid down in Law no. 10/2001, and that this raised doubts about the effectiveness of the applicants’ access to a court. In that connection, it emphasised that the Court of First Instance had declared their action inadmissible even though no administrative decision had been given before expiry of the statutory 60-day time-limit.
As regards the question whether the procedure laid down by Law no. 10/2001 was effective, the Court observed that three years had elapsed between the submission of the completed file by the applicants and the administrative decision, and that the decision had not been enforced although it was final. The Court had previously had occasion to remark that the collective investment fund Proprietatea, which was responsible for compensation payments in execution of final decisions, was not operating effectively.
The Court further emphasised that the applicants had no effective remedy before a court for as long as the administrative proceedings were pending.
It reiterated that the right to a court included a litigant’s right to effective protection. It considered that the applicants’ access to the procedure made available by Law no. 10/2001 remained theoretical since seven years after Salomeia and Solomon Faimblat had brought their action no compensation had been obtained. It therefore held that their right of access to a court had been infringed, in breach of Article 6 § 1.
The Court’s judgments are accessible on its Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
Turner-Tretz (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Paramy Chanthalangsy (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 28 30)
Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Céline Menu-Lange (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
1 Under Article 43 of the Convention, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17 member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.
1 This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.