by Alfreda TARNARZEWSKA
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 10 March 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 28 August 2006,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case.
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Ms Alfreda Tarnarzewska, is a Polish national who was born in 1936 and lives in Elbląg. The respondent Government were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
On 14 May 1998 the applicant and her husband filed a petition with the President of Elbląg to have the perpetual use of the land owned by the municipality, which they used following a relevant administrative decision, transferred into ownership.
On 20 June 2000 the President of Elbląg issued a decision dismissing the applicant's petition.
On 31 July 2000 the Self-Government Board of Appeal quashed the decision and remitted the case back to the first-instance authority for reconsideration.
On 28 December 2001 the Elbląg Municipal Office dismissed the applicant's petition. The decision was upheld on 25 February 2002 by the Self-Government Board of Appeal, which stated at the same time that the first-instance authority had been conducting the proceedings over an unjustifiably long period.
On 1 March 2002 the Elbląg Municipal Office again dismissed the applicant's motion to have her right to perpetual use transformed into ownership, basing its decision on the 2001 Law.
The decision was upheld on 22 April 2002 by the Elbląg Self Government Board of Appeal.
On 19 January 2004, upon the applicant's appeal lodged with the Supreme Administrative Court, the Self-Government Board of Appeal quashed its own decision of 22 April 2002 and, at the same time, the Municipal Office's decision of 1 March 2002, on the ground of an incorrect interpretation of the relevant legal provisions. The case was remitted to the first-instance authority.
By a ruling of 30 January 2004, in view of the reform of the administrative procedure, the case was transmitted to the Olsztyn Regional Administrative Court. By the same decision the court discontinued the proceedings, having found that the Self-Government Board of Appeal had already quashed the contested decision.
On 20 February 2004 the applicant was informed by the Elbląg Municipal Office that her case would be examined after the transfer of the case-file from the Olsztyn Regional Administrative Court.
On 10 January 2006 the applicant filed with the Olsztyn Regional Administrative Court a complaint about the inactivity of the administration. On 15 March 2006 the Olsztyn Administrative Court rejected the applicant's complaint.
On 17 March 2006 the Municipal Office refused to convert the applicant's right to perpetual use into ownership.
On 8 May 2006 the Elbląg Self-Government Board of Appeal dismissed as unfounded the applicant's new complaint about the inactivity of the administration.
The applicant's appeal against the decision of 17 March 2006 was dismissed on 8 May 2006 by the Self-Government Board of Appeal.
On 29 August 2006 the Olsztyn Regional Administrative Court rejected the applicant's appeal on formal grounds.
On 10 October 2006 the Municipality Office again refused to convert the applicant's right to perpetual use into ownership.
The decision was upheld on 8 May 2006 by the Self-Government Board.
On 17 October 2006 the Olsztyn Regional Administrative Court dismissed the applicant's appeal.
On 29 December 2006 the Olsztyn Regional Administrative Court dismissed the applicant's renewed complaint about the inactivity of the administration.
On 16 March 2007 the Elbląg Self-Government Board quashed the decision of 10 October 2006. The Board found that the Municipality Office had erroneously given two decisions concerning the same issue, having first dealt with the merits of the applicant's request in its decision of 17 March 2006.
The Board discontinued the administrative proceedings before the first-instance authority.
The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention about the excessive length of the administrative proceedings in her case.
She also alleged a breach of Article 13 of the Convention in that her complaints about the inactivity of the administration had been ineffective.
Finally, in substance under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, the applicant complained that as a result of bureaucratic errors and long lasting legal uncertainty her property rights had been infringed by the refusal to convert her right to perpetual use into full ownership.
The applicant complained about the length of the administrative proceedings and that she had had no effective remedy in that respect at her disposal. She relied on Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention which, in so far as relevant, provides as follows:
Article 6 §1
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
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.
On 14 January 2009 the Court received the following declaration from the Government:
“I declare that the Government of Poland offer to pay 18,000 PLN to Ms Alfreda Tarnarzewska 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 2 February 2009 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicant:
“I note that the Government of Poland are prepared to pay me the sum of 18,000 Polish zlotys with a view to covering my financial loss mentioned in a 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 financial claims against Poland in respect of the facts giving rise to this application”.
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 application out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza