by Valentin Iustin POPA
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting on 17 March 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Luis López Guerra,
Ann Power, judges,
and Santiago Quesada, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 29 May 2006,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
1. The applicant, Mr Valentin Iustin Popa, is a Romanian national who was born in 1951 and lives in Oradea. The Romanian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr Răzvan-Horaţiu Radu, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The circumstances of the case
2. The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
3. On 25 June 1999 A.D.P. brought an action against the applicant seeking to set aside an allegedly simulated transaction concerning the sale of an immovable property.
4. In a judgment of 6 April 2004, the Oradea District Court found in favour of A.D.P. based on the evidence adduced in the case, in particular documents and witness testimonies.
5. That judgment was upheld by the Oradea Court of Appeal acting as an appellate jurisdiction (jurisdicţie de apel) on 19 January 2005, and again on 13 December 2005 by the same court of appeal acting as a court of last resort (jurisdicţie de recurs).
6. The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the length of the proceedings.
7. Under the same Article, he complained that the civil proceedings brought against him had been unfair, firstly because the district court had not examined the evidence correctly and secondly because the same court of appeal examined the case both as an appellate jurisdiction and as a court of last resort.
8. Lastly, the applicant complained that the outcome of the proceedings had constituted an interference with his property rights.
A. Length of the proceedings
9. The applicant's first complaint relates to the length of the proceedings.
10. On 1 October 2008 the Court received the following unilateral declaration from the Government, made with a view to resolving the issue raised by this part of the application. The Government further requested the Court to strike out the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.
The declaration provided as follows:
“Le Gouvernement déclare - au moyen de la présente déclaration unilatérale – qu'il reconnait la durée excessive de la procédure interne engagée par la partie requérante.
Le Gouvernement déclare être prêt à verser à la partie requérante, au titre de satisfaction équitable, la somme de 1 200 EUR, montant qu'il considère comme raisonnable au vu de la jurisprudence de la Cour. Cette somme qui couvrira tout préjudice matériel et moral, ainsi que les frais et dépens, ne sera soumise à aucun impôt. Elle sera versée en lei roumains au taux applicable à la date du paiement sur le compte bancaire indiqué par la partie requérante, dans les trois mois suivant la date de la notification de la décision de la Cour rendue conformément à l'article 37 § 1 de la Convention européenne des droit de l'Homme. A défaut de règlement dans ledit délai, le Gouvernement s'engage à verser, à compter de l'expiration de celui-ci et jusqu'au règlement effectif de la somme en question, un intérêt simple à un taux égal à celui de la facilité de prêt marginal de la Banque centrale européenne, augmenté de trois points de pourcentage.
Le Gouvernement invite respectueusement la Cour à dire que la poursuite de l'examen de la requête n'est plus justifiée et à la rayer du rôle en vertu de l'article 37 § 1 c) de la Convention.”
11. In a letter of 13 November 2008, the applicant asked the Court to reject the Government's declaration. He reiterated that he had raised other complaints that had not been addressed by the declaration and expressed the view that the sum mentioned in the Government's declaration was unacceptably low.
12. The Court reiterates that Article 37 of the Convention provides that it may at any stage of the proceedings decide to strike an application out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to one of the conclusions specified under (a), (b) or (c) of paragraph 1 of that Article. Article 37 § 1 (c) enables the Court in particular to strike a case out of its list if:
“for any other reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application”.
13. It also reiterates that in certain circumstances it may strike out an application under Article 37 § 1(c) on the basis of a unilateral declaration by a respondent Government even if the applicant wishes the examination of the case to be continued.
14. To this end, the Court will examine carefully the declaration in the light of the principles emerging from its case-law, in particular Tahsin Acar v. Turkey ([GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI); Meriakri v. Moldova ((striking out), no. 53487/99, 1 March 2005); WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland ((dec.) no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007); Gergely v. Romania (no. 57885/00, § 22, ECHR 2007 ... (extracts)); and Lazàr v. Romania ((dec.), no. 30159/03, 25 November 2008).
15. The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Romania, its practice concerning complaints about the violation of the right to a hearing within a reasonable time (see, for example, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII; Cocchiarella v. Italy [GC], no. 64886/01, §§ 69-98, ECHR 2006 .V; Temesan v. Romania, no. 36293/02, 10 June 2008; and Dekany v. Romania, no. 22011/03, 1 April 2008).
16. Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the Government's declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed, the Court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application (Article 37 § 1(c)). Furthermore, the fact that the Government did not address the other complaints raised by the applicant is not sufficient to invalidate the unilateral declaration, bearing in mind, in particular, that those complaints are inadmissible in the circumstances of the case (see paragraphs 18-21 below).
17. In light of the above considerations, and in particular given the clear and extensive case-law on the topic, the Court is satisfied that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto does not require it to continue the examination of this part of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine).
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
B. Remaining complaints
18. Under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the applicant complained about the way the district court had examined the evidence as well as about the fact that the same court of appeal had examined the case both as an appellate jurisdiction and as a court of last resort.
19. The Court reiterates, however, that admissibility and assessment of evidence are primarily matters for regulation by national law and the national courts, and therefore it is not its function to deal with errors of fact or law allegedly committed by a national court unless and in so far as they may have infringed rights and freedoms protected by the Convention (see García Ruiz v. Spain [GC], no. 30544/96, § 28, ECHR 1999 I). Moreover, it has already found that the fact that the same domestic court examined both the appeal and the appeal on points of law did not contradict the Convention requirements (Parroise Gréco-catholique Ticvaniul Mare v. Romania (dec.), no. 2534/02, § 104, 4 October 2006) and sees no reasons to depart from this precedent.
20. Therefore, 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 is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
21. Lastly, as to the alleged violation of the applicant's property rights, the Court notes that the fact that the State, through its judicial system, provided a forum for the determination of the applicant's rights and obligations does not automatically engage its responsibility under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (see Breierova and Others v. the Czech Republic (dec.), no. 57321/00, 8 October 2002). While the State could be held responsible for losses caused by such determinations if the court decisions amounted to an arbitrary and disproportionate interference with possessions, this is not the case here (see paragraphs 18-20 above).
It follows that this complaint is incompatible ratione personae with the provisions of the Convention within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 § 4.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government's declaration in respect of the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention (length of proceedings) and of the modalities for ensuring compliance with the undertakings referred to therein;
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in so far as it relates to the above complaint in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Santiago Quesada Josep