by Dariusz ZAKRZEWSKI
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 17 March 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 1 February 2003,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Dariusz Zakrzewski, is a Polish national who was born in 1971 and lives in Lublin. He was represented before the Court by Ms Ostrowska-Zakrzewska. 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.
1. First set of criminal proceedings against the applicant
On 30 August 1993 the Grodzisk Mazowiecki District Prosecutor (Prokuratura Rejonowa) indicted the applicant on charges of robbery before the Lublin Regional Court (Sąd Wojewódzki).
On 18 April 1994 the Lublin Regional Court acquitted the applicant. The prosecutor appealed.
On 26 July 1995 the Lublin Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny) quashed the judgment and remitted the case to the Lublin Regional Court.
It appears that during the proceedings the case was transmitted to the Grodzisk Mazowiecki District Court (Sąd Rejonowy).
On 1 February 2005 the Grodzisk Mazowiecki District Court convicted the applicant as charged and sentenced him to one year and two months’ imprisonment.
The applicant failed to lodge a complaint of an infringement of the right to a trial within a reasonable time with the domestic court, under the 17 June 2004 Act (Ustawa o skardze na naruszenie prawa strony do rozpoznania sprawy w postępowaniu sądowym bez nieuzasadnionej zwłoki – “the 2004 Act”).
2. Second set of criminal proceedings against the applicant
On 27 September 2001 the applicant was arrested by the police on suspicion of taking a hostage, robbery and fraud committed in an organised criminal group.
On 29 September 2001 the Lublin District Court remanded him in custody in view of the reasonable suspicion that he had committed the offences in question. It further considered that there was a risk that he would obstruct the proper conduct of the investigation. The court also stressed the likelihood that a heavy penalty would be imposed on him. The applicant appealed against the decision. On 22 October 2001 the Regional Court (Sąd Okręgowy) dismissed the appeal.
Subsequently, in the course of the investigation the applicant’s detention was extended regularly by the Lublin Regional Court and the Lublin Court of Appeal. The courts repeated the grounds originally given for his detention. The applicant appealed unsuccessfully against the subsequent decisions.
On 7 June 2002 the applicant lodged an application with the Regional Prosecutor (Prokuratura Okręgowa) for his detention to be lifted and replaced by another preventive measure. The application referred to the health problems of his mother and the necessity for him to be with her.
On 1 June 2002, the prosecutor dismissed the application, emphasising that the reasons for keeping the applicant in pre-trial detention were still valid and that he had not submitted documents in support of his claim that his mother needed permanent care. He further noted that the applicant’s mother had other relatives able to take care of her. The applicant appealed against the decision. On 5 September 2002 the Lublin Appeals Prosecutor (Prokuratura Apelacyjna) dismissed the appeal.
On 10 December 2002, 20 January 2003 and 30 January 2003 the applicant lodged unsuccessful applications with the Regional Court for his detention to be lifted and replaced by another preventive measure. He referred to health problems.
It appears that on an unspecified date at the beginning of the year 2003 the applicant was indicted before the Lublin Regional Court.
On 25 February 2003 the Lublin Regional Court found that it did not have jurisdiction to examine parts of the criminal charges and transferred the part of the case concerning robbery to the Chełm District Court.
The applicant’s detention was extended by decisions taken by the Lublin regional and appeal courts. The relevant decisions were taken on the following dates: 19 February 2003, 10 September 2003 (extending his detention until 19 December 2003), 17 December 2003 (extending his detention until 19 February 2004), 11 February 2004 (extending his detention until 19 April 2004), 14 April 2004 (extending his detention until 19 July 2004), 14 July 2004 (extending his detention until 31 August 2004) and 25 August 2004 (extending his detention until 4 October 2004).
In the meantime, on 1 February 2003 and 2 June 2003 the applicant lodged applications with the Lublin Regional Court for his detention to be lifted and replaced by another preventive measure. He referred to his poor mental health and the fact that he had attempted suicide. Subsequently, on 8 April 2003 and 27 June 2003 the applications were dismissed after the court had examined the applicant’s medical file.
On 25 June 2003 the applicant’s mother died. The applicant’s father lodged an application with the Lublin Regional Court for his son to be released from the detention centre in order to attend his mother’s funeral. On 26 June 2003 the Lublin Regional Court refused to release the applicant. The grounds of the court’s decision are unknown, as the applicant failed to produce a copy of the decision. The applicant claims that he was never informed about the grounds of the refusal.
On 21 June 2004 the Chełm District Court gave judgment in another set of criminal proceedings against the applicant and sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment for robbery. The applicant appealed. On 3 March 2005 the Lublin Regional Court dismissed the appeal.
On 23 September 2004 the Lublin Regional Court gave judgment and sentenced the applicant to eight years’ imprisonment for taking a hostage, robbery and grievous bodily harm committed in an organised criminal group. The applicant and his co-defendants appealed.
On 21 June 2005 the applicant’s appeal was dismissed by the Lublin Court of Appeal. The applicant lodged a cassation appeal.
On 10 August 2006 the Supreme Court dismissed the cassation appeal without giving reasons.
The applicant failed to lodge a complaint of an infringement of the right to a trial within a reasonable time with the domestic court under the 2004 Act.
3. Censorship of the applicant’s correspondence
The applicant submitted that during his detention his correspondence with a bank was censored by the authorities. He produced a letter dated 25 February 2005. The envelope in which the letter was delivered bears the following stamp: “Censored, date ..., Regional Court” (Cenzurowano, dnia ... Sąd Okręgowy) and an illegible signature.
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
1. Remedies against unreasonable length of proceedings
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning remedies for the excessive length of judicial and enforcement proceedings, in particular the applicable provisions of the 2004 Act, are stated in the Court’s decisions in the cases of Charzyński v. Poland, no. 15212/03 (dec.), §§ 12-23, ECHR 2005-V, and Ratajczyk v. Poland no. 11215/02 (dec.), ECHR 2005 VIII, and in its judgment in the case of Krasuski v. Poland, no. 61444/00, §§ 34-46, ECHR 2005-V.
2. Preventive measures, including detention during the judicial proceedings
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning detention during the judicial proceedings (aresztowanie tymczasowe), the grounds for its extension, release from detention and rules governing other “preventive measures” (środki zapobiegawcze) are summarised in several judgments in similar cases (see, among others, Gołek v. Poland, no. 31330/02, §§ 27-33, 25 April 2006, and Celejewski v. Poland, no. 17584/04, §§ 22-23, 4 August 2006).
3. Provisions concerning censorship of correspondence
The relevant domestic law concerning censorship of detainees’ correspondence is set out in the Court’s judgment in the case of Kliza v. Poland, no. 8363/04, §§ 29-34, 6 September 2007.
On 3 February 2009 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicant:
“I, Elżbieta Ostrowska-Zakrzewska, the applicant’s representative note that the Government of Poland are prepared to pay the sum of PLN 10,500 (ten thousand five hundred Polish zlotys) to Mr Dariusz Zakrzewski 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 and 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.
Having consulted the applicant I would inform you that he accepts the proposal and waives any further claims against Poland in respect of the facts giving rise to this application. He declares that this constitutes a final resolution of the case.”
On 20 February 2009 the Court received the following declaration from the Government:
“I, Jakub Wołąsiewicz, Agent of the Polish Government, declare that the Government of Poland offer to pay PLN 10,500 (ten thousand five hundred Polish zlotys) to Mr Dariusz Zakrzewski 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 and 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.”
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