CASE OF SOKOLOV v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 62068/08)
2 May 2017
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Sokolov v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Pere Pastor Vilanova,
Alena Poláčková, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 30 March 2017,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 62068/08) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by Mr Konstantin Viktorovich Sokolov (“the applicant”), on 22 September 2008.
2. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
3. In line with the pilot judgment Burdov v. Russia (no. 2) (no. 33509/04, ECHR 2009), on 18 May 2015 the application was communicated to the Government for settlement or resolution.
4. On 21 September 2015 the Government refused to settle the case arguing that the applicant was responsible for continuing non-enforcement of the judicial decision in his favour as he had failed to submit the writ of execution to the relevant authorities.
5. The applicant was born in 1979 and lives in Shakhty, the Rostov Region.
6. On 29 March 2005 the Rostov-na-Donu Military Court (“the military court”) ordered, inter alia, the commander of the military unit no. 3654 (“the military unit”) to provide the applicant certain monetary compensation and allowance for the periods specified in the operative part of the judgment. The judgment came into force on 15 April 2005.
7. According to the applicant, having received the writ of execution, he forwarded it to the commander of the military unit who partly executed the judgment (see paragraph 9 below).
8. According to the Government, on 6 May 2005 the applicant received two writs of execution in his case and sent them to the military unit.
9. According to the parties, the judgment was enforced only in part. On 22 August 2005 approximately 68,000 Russian roubles were paid to the applicant in execution of the judgment. As the Government submitted in their observations, the allowance for the period from 1 March 2003 until the date of the applicant’s reinstatement in military service as well as some additional payments due to the applicant under the judgment of 29 March 2005 had not been transferred to him.
10. As submitted by the applicant, despite his subsequent requests, the original copy of the writ of execution in respect of the judgment of 29 March 2005 was never returned to him by the military unit. Therefore, on an unspecified date he requested the military court to issue a duplicate of the enforcement document. However, his application was rejected.
11. In 2005, 2006 and 2008 the applicant applied for an additional decision to be made in his civil case against the military unit which resulted in the judgment of 29 March 2005. He considered that an additional decision specifying the amounts to be paid to him under the judgment of 29 March 2005 would resolve his difficulties in claiming the outstanding amounts. In his application of 26 May 2006 he also asked the court to index-link the delayed payments and claimed non-pecuniary damage for the delayed enforcement of the judgment of 29 March 2005. The military court rejected all of the applicant’s claims, explaining that he should have applied for an additional decision before the entry into force of the judgment of 29 March 2005.
12. On 3 April 2008 the military court refused the applicant’s request to clarify the judgment of 29 March 2005 by indicating the specific amounts to be paid. The court considered that the applicant’s request amounted to a call to amend the judgment rather than to clarify it. It held that the text of the judgment was clear enough and the applicant’s disagreement with the way it had been enforced was not a sufficient ground for clarifying the judgment. On 14 May 2008 this decision was upheld on appeal.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 OF THE CONVENTION AND ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1 TO THE CONVENTION
13. The applicant complained about the non-enforcement of the judgment in his favour. This complaint falls to be examined under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention, the relevant parts of which read as follows:
Article 6 § 1
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing within a reasonable time ... by [a] ... tribunal...”
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law...”
14. The Court notes that the complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
15. The applicant alleged that the judgment of 29 March 2005 had been executed only in part, as not all sums due to the applicant under that judgment had been paid to him.
16. The Government submitted that the applicant was responsible for the continuing non-enforcement of the judgment, as he had failed to submit the writ of execution to the relevant authorities, i.e. to the bailiffs’ service or the Federal Treasury.
17. The Court reiterates that an unreasonably long delay in the enforcement of a binding judgment may breach the Convention (see Burdov v. Russia, no. 59498/00, ECHR 2002-III). To decide if the delay was reasonable, the Court will look at how complex the enforcement proceedings were, how the applicant and the authorities behaved, and what the nature of the award was (Raylyan v. Russia, no. 22000/03, § 31, 15 February 2007).
18. The Court has consistently held that a delay of less than one year in payment of a monetary judicial award was in principle compatible with the Convention, while any longer delay was prima facie unreasonable (see, among many others, Kosheleva and Others v. Russia, no. 9046/07, § 19, 17 January 2012).
19. It has been the Court’s constant position that the burden to ensure compliance with a judgment against the State lies primarily with the State authorities starting from the date on which the judgment becomes binding and enforceable (Burdov (no. 2), cited above, § 69). At the same time, the Court has accepted that a successful litigant may be required to undertake certain procedural steps in order to recover the judgment debt (see Shvedov v. Russia, no. 69306/01, § 32, 20 October 2005).
20. The Court observes that the judgment in the applicant’s favour remained unenforced at least until 21 September 2015, the date when the Government submitted their observations (see paragraph 4 above). Thus, the period of non-enforcement amounts to at least 10 years, 5 months and 9 days.
21. Turning to the behavior of the parties and the Government’s argument that the applicant himself was responsible for the delay, the Court notes the following. It is not disputed between the parties that the writ of execution was received by the military unit and that in August 2005 the judgment was partially executed (see paragraphs 7-9 above). The applicant, having been unsatisfied with only partial enforcement, attempted to obtain an additional decision specifying the amounts to be paid under the initial judgment, a judicial decision clarifying the judgment of 29 March 2005 in that part, or a duplicate of the writ of execution - all with the view to be able to claim the outstanding amounts under the judgment of 29 March 2005. However, his requests were rejected (see paragraphs 10-12 above). In the view of the foregoing, the Court is not convinced by the Government’s argument, as it appears that the applicant took reasonable procedural steps in order to enforce the judgment in his favour (compare with Gadzhikhanov and Saukov v. Russia, nos. 10511/08 and 5866/09, § 29, 31 January 2012, and Li v. Russia [Committee], no. 38388/07, § 19, 24 April 2014), and cannot be said to have obstructed the enforcement of the judgment in question (compare with Belayev v. Russia (dec.), no. 36020/02, 22 March 2011).
22. The period of enforcement identified above is clearly incompatible with the requirements of the Convention. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 6 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
23. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
24. The applicant did not submit a claim for just satisfaction. Accordingly, the Court considers that there is no call to award him any sum on that account.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 2 May 2017, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Fatoş Aracı Helen Keller
Deputy Registrar President