FOURTH SECTION

DECISION

Application no. 10481/06 
by František LAUFIK 
against Slovakia

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 5 October 2010 as a Committee composed of:

Ljiljana Mijović, President, 
 Ledi Bianku, 
 Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
 
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 6 March 2006,

Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government requesting the Court to strike part of the application out of the list of cases and the applicant's reply to that declaration,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Mr František Laufik, is a Slovak national who was born in 1951 and lives in Bratislava. The Government of the Slovak Republic (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mrs M. Pirošíková.

The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.

On 2 April 1992 the applicant initiated civil proceedings before the Bratislava – vidiek District Court asserting his intellectual property rights against a State-owned company.

On 17 August 1992 the District Court transferred the case to the Bratislava Regional Court.

Courts at two levels of jurisdiction subsequently dealt with the case.

On 30 March 2005 the applicant turned to the Constitutional Court complaining that the Regional Court had violated his right to a hearing within a reasonable time.

On 23 August 2005 the Constitutional Court decided that the Regional Court had violated the applicant's right to a hearing without unjustified delay. It ordered the Regional Court to proceed without delays and awarded 80,000 Slovakian korunas (SKK)1 to the applicant in just satisfaction for non-pecuniary damage. It also ordered the Regional Court to reimburse the applicant's legal costs.

On 11 October 2006 the Regional Court dismissed the action.

On 21 November 2007 the Supreme Court, following the applicant's appeal, quashed the first-instance judgment and returned the case to the Regional Court.

On 20 January 2009 the Regional Court dismissed the action. The applicant appealed against the judgment. The proceedings are pending.

THE LAW

A. Length of the proceedings

The applicant complained of the length of the proceedings. He relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention which, in so far as relevant, provides as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”

By letter dated 12 July 2010 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by this part of the application. They further requested the Court to strike out the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.

The declaration provided as follows:

“The Government acknowledge both the applicant's status of the victim within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention and the unreasonable duration of the domestic proceedings in which the applicant was involved.

I, Marica Pirošíková, the Agent of the Government of the Slovak Republic before the European Court of Human Rights, declare that the Government offer to pay ex gratia to the applicant Mr František Laufik the sum of EUR 6,300 (six thousand and three hundred euros). This sum shall cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage together with any costs and expenses incurred by the applicant with respect to the violation of his right under the Convention.

The Government would suggest that the above information be accepted by the Court as “any other reason” justifying the striking out of the case of the Court's list of cases, as referred to in Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.

In the event of the Court's decision pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the Convention, the Government undertake to pay to the applicant the declared sum within the three months from the date of notification of the decision. In the event of failure to pay this sum within the said three-month period, the Government undertake to apply 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. This payment will constitute the final settlement of the case.”

In a letter of 11 August 2010 the applicant expressed the view that the sum mentioned in the Government's declaration was unacceptably low. He maintained that also his rights under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention as regards fairness of the proceedings and access to a court as well as his rights under Article 13 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 had been violated.

The Court observes 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”.

It also observes 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.

To this end, the Court will examine carefully the declaration in the light of the principles emerging from its case-law, in particular the Tahsin Acar judgment (Tahsin Acar v. Turkey, [GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI; WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland (dec.) no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007; and Sulwińska v. Poland (dec.) no. 28953/03).

The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Slovakia, its practice concerning complaints about the violation of one's 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; Majewski v. Poland, no. 52690/99, 11 October 2005; and Kuril v. Slovakia, no. 63959/00, §§ 35-43, 3 October 2006; Rapoš v. Slovakia, no. 25763/02, §§ 27-34, 20 May 2008; or Bič v. Slovakia, no. 23865/03, §§ 33-41, 4 November 2008).

Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the Government's declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed – which is consistent with the amounts awarded in similar cases - the Court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of this complaint (Article 37 § 1(c)).

Moreover, 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.

Since the proceedings concerned are still pending before the domestic courts, the Court's strike-out decision is without prejudice to use by the applicant of other remedies to obtain redress for any delay in the proceedings which may occur after the date of this decision.

B.      Remaining complaints

The applicant raised complaints under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention alleging that the proceedings had been unfair and that his right of access to a court and to an effective remedy had been violated. He further complained that his right to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 had been violated as a result of the course of the proceedings.

  However, 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 guaranteed under 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.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government's declaration under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention 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 length of proceedings complaint in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;

Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.

Fatoş Aracı Ljiljana Mijović 
 Deputy Registrar President

1.  SKK 80,000 was equivalent to approximately 2,069 euros (EUR) at that time.


LAUFIK v. SLOVAKIA DECISION


LAUFIK v. SLOVAKIA DECISION