FOURTH SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 10513/03 
by Stefan NAUMOV 
against Albania 
lodged on 3 December 2002

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 4 January 2005 as a Chamber composed of:

Sir Nicolas Bratza, President
 Mr M. Pellonpää
 Mr R. Maruste
 Mr K. Traja
 Mr S. Pavlovschi
 Mr L. Garlicki, 
 Mr J. Šikuta, judges
and Mrs F. Elens - Passos, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 3 December 2002,

Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Mr Stefan Naumov, is an Albanian citizen, who was born in 1945 and lives in Tirana (Albania).

A.  The circumstances of the case

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

The applicant, a Bulgarian national, was the Bulgarian Ambassador to the Republic of Albania from 1990 to 1997.

In 1996 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria initiated legal proceedings against the applicant as a consequence of which he was suspended from office by a ministerial order.

On 10 February 1997 the Supreme Court of Bulgaria annulled the ministerial order suspending the applicant from office. On an unspecified date the applicant withdrew from politics.

In 1997 the applicant and his family applied to the President of the Republic of Albania for Albanian citizenship. On 17 April 1997 the President of the Republic granted them Albanian citizenship.

On 20 September 2001 the newly elected President of the Republic ex officio declared null and void the president's decree of 17 April 1997, thereby revoking the applicant's Albanian citizenship as having been obtained through forged documents. According to the decree the applicant had filed forged documents indicating that no criminal proceedings were pending against him in Bulgaria.

On 2 October 2001 at about 9 a.m. several police officers, some of them armed, took the applicant and his wife to a police station in Tirana for official notification of the decree.

After some hours of waiting, a copy of the president's decree of 20 September 2001 was served on the applicant, revoking his Albanian citizenship.

Moreover, the Deputy Chief of the Tirana Police Department verbally ordered the applicant to leave Albanian territory by 5 October 2001 (that is to say, within three days) pursuant to a deportation order dated 29 September 2001 or face forcible exile.

On 2 October 2001 the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a press release to the effect that the applicant had been ordered to leave the territory by 5 October 2001 as his Albanian citizenship, obtained through forged documents, had been revoked.

On 4 October 2001 the police, without apparent reason, prohibited the applicant and his family from leaving the apartment. The situation was resolved by the intervention of a Member of Parliament.

On 5 October 2001 the applicant received a letter from the Police Department reminding him to leave Albanian territory by midnight that day.

1. Proceedings against the president's decree revoking citizenship

On 2 October 2001 the applicant lodged an action with the Tirana District Court claiming that the president's decree of 20 September 2001 should be annulled as unconstitutional. Moreover, he requested, by way of an interim measure, that execution of the deportation order be stayed.

On 4 October 2001 the District Court declined jurisdiction to deal with the applicant's claim and indicated the Constitutional Court as the competent authority.

On 31 October 2001, following the applicant's complaint, the Constitutional Court decided to dismiss his appeal as being outside its jurisdiction.

On 20 December 2001 the Supreme Court (Civil Chamber) quashed the District Court's decision of 4 October 2001 and sent the case for a retrial before the District Court as the authority competent to deal with the applicant's complaint.

On 23 December 2002, after one year of inactivity, the District Court, in retrial proceedings, decided to annul the president's decree of 20 September 2001 as unsubstantiated, thereby confirming the applicant's Albanian citizenship.

2. Proceedings against the deportation order and the police order

On 5 October 2001 the applicant lodged an action with the Tirana District Court claiming that the deportation order of 29 September 2001 and the police order of 5 October 2001 were null and void.

According to the applicant's submissions, the first-instance court proceedings had lasted two years and six months, and fourteen hearings had been fixed. The court's hearings had been adjourned on several occasions as a result of the unjustified absence of the Police Department and Ministry of Internal Affairs' legal advisers. The latter had been absent from thirteen consecutive court hearings without giving any reasons.

On 25 March 2002 the District Court suspended its examination of the applicant's complaint since the courts had decided on the validity of the president's decree.

On 7 February 2003 the court resumed the proceedings. In one year it fixed four hearings and, in the absence of the authorities' representatives, continued the proceedings in the applicant's presence alone.

On 20 March 2003, in the absence of the authorities' representatives, the District Court declared null and void the deportation order and the police order of 5 October 2001 as incompatible with the legal criteria.

B.  Relevant domestic law

1. Article 92 of the Albanian Constitution provides that the President of the Republic has the power to grant and revoke Albanian citizenship in accordance with the law.

2. The relevant part of Law no. 8389 of 5 August 1998 on the acquisition and revocation of Albanian citizenship reads as follows:

Section 9

Acquisition of citizenship by naturalization

“A foreigner who has submitted an application for acquisition of Albanian citizenship by naturalization shall acquire it if he fulfils the following requirements:

He has reached the age of eighteen; he has lawfully resided in the territory of the Republic of Albania for not less than five consecutive years; he has a dwelling and sufficient income; he has never been sentenced in his state or in the Republic of Albania or in any third state for a criminal offence for which the law provides for a prison sentence of not less than three years. Exemption from this rule is made only if it is proved that the sentence was given for political reasons; he has at least elementary knowledge of the Albanian language; and his acceptance as an Albanian citizen does not affect the security and defence of the Republic of Albania...”

Section 13

Revocation of decision granting citizenship

“The decision granting Albanian citizenship may be revoked if it is proved that the alien or stateless person has intentionally supported his application for acquisition of Albanian citizenship with incorrect data or falsified documents...”

COMPLAINTS

1. The applicant complained under Article 5 § 1 of the Convention about his deprivation of liberty.

2. Relying on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the applicant complained of the length, unfairness and lack of impartiality and independence of the domestic courts in the proceedings related to his citizenship and deportation.

3. The applicant invoked Article 8 of the Convention in respect of his deportation order.

4. Relying on Article 10 of the Convention, the applicant complained about the persecution he had suffered on account of his political opinions.

5. Lastly, he alleged a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 4 and/or Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention.

THE LAW

1. The applicant complained about his unlawful detention in a police station, invoking Article 5 § 1 of the Convention, which, in so far as relevant, reads as follows:

“1.  Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

(f)  the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.”

The applicant's complaint under this provision concerned the time he spent in the police station for an unspecified number of hours on 2 October 2001, which he maintained amounted to a “deprivation of liberty” within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.

The Court reiterates that, in accordance with Article 35 § 1 of the Convention, it may only examine complaints in respect of which domestic remedies have been exhausted and which have been submitted within six months from the date of the “final” domestic decision. In the absence of an adequate remedy against a particular act which is alleged to be in breach of the Convention, the date when that act takes place is “final” for the purposes of the six-month rule (see Valasinas v. Lithuania (dec), no. 44558/98, 14 March 2000).

The Court notes first that the applicant has brought no court proceedings in connection with the alleged violation of his rights under Article 5 of the Convention.

Moreover, even assuming that the applicant had no legal remedies within the meaning of Article 35 § 1 in connection with the alleged “deprivation of liberty” regarding his stay at the police station, the events complained of in this regard relate to 2 October 2001, that is, more than six months before the application was lodged on 3 December 2002. Consequently, this part of the application has been submitted out of time.

It follows that this part of the application must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.

2. The applicant claimed that there had been a number of violations of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in respect of the proceedings brought by him.

He relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which, in so far as relevant, reads as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law...”

With respect to the proceedings relating to the revocation of his citizenship and deportation the applicant complained that he had been deprived of a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. Moreover, the applicant complained that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement.

At the outset the Court reiterates that Article 6 § 1 of the Convention does not apply to proceedings regulating a persons' citizenship and /or the entry, stay and deportation of aliens, as such proceedings do not involve either the “determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him” within the meaning of 6 § 1 of the Convention (see, among other authorities, S. v. Switzerland no. 13325/87, (dec.), 15 December 1988, DR 59 p. 256, at p. 257; Šoć v. Croatia (dec.), no. 47863/9, 29 June 2000).

In the light of these circumstances, the Court finds that Article 6 § 1 of the Convention is not applicable to the proceedings concerning the revocation of citizenship. This part of the application must be therefore rejected as being incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

3. The applicant submitted that the Albanian authorities had infringed his right to respect for his private and family life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention, which reads as follows:

“1.  Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, ....

2.  There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

The applicant complained about the release into the public domain and the subsequent divulging through the press of his deportation as a consequence of the revocation of his Albanian citizenship by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The applicant submitted that this disclosure had to be regarded as a violation of his right to respect for his private life and reputation, irrespective of the lawfulness of the act that revoked his Albanian citizenship.

The Court notes that, as in the case of his complaint under Article 5 of the Convention, the applicant brought no court proceedings in connection with the alleged violation of his rights under Article 8 of the Convention.

Assuming that the applicant had no legal remedies in respect of his complaint relating to the public disclosure of the revocation of his citizenship, the Court notes that such disclosure took place on 2 October 2001, that is, more than six months before the application was lodged on  
3 December 2002. Consequently, this part of the Convention has been submitted out of time.

It follows that this part of the application must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention

4. The applicant complained that the persecution he had suffered on account of his political opinions and his democratic background was in breach of Article 10 of the Convention, which reads as follows:

“1.  Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2.  The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

The Court observes that the applicant has not submitted any evidence in support of this allegation. Consequently, the Court is of the opinion that the applicant has failed to substantiate his allegation and to lay the basis of an arguable claim of a breach of this Article.

Hence, this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

5. The applicant complained, alternatively, that the deportation order violated Article 3 of Protocol No. 4 or Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention.

Article 3 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention, in its relevant part, reads as follows:

“1.  No one shall be expelled, by means either of an individual or of a collective measure, from the territory of the State of which he is a national.”

Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention, in its relevant part, reads as follows:

“1. An alien lawfully resident in the territory of a State shall not be expelled therefrom except in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with law and shall be allowed:

(a)  to submit reasons against his expulsion,

(b)  to have his case reviewed, and

(c)  to be represented for these purposes before the competent authority or a person or persons designated by that authority.

2. An alien may be expelled before the exercise of his rights under paragraph 1 (a), (b) and (c) of this Article, when such expulsion is necessary in the interests of public order or is grounded on reasons of national security.”

The applicant maintained that the deportation order was in breach either of Article 3 of Protocol No. 4 or of Article 1 of Protocol No. 7, it not having been determined when the president's decree of 20 September 2001, revoking his Albanian citizenship, took effect.

As regards the applicant's claim under Article 3 of Protocol No. 4, the Court notes that, by virtue of the president's decree of 20 September 2001, the applicant did not have Albanian citizenship at the time of issue of the deportation order on 29 September 2001.

Even if in some cases the revocation of the citizenship followed by expulsion may raise potential problems under Article 3 of Protocol No. 4, in the light of the fact that the deportation order was not executed, the Court finds that there is no appearance of violation of that Article in the present case.

It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill- founded and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

As regards the applicant's complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 7, the Court observes that the applicant was never in fact expelled from Albania, no steps having been taken to enforce the police orders of  
29 September or 5 October 2001. Moreover, the applicant was able to submit reasons against his expulsion and his case reviewed by the national courts, which on 20 March 2003 declared the orders to be null and void following the annulment of the presidential decree revoking the applicant's Albanian citizenship.

Accordingly, the applicant's complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 is inadmissible as manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares the application inadmissible.

Françoise Elens-Passos Nicolas Bratza 
    Deputy Registrar President

NAUMOV v. ALBANIA – NEW CASE


NAUMOV v. ALBANIA – NEW CASE