FOURTH SECTION

DECISION

Application no. 10728/05 
by Vladimír LUKÁČ 
against Slovakia

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 4 March 2008 as a Chamber composed of:

Nicolas Bratza, President, 
Lech Garlicki, 
Stanislav Pavlovschi, 
Ljiljana Mijović, 
David Thór Björgvinsson, 
Ján Šikuta, 
Päivi Hirvelä, judges,
 
Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 14 March 2005;

Having regard to the decision to apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the case together;

Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 15 January 2008 requesting the Court to strike the application out of the list of cases;

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Mr Vladimír Lukáč, is a Slovakian national who was born in 1962 and lives in Považská Bystrica. He was represented before the Court by Mr D. Divko, a lawyer practising in Považská Bystrica. The Slovak Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mrs M. Pirošíková.

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

On 13 May 1999 the applicant claimed a sum from a legal and a natural person before the Žilina District Court.

On 9 July 2003 the Constitutional Court found that the Žilina District Court had violated the applicant’s right to a hearing within a reasonable time. The case was not complex and the applicant had actively co-operated with the District Court. The latter had not proceeded with the case in an appropriate manner. Unjustified delays in the proceedings totalled more than three years.

The Constitutional Court awarded SKK 30,000 (the equivalent of 723 euros at that time) to the applicant as just satisfaction. It also obliged the District Court to avoid any further delay in the proceedings and to reimburse the costs of the constitutional proceedings to the applicant.

Subsequently the Žilina District Court adjourned the case on 19 September 2003, 17 October 2003 and 21 November 2003.

On 5 April 2004 the District Court appointed a guardian to represent one of the defendants whose whereabouts it had been unable to establish.

On 26 October and 23 November 2004 the District Court held a hearing. On 10 January 2005 it unsuccessfully tried to hear one defendant.

On 18 November 2005 the District Court asked the applicant to eliminate formal shortcomings in his action of 1999. The applicant replied on 5 December 2005.

On 1 March 2006 the District Court granted the applicant’s claim in part.

On 4 April 2007 the judge established that the judgment had not become final as it had not been duly served on the defendant.

The judgment of 1 March 2006 became final on 3 May 2007.

COMPLAINT 

The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the length of the proceedings.

THE LAW

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

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

By letter dated 15 January 2008 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by 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 of the Slovak Republic offer to pay ex gratia to the applicant, Mr Vladimír Lukáč, EUR 2,800 (two thousand eight 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 might 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 three months from the date of notification of the decision. This sum will be converted into Slovakian korunas at the rate applicable on the date of payment, and free of any taxes that may be applicable. 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. This payment will constitute the final settlement of the case.”

The applicant disagreed with the Government’s initiative arguing that the sum proposed was disproportionately low.

The Court recalls 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”.

The Court also recalls that under certain circumstances, it may strike out an application under Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention 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); Meriakri v. Moldova ((striking out), no. 53487/99, 1 March 2005); Swedish Transport Workers Union v. Sweden ((striking out), no. 53507/99, 18 July 2006) and Van Houten v. the Netherlands ((striking out), no. 25149/03, ECHR 2005-IX).

The Court has established in a number of cases 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-....). Furthermore, it has already had occasion to address complaints related to alleged breach of one’s right to a hearing within a reasonable time in cases against the Slovak Republic (see, for example, Kuril v. Slovakia, no. 63959/00, §§ 35-43, 3 October 2006; Rišková v. Slovakia, no. 58174/00, §§ 88-97, 22 August 2006 or Sika v. Slovakia, no. 2132/02, §§ 28-35, 13 June 2006).

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 the application (Article 37 § 1 (c)) (see, for the relevant principles, Tahsin Acar as cited above; and also Haran v. Turkey, no. 25754/94, judgment of 26 March 2002). 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 the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine).

Accordingly, Article 29 § 3 of the Convention should no longer apply to the case and it should be struck out of the list.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government’s declaration 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 accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.

Fatoş Aracı Nicolas Bratza  
 Deputy Registrar President

LUKÁČ v. SLOVAKIA DECISION


LUKÁČ v. SLOVAKIA DECISION