(Application no. 12192/06)
20 December 2011
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Kokavecz (II) v. Hungary,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Dragoljub Popović, President,
Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque, judges,
and Françoise Elens-Passos, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 29 November 2011,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 12192/06) against the Republic of Hungary lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Hungarian national, Mr Pál Kokavecz (“the applicant”), on 1 March 2006.
2. The applicant was represented by Ms G. Futaki, a lawyer practising in Békéscsaba. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr L. Höltzl, Agent, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.
3. On 9 June 2010 the President of the Second Section decided to give notice of the application to the Government. In accordance with Protocol No. 14, the application was allocated to a Committee of three Judges.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
4. The applicant was born in 1959 and lives in Békéscsaba.
5. On 16 March 1998 J.H. brought an action for payment of rent before the Szeged District Court against a private individual.
6. On 23 March 1999 the District Court suspended the proceedings pending the termination of separate legal proceedings between the same parties. The case was resumed on 12 December 2000.
7. On 29 May 2001 J.H. assigned his claim to the applicant who joined the proceedings on 28 June 2001.
8. The case was again suspended between 4 December 2001 and 26 May 2004 pending the termination of a closely related legal dispute.
9. Following several hearings, the District Court delivered its judgment on 7 June 2005 which was served on the applicant on 7 July 2005.
10. In a decision dated 1 September 2005 the District Court established that the first-instance judgment had become final and enforceable on 26 August 2005 in the absence of appeal by the parties.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
11. The applicant complained that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
12. The Government contested that argument, arguing in particular that the application was introduced out of time, as the District Court’s judgment was served on the applicant on 7 July 2005, whereas the application was introduced only on 1 March 2006, i.e. more than six months later.
13. The Court points out that on 7 July 2005 the judgment was still subject to appeal by the parties. The fact that the judgment became final in the absence of appeal by the parties was only communicated to the applicant on 1 September 2005. The proceedings must be considered to have ended on that date and therefore the six-month rule was respected. The Government’s objection must therefore be rejected.
14. The Court observes that its case-law on the intervention of third parties in civil proceedings makes the following distinction: where the applicant has intervened in domestic proceedings only on his or her own behalf the period to be taken into consideration begins to run from that date, whereas if the applicant has declared his or her intention to continue the proceedings as heir he or she can complain of the entire length of the proceedings (see, as the most recent authority, M.Ö. v. Turkey, no. 26136/95, § 25, 19 May 2005). The period to be taken into consideration therefore began only on 28 June 2001 when the applicant joined the proceedings, and ended on 1 September 2005 with the District Court’s decision (see paragraph 10 above). It thus lasted four years and two months for one level of jurisdiction. In view of such lengthy proceedings, the application must be declared admissible.
15. The Court has frequently found violations of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in cases raising issues similar to the one in the present application (see, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII). Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court considers that the Government have not put forward any fact or convincing argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion in the present circumstances. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement. There has accordingly been a breach of Article 6 § 1.
16. Relying on Article 41 of the Convention, the applicant claimed 3,500,000 Hungarian forints (HUF)1 in respect of pecuniary damage and EUR 10,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage. The Government contested these claims. The Court sees no causal link between the pecuniary damage claimed and the violation found and therefore rejects this claim. However, it considers that the applicant must have sustained some non-pecuniary damage and awards him, on an equitable basis, EUR 3,200 under this head.
17. The applicant also claimed EUR 5,000 for the costs and expenses incurred before the domestic courts and the Court. The Government did not express an opinion on the matter. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case-law, the Court considers it reasonable to award the applicant, who was represented by a lawyer, the sum of EUR 1,000 in respect of all costs incurred.
18. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Declares the application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, the following amounts, to be converted into Hungarian forints at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 3,200 (three thousand two hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
4. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 20 December 2011, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Françoise Elens-Passos Dragoljub
Deputy Registrar President
KOKAVECZ (II) v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT
KOKAVECZ (II) v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT