AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
Application no. 15741/02
by Danuše VOJÁČKOVÁ
against the Czech Republic
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting on 19 October 2004 as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. Costa, President,
Mr L. Loucaides,
Mr C. Bîrsan,
Mr K. Jungwiert,
Mr V. Butkevych,
Mrs W. Thomassen,
Mrs A. Mularoni, judges,
and Mr T.L. Early, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 14 March 2002,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Ms Danuše Vojáčková, is a Czech national, who was born in 1933 and lives in Hrob. She is represented before the Court by Mr J. Savko, a lawyer practising in Teplice.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
On 24 November 1991 the applicant applied under Land Ownership Act No. 229/1991 to the Teplice Land Office (pozemkový úřad) for restitution of a building and plot of land in Hrob, which had been confiscated from her parents in 1961. She requested its current owner, the District Housing Association (Okresní bytový podnik), a State-owned entity, to restore the property to her. Upon the latter's refusal, she requested the Land Office to commence the restitution proceedings on 16 November 1993.
The District Housing Association, despite its knowledge of the applicant's restitution claim, transferred the property to the Hrob Municipality, which on 11 January 1994 sold it to certain individuals.
On 8 September 1994 the Land Office considered the transfer of the property to the new owners null and void, being in contradiction with the Land Ownership Act and granted the applicant's restitution claim with the exception of the building. After obtaining an expert opinion and having surveyed the building, the office established that it had lost its original character since major reconstruction work had been carried out on it and, therefore, it could not be restored.
On 1 December 1994 the Ústí nad Labem Regional Court (krajský soud) quashed the Land Office's decision and remitted the case to it, due to an insufficient establishment of the facts.
On 3 July 1995 the Land Office granted the applicant's restitution claim, except for the building which had been substantially rebuilt.
On 29 November 1995 the Regional Court again quashed the Land Office's decision and remitted the case to it, due to an insufficient establishment of the facts.
On 7 April 1997 the Land Office dismissed the applicant's restitution claim after obtaining an amended version of the expert opinion, which had assessed the character of the building.
On 7 April 1998 the Regional Court quashed the Land Office's decision, as the expert opinion had been drafted without the applicant's participation, and its conclusion had not been supported by objective measurements. It remitted the case to the Land Office for further consideration.
On 19 April 1999 the Land Office granted the applicant's restitution claim for the plot of land but not for the building since it had undergone substantial reconstruction. The Office established the scale of the reconstruction, referring to an additional expert opinion and on site inspection, which had been carried out with the applicant's participation.
On 17 May 2001 the Regional Court, upon the applicant's appeal in which she complained of an unsatisfactory establishment of the facts, as well as incorrect expert opinions and an assessment of evidence, upheld the Land Office's decision, finding that the latter's admission and assessment of the evidence and decision were in accordance with the law.
On 18 October 2001 the Constitutional Court (Ústavní soud) dismissed the applicant's constitutional appeal (ústavní stížnost) against the Regional Court's judgment as being manifestly ill-founded, concluding that the court had conducted the proceedings in accordance with the domestic law. On 22 October 2001 the Constitutional Court's decision was served on the applicant.
1. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the length of the proceedings was excessive.
2. She also complains under the same provision that the national authorities unsatisfactorily established the facts of her case and that, her case was therefore incorrectly assessed and decided.
1. The applicant complains about the length of the restitution proceedings. She invokes 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 fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. “
The Court considers that it cannot, on the basis of the file, determine the admissibility of this complaint and that it is therefore necessary, in accordance with Rule 54 § 2 (b) of the Rules of Court, to give notice of it to the respondent Government.
2. She also complains, invoking the same provision, about the admission and assessment of evidence by the national authorities.
The Court recalls that the admissibility and assessment of evidence is primarily governed by the rules of domestic law, and as a general rule it is for the national courts to assess the evidence before them (see García Ruiz v. Spain [GC], no. 30544/96, § 28, ECHR 1999-I). The Court's task is to ascertain whether the proceedings as a whole, including the way in which the evidence was taken, were fair.
The Court has not found any elements which could lead to the conclusion that the right to a fair hearing was not respected in the present case. There is no indication that the applicant could not duly put forward her own submissions or that the proceedings were otherwise unfairly conducted. The deficiencies in the taking and assessment of the evidence, found by the Regional Court, were remedied by the additional expert opinion and by the on-site building inspection which was carried out with the applicant's participation.
In the light of these considerations, this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to adjourn the examination of the applicant's complaint concerning the length of the restitution proceedings;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
T.L. Early J.-P. Costa
Deputy Registrar President
VOJÁČKOVÁ v. THE CZECH REPUBLIC DECISION
VOJÁČKOVÁ v. THE CZECH REPUBLIC DECISION