AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
Application no. 15840/02
by Margareta GRITCO
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 29 November 2005 as a Chamber composed of:
Sir Nicolas Bratza, President,
Mr G. Bonello,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr S. Pavlovschi,
Mr L. Garlicki,
Ms L. Mijović,
Mr J. Šikuta, judges,
and Mr M. O’Boyle, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 14 June 2001,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mrs Margareta Gritco, is a Moldovan national who was born in 1940 and lives in Chişinău.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
The applicant and her husband were married in 1959.
On 10 June 1998 the applicant’s husband placed 14,600 Moldovan lei (MDL) on a three-month deposit account in a private bank, with 16% annual interest.
On 27 July 1998 he asked the bank for early termination of the contract and the repayment of his money. The bank did not comply with his request.
The applicant’s husband brought an action against the bank, seeking the termination of the deposit contract and the repayment of his money and interest.
By a judgment of 6 October 1998 the Râşcani District Court ruled in favour of the applicant’s husband and ordered the bank to pay him MDL 16,000. On 22 October 1998 the judgment became final and enforceable.
On 14 June 1999 the National Bank of Moldova issued a decision suspending the bank’s licence. It also ordered liquidation procedures to be commenced and appointed an administrator for that purpose.
In 1999 the applicant’s husband brought a new action against the bank, seeking compensation for inflation. On 28 July 1999 the Râşcani District Court ruled in his favour and ordered the bank to pay him MDL 20,262. On 13 August 1999 the judgment became final and enforceable.
On 22 October 1999 the applicant’s husband asked the administrator to enforce the judgments of 6 October 1998 and 28 July 1999. The latter did not reply to his request.
On an unspecified date, the applicant’s husband brought an action against the National Bank, seeking the payment of the money owed to him by the private bank. He argued that the National Bank was the regulatory authority in respect of all financial institutions and should be held responsible for the bankruptcy of the private bank.
On 9 June 2000 the Râşcani District Court dismissed the applicant’s husband’s action. It found that the National Bank was not responsible for the private bank’s obligations towards its clients. On 7 November 2000 the Chişinău Regional Court dismissed his appeal against the judgment of 9 June 2000. By a final judgment of 6 February 2001 the Court of Appeal dismissed the applicant’s husband’s appeal on points of law.
On 10 February 2001 the applicant’s husband died. On 16 August 2001 the applicant received an inheritance certificate and became the sole owner of his part of their joint property.
On an unspecified date, the applicant’s husband sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice and complained about the non-enforcement of the judgments in his favour. On 6 July 1999 the Ministry readdressed the letter to the President of the Râşcani District Court and requested the court to respond to the applicant’s request. On 24 September 1999 the President of the Râşcani District Court and the Bailiff replied to the applicant’s husband that the bank did not have money in its accounts or other assets. They also informed him that the enforcement warrants had been given to the administrator of the bank, who should ensure their enforcement.
On 22 October 1999 the applicant’s husband’s requested the administrator to enforce the judgments. On 25 October 1999 the latter informed him that the bank was subject to a liquidation procedure and that the judgments could not be enforced.
Following the applicant’s complaint to the Parliament about the non-enforcement of the judgments, on 2 May 2001 the National Bank informed her that the payment would be made as soon as the loans, which had been previously granted by the bank, were reimbursed and that the administrator had initiated numerous proceedings for their reimbursement. It also informed her that the National Bank could not be held responsible for a private bank’s obligations towards its clients.
On 9 July 2001 and 5 November 2001 the Administration of the President replied to the applicant’s complaints about the non-enforcement of the judgments and informed her that the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova had created a working commission, with the aim of examining the situation of bankrupt banks and the mechanism of reimbursement of deposited money.
B. Relevant domestic law
The relevant domestic law was set out in Sîrbu and Others v. Moldova, nos. 73562/01, 73565/01, 73712/01, 73744/01, 73972/01 and 73973/01, § 12, 15 June 2004.
1. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, that by reason of the non-enforcement of the judgments of 6 October 1998 and 28 July 1999, her right to have her civil rights determined by a court within a reasonable period of time was violated.
2. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, that by not giving detailed answers to all the claims, when dismissing the action against the National Bank, her right to a reasoned judgment was violated.
3. The applicant also complains that the National Bank, which is the licensing and regulatory authority in the field of financial institutions, is responsible for the bankruptcy of the private bank and for the refusal to meet the private bank’s obligations according to the judgments of 6 October 1998 and 28 July 1999 and thus, that her right to the peaceful enjoyment of her possessions under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention was violated.
1. Article 6 § 1 of the Convention provides, insofar as relevant, the following:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ...or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”
The Court recalls that the right to a court, embodied in Article 6 § 1, would be illusory if a Contracting State’s domestic legal system allowed a final, binding judicial decision to remain inoperative to the detriment of one party. Execution of a judgment given by a court must therefore be regarded as an integral part of the “trial” for the purposes of Article 6 (see the Hornsby v. Greece judgment of 25 February 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-II, p. 510, § 40, and Burdov v. Russia, no. 59498/00, § 34, 7 May 2002). Further, the execution of a judicial decision cannot be unduly delayed (see Immobiliare Saffi v. Italy [GC], no. 22774/93, ECHR 1999-V, § 66, which concerned a court order directed at a private party, the enforcement of which required specific action by State authorities).
It is clear in the present case that Article 6 applies to the proceedings which the applicant brought against a private bank: they were, as the applicant submits, proceedings for recovery of money deposited in that bank.
However, the Court notes that State responsibility for enforcement of a judgment against a private company extends no further than the involvement of State bodies in the enforcement procedures (see Shestakov v. Russia (dec.), no. 48757/99).
The proceedings at issue were factually complex and required a solution of complicated practical and administrative issues, namely finding a way to satisfy the demands of numerous creditors of the private bank. Although the defendant was a private institution and more important, an insolvent one, the enforcement proceedings had been opened and progressed. The events that took place since the judgments of 6 October 1998 and 28 July 1999, namely the bankruptcy of the private bank, the numerous demands of creditors of the insolvent bank and the steps taken by the Parliament to create a commission, cannot be disregarded by the Court in examining whether the Government discharged its obligations to take sufficient steps for the enforcement of the judgments, favourable to the applicants. In such circumstances, the Court concludes that in the present case the State has done what could reasonably have been expected of it in order to enforce the judgments of 6 October 1998 and 28July 1999 (see Fociac v. Romania, no. 2577/02, § 78, 3 February 2005).
It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention, and that it must be declared inadmissible pursuant to Article 35 § 4.
2. Insofar as the applicant complains that the domestic courts did not, or did not sufficiently, deal with various arguments advanced by her husband during the proceedings against the National Bank, assuming that the applicant can claim to be a victim, the Court reiterates that it is in the first place for the national authorities, and notably the courts, to interpret domestic law and that the Court will not substitute its own interpretation for theirs in the absence of arbitrariness (see, the Tejedor García v. Spain judgment of 16 December 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-VIII, p. 2796, § 31, the Brualla Gómez de la Torre v. Spain judgment of 19 December 1997, Reports 1997-VIII, p. 2955, § 31; the Edificaciones March Gallego S.A. v. Spain judgment of 19 February 1998, Reports 1998-I, p. 290, § 33).
The Court also recalls that Article 6 § 1 obliges the courts to give reasons for their decisions, but cannot be understood as requiring a detailed answer to every argument. Nor is the Court called upon to examine whether arguments are adequately met (see Van de Hurk v. the Netherlands, no. 16034/90, Commission decision of 19 April 1994).
Making a general assessment, the Court does not find that the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 6 February 2001 is arbitrary or insufficiently reasoned. Consequently, no violation of Article 6 § 1 is established in this respect either.
3. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention provides as follows:
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”
The Court notes that the nature of the financial institution and the vast number of creditors involved made it impossible to seek the endorsement of each single creditor. Having regard to the general interests at stake and in the light of the Court’s observations in connection with the applicant’s complaints under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, it cannot be said that the applicant has been the victim of a de facto deprivation of property, or that her right to peaceful enjoyment of her possessions has otherwise been violated. Furthermore, the principle that judgements must be executed cannot be interpreted as compelling the State to meet the liabilities of a private defendant in the case of its insolvency.
It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court by six votes to one
Declares the application inadmissible.
Michael O’Boyle Nicolas
GRITCO v. MOLDOVA DECISION
GRITCO v. MOLDOVA DECISION