In the case of Ankerl v. Switzerland (1),

        The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with
Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") and the
relevant provisions of Rules of Court A (2), as a Chamber composed of
the following judges:

        Mr  R. Bernhardt, President,
        Mr  F. Gölcüklü,
        Mr  F. Matscher,
        Mr  I. Foighel,
        Mr  J.M. Morenilla,
        Sir John Freeland,
        Mr  L. Wildhaber,
        Mr  B. Repik,
        Mr  P. Kuris,

and also of Mr H. Petzold, Registrar, and Mr P.J. Mahoney, Deputy
Registrar,

        Having deliberated in private on 22 May and 24 September 1996,

        Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the
last-mentioned date:
_______________
Notes by the Registrar

1.  The case is numbered 61/1995/567/653.  The first number is the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the
relevant year (second number).  The last two numbers indicate the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its
creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications
to the Commission.

2.  Rules A apply to all cases referred to the Court before the entry
into force of Protocol No. 9 (P9) (1 October 1994) and thereafter only
to cases concerning States not bound by that Protocol (P9).  They
correspond to the Rules that came into force on 1 January 1983, as
amended several times subsequently.
_______________

PROCEDURE

1.      The case was referred to the Court by the European Commission
of Human Rights ("the Commission") and by the Government of the
Swiss Confederation ("the Government") on 10 July and 28 August 1995
respectively, within the three-month period laid down by Article 32
para. 1 and Article 47 of the Convention (art. 32-1, art. 47).  It
originated in an application (no. 17748/91) against Switzerland lodged
with the Commission under Article 25 (art. 25) by a Swiss national,
Mr Guy Ankerl, on 10 December 1990.

        The Commission's request referred to Articles 44 and 48
(art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration whereby Switzerland
recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46)
(art. 46); the Government's application referred to Articles 32, 45,
47 and 48 (art. 32, art. 45, art. 47, art. 48).  The object of the
request and of the application was to obtain a decision as to whether
the facts of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its
obligations under Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1).

2.      In response to the enquiry made in accordance with
Rule 33 para. 3(d) of Rules of Court A, the applicant stated that he
wished to take part in the proceedings.  The President gave him leave
to present his own case to the Court (Rule 30).

3.      The Chamber to be constituted included ex officio
Mr L. Wildhaber, the elected judge of Swiss nationality (Article 43 of
the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Bernhardt, the Vice-President of
the Court (Rule 21 para. 4 (b)).  On 13 July 1995, in the presence of
the Registrar, the President of the Court, Mr R. Ryssdal, drew by lot
the names of the other seven members, namely Mr F. Gölcüklü,
Mr F. Matscher, Mr B. Walsh, Mr S.K. Martens, Mr J.M. Morenilla,
Sir John Freeland and Mr P. Kuris (Article 43 in fine of the Convention
and Rule 21 para. 5) (art. 43).  Subsequently Mr I. Foighel and
Mr B. Repik, substitute judges, replaced Mr Martens, who had resigned,
and Mr Walsh, who was unable to take part in the further consideration
of the case (Rules 22 para. 1 and 24 para. 1).

4.      As President of the Chamber (Rule 21 para. 6), Mr Bernhardt,
acting through the Registrar, consulted the Agent of the Government,
the applicant and the Delegate of the Commission on the organisation
of the proceedings (Rules 37 para. 1 and 38).  Pursuant to the order
made in consequence, the registry received the applicant's and the
Government's memorials on 22 and 24 November 1995 respectively.  On
14 December 1995 the Secretary to the Commission indicated that the
Delegate did not wish to reply in writing.

5.      On 27 February 1996 the Commission produced the file on the
proceedings before it, as requested by the Registrar on the President's
instructions.

6.      On 6 March 1996 the Registrar asked the applicant and the
Government to supply certain documents by 5 April 1996.  The applicant
replied in a letter of 18 March that with one exception, of which he
enclosed a copy, he was not able to produce them.  The Government
informed the Registrar on 3 April 1996 that it was "not possible to
accede to [the] request", but they nevertheless sent him a number of
documents on 9 and 13 May 1996.

7.      In accordance with the President's decision, the hearing took
place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on
20 May 1996.  The Court had held a preparatory meeting beforehand.

        There appeared before the Court:

(a)  for the Government

     Mr P. Boillat, Head of the European Law and International
         Affairs Section, Federal Office of Justice,           Agent,
     Mr A.D. Schmidt, former judge in the Canton of Geneva,
     Mr F. Schürmann, Deputy Head of the European Law and
         International Affairs Section, Federal Office
         of Justice,                                         Counsel;

(b)  for the Commission

     Mr F. Martínez,                                        Delegate;

(c)  the applicant.

        The Court heard addresses by Mr Martínez, the applicant
himself, Mr Schürmann and Mr Boillat.

8.      On 28 May 1996 the President of the Chamber received a letter
from Mr Ankerl in which the latter protested against the fact that the
documents filed out of time by the Government had nonetheless been
placed in the case file.  On the President's instructions, the
Registrar sent a copy of Mr Ankerl's letter to the Government and to
the Commission.  On 24 September 1996 the Court removed the documents
in question from the file (Rule 37 para. 1).

AS TO THE FACTS

I.      The circumstances of the case

9.      In 1978 Mr Guy Ankerl and his wife moved into a flat on the
second floor of no. 3, rue Saint-Léger, Geneva.  He subleased the flat
from a property-management company, Régie Immobilière SA
("Régie Immobilière"), itself the tenant of a property company,
SI Chrysanthemum SA ("Chrysanthemum"), the owner of the building.

   A.   Background

10.     In the autumn of 1985 Mr Ruffieux became Chrysanthemum's main
shareholder.

11.     On 14 November 1986 the property-management company
Régie Naef SA ("Naef"), which managed the building in which the flat
in issue was located, informed the applicant that renovation and
building work was going to be carried out on the block.

12.     In a letter of 8 May 1987 Naef gave Régie Immobilière - which
was in liquidation - notice to quit the flat with effect from
29 February 1988, the date of expiry of the lease, and requested them
to terminate the subtenancy agreement with Mr Ankerl.

13.     It would appear that Régie Immobilière asked Naef to collect
the rent direct from Mr Ankerl.  On 14 July 1987 Naef allegedly sent
Mr Ankerl receipts relating to the payment of rent from April to July
of that year and - what is denied by the applicant - specified that in
collecting the sums in question they were not recognising the existence
of any direct legal relationship between Mr Ankerl and Chrysanthemum.

14.     In a registered letter of 21 July 1987 Régie Immobilière
informed Mr Ankerl that they were terminating the subtenancy agreement
with effect from its expiry.  The applicant then applied to the
Rents and Leases Conciliation Board for an extension of the agreement.
No settlement having been reached, he applied to the
Rents and Leases Tribunal but subsequently withdrew the application.

15.     From February 1988 onwards the management of the block was
taken over by the GPR Degenève SA agency ("GPR Degenève").  The latter
notified the applicant of their bank account number.  In an unanswered
letter of 29 February 1988 Mr Ankerl confirmed to the agency that he
would in future pay the rent into that account.  He maintains that he
did so each month from March 1988 to August 1991, taking care to write
"rent" on the payment advice slips, without meeting any objection.

16.     On 22 April 1988 the applicant and his wife had an interview -
the terms of which are disputed - with Mr Linder, the director of
GPR Degenève (see paragraph 18 below).

    B.  Proceedings in the Canton of Geneva Court of First Instance

17.     On 15 November 1988 Chrysanthemum brought an action for
possession in the Canton of Geneva Court of First Instance, alleging
that the applicant was occupying the premises unlawfully since his
subtenancy agreement had been terminated.

        Mr Ankerl argued that the court had no jurisdiction
ratione materiae, maintaining that he had an orally agreed lease from
the plaintiff.

        The court thus had to determine whether the conduct of the
protagonists amounted to an agreement to enter into a lease after the
termination of the subtenancy.

18.     The court held a hearing on 19 May 1989.  It heard Mr Linder
(GPR Degenève), Mr Veuillet (Naef) and Mrs Ankerl; Mr Ruffieux
(Chrysanthemum) and the applicant also gave evidence.  Only the
first two were heard as witnesses on oath.

        The transcript of the testimony reads as follows:

        "...

        1.  Mr Jean-Gabriel Linder ...

        When I resumed [the management of the building in March 1988],
        Mr Ankerl was occupying the premises but he had no written or
        oral lease or even a tacit one.

        It is true that I had an interview with Mr Ankerl on my own
        initiative ...  I wanted to know what Mr Ankerl's position
        was.  I made it clear to him that in my view he did not have
        a lease.

        Mr Ankerl said that he very much wished to remain in the flat
        on sentimental grounds, having, so he said, written a book
        there.  He may have told me that he had earlier supposedly
        been granted an oral lease, but I cannot state that with
        certainty.  At all events, Mr Ankerl did not ask me to have a
        lease drawn up for him.

        At the end of the interview Mr Ankerl suggested to me that he
        pay a higher rent in order to be able to stay in the flat.  I
        suppose that implies that he was asking to be given a lease.
        I told the defendant that I would pass on his request to the
        landlord.  I told him clearly, both at the beginning and at
        the end of the interview, that I could not take a decision
        myself.

        I consequently informed the landlord of the conversation I
        have just described.  He told me that he did not wish to
        proceed in the matter and he did not give me the reasons.

        I did not myself communicate the shareholder's position to
        Mr Ankerl but, on the other hand, I did send the file to our
        lawyer, who must have informed him of the shareholder's
        position.

        My office staff must, it would seem, have communicated our
        account number to Mr Ankerl when we took over from Naef.

        ...

        I heard about an agreement that had earlier been made between
        Naef and Mr Ankerl to the effect that Mr Ankerl should pay the
        rent direct to Naef.

        2.  Mr Dominique Veuillet ...

        I have worked for Naef since 1 March 1983.

        ...

        We knew that Mr Ankerl was in de facto occupation of the
        premises ...

        ...  In 1986 or 1987 Mr Ankerl came to see me and told me that
        his position vis-à-vis Régie Immobilière was a rather special
        one.  I cannot remember now the exact reasons.  The defendant
        asked that we should draw up a lease in his name.

        At the same time Régie Immobilière had asked us to collect the
        rent direct from Mr Ankerl ...  I myself handed the file over
        to another property-management company on 31 December 1987,
        and at that time, as far as we were concerned, Mr Ankerl's
        position remained as we had described in our letter of
        14 July 1987 ...

        It is true that on 14 November 1986 we had informed Mr Ankerl
        about the proposed works in the building.  That was because we
        could not ignore his presence in the building.

        ...

        3.  Mrs Méryl Ankerl ...

        I was present at the interview with Mr Linder in April 1988.
        Mr Linder asked us what our intentions were regarding this
        flat and we told him that we wanted to stay in it.  He then
        explained to us that the building was going to be made higher
        and asked whether the works would not inconvenience us.  We
        replied that the works might perhaps inconvenience us but that
        we would put up with it since we wanted to stay.  Mr Linder
        added that at all events the process would be a long one,
        because the architect's plans had not been approved by the
        Public Works Department.  He also told us that during the
        building work we could occupy another flat in the block and
        that after the work was completed we could occupy a
        newly built flat at the top of the house.  Or else we could
        move back into our second-floor flat.

        When we left, Mr Linder told us that he would keep us
        informed.  When we came out we were really reassured and
        optimistic.

        Mr Linder never asked us to look for a flat elsewhere and he
        did not indicate that we had to leave within a given time.

        I cannot remember if Mr Linder said that he was going to
        consult the landlord.  I myself had the impression that he had
        some freedom of action.

        Mr Ruffieux: I have myself been the director of the plaintiffs
        since October 1985.  I have never set eyes on Mr Ankerl until
        today.  I once replied to a letter he had sent me asking for
        an interview and I told him that his case was being dealt with
        by Naef's legal department.

        ...  It is true that I told Mr Linder that I refused to give
        Mr Ankerl a lease.  We had never accepted that Mr Ankerl had
        a tenancy and I did not wish us to agree to it.  I knew from
        the beginning that Mr Ankerl was occupying the premises.  He
        is up to date with the rent.

        I would not have been opposed to a settlement at the outset
        but relations with Mr Ankerl have become difficult.  I have
        already allowed Mr Ankerl four years.

        Mr Ankerl: When I concluded the lease with Régie Immobilière,
        I did not realise that it was a subtenancy.  I had consulted
        a lawyer before signing it.

        Mr Ruffieux says today that it is not easy to get on with me,
        but he said before that he wanted us out because he wanted to
        renovate his building."

19.     On 12 October 1989 the court held that there was no
lease agreement between the parties and ordered Mr Ankerl to move all
property and persons from the flat and restore it to the plaintiffs in
good condition.  The judgment reads as follows:

        "...

        Mr Veuillet, an employee of [Naef], told the Court that the
        tenant, Régie Immobilière, had asked Naef to collect the rent
        direct from Mr Ankerl.

        This arrangement was accepted, the payments being received as
        an indemnity for unlawful occupation, as appears from a letter
        of 14 July 1987 ...

        On 20 January 1988 the new management, the
        GPR Degenève SA agency, wrote to Régie Immobilière SA, asking
        that in future the company should pay the indemnity for
        Mr Ankerl's unlawful occupation to their own office.

        Mr Linder, an employee of the new management, told the Court
        that he had had an interview with Mr Ankerl and had made it
        clear to him that in his view Mr Ankerl did not have a lease.

        Mr Ankerl, he said, implicitly requested that a lease should
        be drawn up, to which Mr Linder said he had replied that it
        was not for him to decide.

        Mr Ruffieux, the director and shareholder of the plaintiffs,
        told the Court that he had never agreed, and did not wish to
        agree, to enter into a lease with the defendant.

        However, ... Mr Ankerl had been supplied personally with
        GPR Degenève's account number and wrote to that company on
        29 February 1988 to inform them that in future he would pay
        the rent into their account ...

        That letter does not appear to have been answered, except
        that, three months later, the lawyer instructed by the
        landlord wrote to enquire when Mr Ankerl would be leaving.

        The defendant's wife - who was present at her husband's
        interview with Mr Linder - recalled from that interview that
        the property-management company had been contemplating
        offering them another flat in the building for the duration of
        the works, and that when they had left Mr Linder, the couple
        had had every reason to be reassured, seeing that they were
        not being asked to leave the premises.

        ...

        In law the only issue which it is necessary to resolve is
        whether the defendant, since his sublease was terminated, has
        been given a lease by the landlord.

        A lease may be entered into orally, although it is to be noted
        that property-management companies customarily draw up a
        written agreement.

        In the instant case no lease has been signed since the
        termination of the sublease.

        None of the documents produced discloses any agreement by the
        plaintiffs to enter into a lease.

        It remains to be determined whether, by not immediately or
        clearly replying to the defendant's letter of 29 February 1988
        or by allowing an employee of the property-management company
        to tell the defendant that he was going to refer back to the
        landlord, the plaintiffs may - under the doctrine of good
        faith - have agreed to enter into a lease.

        The Court reaches the conclusion that, in the circumstances of
        this case, no lease was entered into orally (the existence of
        an oral agreement has not been proved) or even implied by the
        clear conduct of the parties.

        While it is true that the defendant wishes to remain in the
        flat, it is not even apparent from the evidence that he has
        clearly asked for a lease to be drawn up.

        Despite the unambiguous letters from the plaintiffs, the
        defendant did not take the trouble to reply in writing.

        He therefore could not truly suppose - in good faith - that
        the plaintiffs were implicitly granting him a lease.

        He had all the less reason to assume a tacit agreement of this
        kind as, since the termination of the head lease, and
        accordingly of the sublease, proceedings had been pending for
        an extension of the lease, during which the landlord had
        clearly denied being contractually bound to the defendant or
        wishing to be.

        Consequently, there is no lease between the parties.

        ... it must be held that the defendant is on the premises
        unlawfully.

        Article 641 para. 2 [of the Civil Code] applies in this case
        ..."

   C.   Proceedings in the Canton of Geneva Court of Justice

20.     In a judgment of 7 June 1990 the Canton of Geneva Court of
Justice dismissed an appeal by Mr Ankerl on the following grounds:

        "The Court cannot but agree with the court below that there
        was no contractual relationship between the landlord,
        Chrysanthemum SA, and Guy Ankerl.  It is bold to argue that
        the existence of a lease is evidenced by the conduct of the
        landlord or of the landlord's representatives, who, on the
        contrary, always emphasised their determination not to enter
        into a lease with Guy Ankerl for flat at no. 3,
        rue Saint-Léger, second floor.  The fact of having handed over
        rent receipts accompanied by the letter of 14 July 1987 or of
        not having replied to the appellant's letter of
        29 February 1988 cannot be construed as meaning that a lease
        was in existence.  It follows, in the absence of any lease,
        that the Court of First Instance had jurisdiction
        ratione materiae.

        ...  According to this Court's case-law, a landlord is
        entitled to raise his ownership against a subtenant and to
        rely on Article 641 para. 2 [of the Civil Code], in the
        absence of any legal relationship between the parties ...

        The sublease is a lease between the tenant and the
        subtenant ...

        Having been given notice for 28 February 1988, Guy Ankerl,
        from that date, no longer has any right to remain on the
        premises.

        ..."

   D.   Proceedings in the Federal Court

21.     The applicant lodged a public-law appeal with the Federal Court
against the Court of Justice's judgment.  In his pleading he relied,
in particular, on Articles 6 and 14 of the Convention (art. 6, art. 14)
and argued:

        "... the fact that [the cantonal courts] allowed the
        representative of a party to be heard as a witness on oath
        created a flagrant inequality vis-à-vis the other party, who
        by the force of circumstance was not able to call witnesses to
        whom the oath could be administered.  The equality of arms
        guaranteed both in the Federal Constitution and in the
        European Convention on Human Rights was not ensured.  Such
        inequality is all the more flagrant where the court dealing
        with the case has not taken the slightest account in its
        decision of statements made by a witness, even if heard purely
        for information purposes.  This was a gross breach of the law,
        which expressly provides, even if it precludes taking the
        oath, that a spouse may testify and therefore implies that the
        court dealing with the case will consider that evidence."

22.     The First Civil Division of the Federal Court delivered its
judgment on 3 October 1990.  It declared inadmissible - in particular -
the complaint based on a violation of Articles 6 and 14 of the
Convention (art. 6, art. 14), as follows:

        "...  On a public-law appeal, the Federal Court will consider
        only the complaints adequately pleaded ... the notice of
        appeal must contain, inter alia, a succinct statement of the
        constitutional rights or legal principles violated, specifying
        in what the breach consists (section 90 (1) (b) of the
        Federal Judicature Act).

        ...  In many respects, the present appeal does not comply with
        this requirement that reasons must be given.

        This is true ... of the ground based on a breach of Articles 6
        and 14 (art. 6, art. 14) [of the] European Convention on
        Human Rights, of which the appellant makes a bald assertion
        without providing any explanation."

23.     Dismissing the remainder of the appeal, the
First Civil Division said:

        "The appellant also submitted that the Court of Justice had
        made an arbitrary assessment of the evidence taken by the
        court below.

        ...

        ...  If the appellant's argument, which is not very clear, has
        been understood correctly, the cantonal appellate court
        inadmissibly took into account the interview that Mr Linder
        had with the appellant in April 1988 in the presence of the
        appellant's wife, in that it completely ignored her statements
        and only took Mr Linder's statement into consideration.

        In this connection it must be pointed out that the appellant's
        wife was heard only for information purposes and without
        taking the oath, in accordance with Article 226 [of the]
        Civil Proceedings Act [of the Canton of Geneva].  According to
        commentators on Geneva's Civil Proceedings Act, however,
        hearing a witness for information purposes is of purely
        informative import and has no probative value ...  There was
        therefore nothing arbitrary in the instant case in not taking
        account of the explanations provided by Mrs Ankerl.  The
        appellant did not, moreover, show in what way the
        cantonal appellate court had unsustainably interpreted the
        statements made by the sworn witness Jean-Gabriel Linder.
        Contrary to what he appeared to be arguing, the court below
        did not infer from those statements that the witness had
        indicated to the appellant that he would have to leave the
        flat.  It merely found that Mr Linder `confirmed that he would
        pass on to the landlord Guy Ankerl's wish to enter into a new
        lease'.  The appellant did not attack that finding.

        ...

        The present appeal is manifestly ill-founded, and it must
        accordingly be dismissed in so far as it is admissible."

   E.   The applicant's departure

24.     Mr and Mrs Ankerl left the flat in issue on 16 October 1991.

II.     Relevant domestic law

   A.   Cantonal law

25.     The relevant provisions of the
Canton of Geneva Civil Proceedings Act of 10 April 1987, which came
into force on 1 August 1987, are the following:

                              Article 196

        "Unless otherwise laid down by law, the court shall freely
        assess the results of measures taken to obtain evidence."


                          Article 222 para. 1

        "Anyone of sound mind who has been lawfully summoned shall be
        required to appear as a witness to give evidence on oath."

                              Article 225

        "1.  The following cannot be heard as witnesses:

        (a) lineal relatives of one of the parties;
        (b) brothers and sisters;
        (c) uncles and nephews;
        (d) relatives of the same degree by marriage;
        (e) spouses, even if divorced.

        2.  The parties may, however, have these persons heard as
        witnesses, with the exception of descendants, in proceedings
        for withdrawal of parental authority, in matters concerning
        personal status and in cases concerning judicial separation,
        divorce and measures to preserve marital union."

                              Article 226

        "The persons referred to in Article 225 para. 1 may be heard
        as witnesses in other cases without distinction, but without
        taking the oath and solely for information purposes.

        ..."

   B.   Federal law

26.     Section 90 of the Federal Judicature Act of 16 December 1943
provides:

        "1.  In addition to identifying the order or decision being
        appealed against, the notice of appeal must contain:
        (a) the appellant's submissions; and
        (b) a statement of the main facts and a succinct statement of
        the constitutional rights or legal principles violated,
        specifying in what the breach consists.

        2.  ..."

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

27.     The applicant applied to the Commission on 10 December 1990.
Relying on Articles 6 para. 1 and 14 of the Convention (art. 6-1,
art. 14), he alleged that by hearing a witness for the opposing side
on oath and not his wife, Mrs Méryl Ankerl, the
Canton of Geneva Court of First Instance had disregarded the principle
of equality of arms.

28.     The Commission declared the application (no. 17748/91)
admissible on 5 July 1994.  In its report of 24 May 1995 (Article 31)
(art. 31), it expressed the opinion that there had been no violation
of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) (seven votes to six) and that it was
unnecessary to determine whether there had been a violation of
Article 14 taken together with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 14+6-1)
(unanimously).

        The full text of the Commission's opinion and of the dissenting
opinion contained in the report is reproduced as an annex to this
judgment (1).
_______________
Note by the Registrar

1.  For practical reasons this annex will appear only with the printed
version of the judgment (in Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-V),
but a copy of the Commission's report is obtainable from the registry.
_______________

FINAL SUBMISSIONS TO THE COURT

29.     In his memorial the applicant requested the Court to

        "quash the Swiss Federal Court's judgment ..., which breaches
        Switzerland's obligation to comply with Article 6 of the
        Convention (art. 6)".

30.     The Government invited the Court,

        "as their primary submission, to hold that it has no
        jurisdiction to take cognisance of the merits of the case on
        account of the failure to exhaust domestic remedies and, in
        the alternative, to hold that the Swiss authorities have not
        infringed the ... Convention ... by reason of the facts which
        gave rise to the application brought by Mr Guy Ankerl against
        Switzerland".

AS TO THE LAW

I.      THE GOVERNMENT'S PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

31.     As before the Commission, the Government raised a preliminary
objection that domestic remedies had not been exhausted.

        In the first place, by Article 26 of the Convention (art. 26)
it was necessary to submit to the national courts, in accordance with
the formal requirements of domestic law, the complaints subsequently
intended to be made before the Convention institutions.  That condition
had not, the Government said, been satisfied in the instant case since
the Federal Court had held that Mr Ankerl's ground of appeal based on
Articles 6 and 14 of the Convention (art. 6, art. 14) was inadmissible
as the reasons in support of it were insufficient to satisfy the
requirements of section 90 of the Federal Judicature Act.  It was not
for the Court to rule on the issue of compliance with such
requirements, which was a matter solely of domestic law.

        In the second place, Mr Ankerl was now arguing that a provision
of the Canton of Geneva Civil Proceedings Act relating to the hearing
of witnesses was incompatible with the Convention.  The application to
the Federal Court, however, had been concerned with a separate
complaint, being exclusively for an interpretation of the provision in
issue.

32.     The applicant rejected that argument and referred to the
relevant extracts of his pleading before the Federal Court.

33.     In its decision on the admissibility of the application the
Commission noted that in the Federal Court Mr Ankerl had complained of
a breach of the principle of equality of arms and had expressly relied
on Articles 6 and 14 of the Convention (art. 6, art. 14).

34.     The Court reiterates that the purpose of Article 26 (art. 26)
is to afford the Contracting States the opportunity of preventing or
putting right the violations alleged against them before those
allegations are submitted to the Convention institutions.  Thus the
complaint to be submitted to the Commission must first have been made
to the appropriate national courts, at least in substance, in
accordance with the formal requirements of domestic law and within the
prescribed time-limits (see, among other authorities, the
Remli v. France judgment of 23 April 1996, Reports of Judgments and
Decisions 1996-II, p. 571, para. 33).  Article 26 (art. 26) must,
however, be applied with some degree of flexibility and without
excessive formalism (see, for example, the de Geouffre de la Pradelle
v. France judgment of 16 December 1992, Series A no. 253-B, p. 40,
para. 26, and the Hentrich v. France judgment of 22 September 1994,
Series A no. 296-A, p. 17, para. 30).  In its recent judgment in the
case of Akdivar and Others v. Turkey the Court emphasised that "the
application of the rule must make due allowance for the fact that it
is being applied in the context of machinery for the protection of
human rights that the Contracting Parties have agreed to set up"
(judgment of 16 September 1996, Reports 1996-IV, p. 1211, para. 69).

        In the instant case it is sufficient for the Court to find that
in his submissions to the Federal Court Mr Ankerl expressly relied on
the relevant provisions of the Convention and, at least in substance,
set out the complaint now made at Strasbourg (see paragraph 21 above).
He therefore gave the Federal Court an adequate opportunity to remedy
by its own means the situation complained of.  The objection must
accordingly be dismissed.

II.     THE MERITS

   A.   Alleged violation of Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention
        (art. 6-1)

35.     The applicant complained of a breach of the principle of
equality of arms between the parties before the
Canton of Geneva Court of First Instance.  This, he said, had resulted
in a violation of the right to a fair hearing guaranteed in Article 6
para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1), which provides:

        "In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ...,
        everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ...
        tribunal ..."

        Mr Ankerl argued that he had maintained in the
Court of First Instance that the conduct of GPR Degenève, which managed
the building owned by the plaintiffs, showed that it had agreed to
enter into a lease.  He relied, in particular, on an interview that he,
accompanied by his wife, had had with the director of the agency,
Mr Linder, on 22 April 1988, which had, the applicant said, made that
contractual relationship manifest.  At the hearing on 19 May 1989 -
whose purpose had been to establish what had been said during that
interview - the court heard on oath, of the three people who had been
present on 22 April 1988, only Mr Linder.  Mrs Ankerl had been heard
only for information purposes because as she was the wife of one of the
parties, she was not in law allowed to take the oath.  The "financial
loyalty" binding Mr Linder to the plaintiff company that owned the
building was, however, no less strong than matrimonial loyalty in a
society in which family ties had weakened.  By nonetheless attaching
an exclusive "probative value" to Mr Linder's testimony, the court had
clearly put the applicant at a disadvantage, infringed the principle
of equality of arms and consequently breached his right to a fair
hearing.

        Mr Ankerl added that the evidence given by his wife, which had
moreover been very accurate, had been reproduced only summarily in the
transcript of the testimony; it had dealt with the consequences of the
proposed renovations in the building and therefore with the contractual
relationship between the tenant and the landlord.  Furthermore, the
letter of 14 July 1987 that was referred to in the reasons given in the
Court of First Instance's judgment was a forgery which the court had
blindly accepted as a fact without the defendant's having had an
opportunity to examine it.

36.     The Government replied that the facts of the case were
different from those that had led the Court to find a breach of
Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) in the Dombo Beheer B.V.
v. the Netherlands judgment of 27 October 1993 (Series A no. 274).  In
the Netherlands courts the onus had been on the applicant company to
establish that there had been an oral agreement between it and a bank
concerning the extension of certain credit facilities.  Two people had
attended the meeting at which the agreement had allegedly been
concluded: the representative of the applicant company and the
representative of the bank.  Only the latter had been allowed to give
evidence as a witness; the judge had refused to call the company's
representative as a witness on the ground that he was identified with
the Dombo Beheer B.V. company.  Having noted that during the
negotiations the two protagonists had acted on an equal footing, each
of them being empowered to negotiate on behalf of his party, the Court
had concluded that the company had been placed at a substantial
disadvantage vis-à-vis its opponent.  In the instant case, on the other
hand, Mr Linder had been only the director of the company appointed as
agent to manage the plaintiff company's building; he did not belong to
the plaintiff company, was not empowered to enter into a lease without
its specific agreement and was not a party to the court proceedings.
There had therefore been nothing to prevent the Court of First Instance
hearing him as a witness.  If a third party had been present at the
interview in issue, Mr Ankerl could similarly have had that person give
evidence under oath.

        In the Government's submission, the truth of the matter was
that Mr Ankerl had had no witness to be examined because by law, as in
many countries, his wife could not be heard as a witness.  The issue
of complying with the principle of equality of arms only arose in
situations that were comparable; the principle was not contravened
solely because one of the parties was able to call a witness while the
other was not able to do so.

        At all events, the issue of compliance with the principle of
equality of arms had to be looked at in the context of the fairness of
the hearing as a whole.  Thus, in the instant case, the
Court of First Instance had looked at other evidence besides
Mr Linder's testimony, to which, freely assessing the results of the
measures taken to obtain evidence as required by cantonal law, it had
moreover not attached paramount importance.  The applicant had lost his
case therefore not because his wife's statements - which the court had
in any case taken into account - had not been taken on oath but because
they had conflicted with irrefutable evidence.  In short, there had
been no breach of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).

37.     The Commission reached the same conclusion.  Several factors
led it to distinguish the instant case from the Dombo Beheer B.V. case,
namely: it was a feature of many legal systems that parties in civil
proceedings and persons closely related to them could not be heard as
witnesses under oath; the Court of First Instance had based its
judgment on other evidence besides Mr Linder's testimony; and
Mrs Ankerl's statement had been vague and inconclusive.

38.     The Court's task is to ascertain whether the proceedings in
their entirety were "fair" within the meaning of Article 6 para. 1
(art. 6-1).  It reiterates in this connection that the requirement of
"equality of arms", in the sense of a "fair balance" between the
parties, applies also to litigation in which private interests are
opposed; in such instances "equality of arms" implies that each party
must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to present his case -
including his evidence -under conditions that do not place him at a
substantial disadvantage vis-à-vis his opponent (see the
Dombo Beheer B.V. judgment previously cited, p. 19, paras. 32-33).
A difference of treatment in respect of the hearing of the parties'
witnesses may therefore be such as to infringe the principle in
question.

        In the present case, however, although Mrs Ankerl was not able
to give evidence on oath, she was heard by the Court of First Instance
(see paragraph 18 above).  In the exercise of its power freely to
assess the evidence the court was entitled not to regard Mrs Ankerl's
statements as decisive in regard to the conclusion of an unwritten
agreement to enter into a lease; the Government pointed out, without
being contradicted, that under cantonal law the court freely assesses
the results of the "measures taken to obtain evidence"
(see paragraph 25 above).  Furthermore, it does not appear from the
judgment that the court attached any particular weight to Mr Linder's
testimony on account of his having given evidence on oath
(see paragraph 19 above).  Lastly, the court relied on evidence other
than just the statements in issue.

        The Court therefore does not see how the fact of Mrs Ankerl's
giving evidence on oath could have influenced the outcome of the
proceedings.  Accordingly, the circumstances of the case, unlike those
of the Dombo Beheer B.V. case, lead it to find that the difference of
treatment in respect of the hearing of the parties' witnesses by the
Court of First Instance did not place the applicant at a substantial
disadvantage vis-à-vis his opponent.

        In conclusion, there has not been a breach of Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1).

   B.   Alleged violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken
        together with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 14+6-1)

39.     The applicant also complained, under Article 14 of the
Convention taken together with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 14+6-1), of
unequal treatment before the Court of First Instance in respect of the
hearing of witnesses.

40.     The Government made no submissions on this point.

41.     The Court has already determined the question of compliance
with the principle of equality of arms under Article 6 para. 1 taken
alone (art. 6-1).  Like the Commission, it considers that no separate
issue arises under Articles 14 and 6 para. 1 taken together
(art. 14+6-1).

        It is accordingly unnecessary to examine the complaint.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY

1.      Dismisses the Government's preliminary objection;

2.      Holds that there has been no breach of Article 6 para. 1 of
        the Convention (art. 6-1);

3.      Holds that it is unnecessary to examine the complaint based on
        Article 14 of the Convention taken together with
        Article 6 para. 1 (art. 14+6-1).

        Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public
hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 23 October 1996.

Signed: Rudolf BERNHARDT
        President

Signed: Herbert PETZOLD
        Registrar