AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

                      Application No. 26138/95
                      by I. L.
                      against the Slovak Republic

     The European Commission of Human Rights sitting in private on
21 October 1996, the following members being present:

           Mr.   S. TRECHSEL, President
           Mrs.  G.H. THUNE
           Mrs.  J. LIDDY
           MM.   E. BUSUTTIL
                 G. JÖRUNDSSON
                 A.S. GÖZÜBÜYÜK
                 A. WEITZEL
                 J.-C. SOYER
                 H. DANELIUS
                 F. MARTINEZ
                 M.P. PELLONPÄÄ
                 B. MARXER
                 M.A. NOWICKI
                 I. CABRAL BARRETO
                 B. CONFORTI
                 N. BRATZA
                 I. BÉKÉS
                 J. MUCHA
                 D. SVÁBY
                 A. PERENIC
                 C. BÎRSAN
                 K. HERNDL
                 E. BIELIUNAS
                 E.A. ALKEMA
                 M. VILA AMIGÓ

           Mr.   M. de SALVIA, Deputy Secretary to the Commission

     Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

     Having regard to the application introduced on 13 June 1994 by
I. L. against the Slovak Republic and registered on 6 January 1995
under file No. 26138/95;

     Having regard to:

-    the reports provided for in Rule 47 of the Rules of Procedure of
     the Commission;

-    the Commission's decision of 19 October 1995 to communicate the
     applicant's complaints concerning the proceedings leading to the
     imposition of a fine and to declare inadmissible the remainder
     of the application;

-    the observations submitted by the respondent Government on
     8 January 1996 and the observations in reply submitted by the
     applicant on 20 January, 12 and 22 March, 21 June and
     5 August 1996;

     Having deliberated;

     Decides as follows:

THE FACTS

     The applicant is a Slovak citizen born in 1953.  He is a software
programmer and resides in Dubnica nad Váhom.

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

     The particular circumstances of the case

     Since 1989 the applicant has been living in a block of flats
owned by a co-operative.  In June 1992 he requested, pursuant to a
newly adopted legislation, that the flat should be sold to him.

     Since then his neighbours and other individuals have disturbed
him by noisy behaviour, mockery, offences and threats.  On several
occasions the door and windows of his flat and his letter box were
damaged.  The applicant considers that the purpose of these
interferences is to dissuade him from buying the flat.

     On several occasions, the applicant asked the police to
investigate the disturbances and to prosecute the responsible persons.
The police informed the applicant that the alleged facts had not been
established.  They found no evidence of an offence or a minor offence
and terminated the investigation.  On 15 April 1994 the police gave
notice of these facts to the Dubnica nad Váhom Local Office (Obvodny
úrad).

     On 11 May 1994 the latter found that the applicant had committed
a minor offence (priestupok) pursuant to Section 49 (1) (d) of the
Minor Offences Act ("the Act" -  see "Relevant domestic law" below) in
that he had accused without justification family B. of causing
nuisance.  The applicant was fined 300 Slovak crowns and ordered to pay
the costs of the proceedings of 150 Slovak crowns.  On 28 July 1994 the
Povazská Bystrica District Office (Okresny úrad) upheld this decision.

     On 16 August 1994 the applicant lodged a complaint with the
Constitutional Court (Ústavny súd).  In his submissions of
5 October 1995 he alleged, inter alia, a violation of Article 6 of the
Convention in that there had been no fair and public hearing in his
case, and that the administrative authorities dealing with the case
lacked impartiality.

     On 24 November 1994 the Constitutional Court dismissed the
applicant's constitutional complaint as being manifestly ill-founded.
The Constitutional Court held, inter alia:

(Translation)

     "A minor offence is characterised, in general, by a wrongful
breach of law or legal obligations in different spheres of public
administration which represents a minor danger for the society.
Because of its character, a minor offence is not subject to examination
by a court...  In accordance with the Minor Offences Act, the
examination of minor offences comes within the competence of
administrative authorities.  Pursuant to Section 83 of the Minor
Offences Act, in conjunction with Section 244 et seq. of the Code of
Civil Procedure, the lawfulness of administrative organs' decisions on
minor offences can be reviewed by courts only in cases where a fine
exceeding 2,000 Slovak crowns has been imposed, the exercise of a
certain activity has been prohibited for a period exceeding six months
or an object of a value exceeding 2,000 Slovak crowns has been
confiscated.  The aforesaid provision of the special act governing the
minor offences, is also fully binding on the Constitutional Court of
the Slovak Republic."

(Original)

     "Priestupok je vo vseobecnosti charakterizovany ako zavinené
porusenie práva, resp. právnych povinností na jednotlivych úsekoch
státnej správy s mensou spolocenskou nebezbecnostou. Tento charakter
priestupku ho vylucuje z uplatnovania zodpovednosti pred súdom...
Podla zákona o priestupkoch prejednávanie priestupkov patrí do
pôsobnosti orgánov státnej správy. Súdy preskúmavajú podla ustanovenia
§ 83 zákona o priestupkoch v spojitosti s ustanoveniami § 244 a
nasledujúcimi Obcianskeho súdneho poriadku zákonnost rozhodnutia o
priestupku iba v prípade, ak bola ulozená pokuta vyssia ako 2 000 Sk,
alebo zákaz cinnosti na cas dlhsí ako sest mesiacov, alebo prepadnutie
alebo zhabanie veci, ktorej hodnota presahuje 2 000 Sk. Citované
ustanovenie osobitného zákona o priestupkoch platí v celom rozsahu aj
pre Ústavny súd SR."

     Relevant domestic law

     The applicant was fined for a minor offence against civic
propriety pursuant to the Minor Offences Act (Zákon o priestupkoch) of
28 August 1990 as amended.  The following provisions of the Act were
applicable to the applicant's case during the relevant period.

     In accordance with Section 1 of the Act, administrative and
municipal organs shall encourage the citizens to respect legal rules
and the rights of other citizens.  They shall ensure, in particular,
that citizens do not impede the conduct of the administration or
contravene public order and civic propriety.

     Pursuant to Section 2 (1) of the Act, a minor offence is a
wrongful act which interferes with or causes danger to the public
interest and is expressly classified as a minor offence in the Minor
Offences Act or another act, unless such act represents a separate
administrative offence punishable under special legal rules or a
criminal offence.

     The Act refers to repressive measures for minor offences as
"sanctions" (sankcie). Repressive measures for offences under the
Criminal Code are referred to as "penalties" (tresty).

     Section 11 (1) of the Act provides for the following sanctions
for a minor offence:
a) reprimand,
b) fine,
c) prohibition to exercise a certain activity,
d) confiscation of an object.

     Section 11 (2) provides that a sanction can be imposed either
separately or in combination with another sanction.  However, a
reprimand cannot be combined with a fine.

     Pursuant to Section 11 (3) of the Act, an administrative
authority can decide not to impose a sanction if it considers that the
mere fact that it has dealt with the minor offence is sufficient to
reform its perpetrator.

     Section 12 (1) of the Act provides that, when deciding on the
type and amount of the sanction, the authority concerned shall take
into account the seriousness of the minor offence and, in particular,
the way and the circumstances in which it was committed, its
consequences, the degree of guilt, the motive and the person of the
perpetrator including whether or not he or she has already been
punished for the same act in disciplinary proceedings.

     Section 49 of the Act governs minor offences against civic
propriety.  Pursuant to Section 49 (1) (d) a minor offence is committed
by a person who deliberately offends against civic propriety by threat
of bodily harm, by causing minor bodily injury, by unjustifiedly
accusing another person of a minor offence, by annoyances or other rude
behaviour.  According to Section 49 (2) such a minor offence is
punishable with a maximum fine of 3,000 Slovak crowns.

     Pursuant to Section 51 of the Act, the proceedings concerning
minor offences are governed, unless otherwise provided, by the
Administrative Proceedings Act.

     According to Section 73 (1) of the Act, a person is accused of
a minor offence as soon as the administrative authority has taken the
first procedural step against him or her.  Such a person shall be
considered innocent until his or her guilt has been established by a
final decision.

     Section 73 (2) provides that an accused has the right to comment
on all facts that are imputed to him or her as well as on the evidence
related to these facts, to present facts and evidence in his or her
defence, make suggestions and lodge remedies.  An accused cannot be
forced to make statements and to plead guilty.

     Pursuant to Section 77 of the Act, the operative part of a
decision by which an accused is found guilty of a minor offence shall
comprise, inter alia, the description of the act including the place
and time when the minor offence was committed, the finding of guilt,
the type and amount of the sanction and, as the case may be, the
decision not to impose a sanction in accordance with Section 11 (3) of
the Act.

     Pursuant to Section 83 (1) of the Act, certain decisions on minor
offences (imposition of a fine exceeding 2,000 Slovak crowns,
prohibition on the exercise of a certain activity for a period
exceeding six months or the confiscation of an object of a value
exceeding 2,000 Slovak crowns) can be reviewed by the courts.  In such
cases the provisions of Section 244 et seq. of the Code of Civil
Procedure on administrative judicature are applied.

     Pursuant to Section 135 (1) of the Code of Civil Procedure,
courts are bound, inter alia, by the decisions of the competent
authorities that a criminal offence, a minor offence or another
administrative offence punishable under special rules has been
committed.

     Section 3 (1) of the Criminal Code defines a criminal offence as
an act which is dangerous to society and the characteristics of which
are laid down in the Criminal Code.  However, pursuant to Section 3 (2)
of the Criminal Code, an act whose dangerousness is negligible is not
a criminal offence even if it has the characteristics of the latter.
     Pursuant to Section 3 (4) of the Criminal Code, the degree of
dangerousness of an act is determined, in particular, by the importance
of the protected interest which was affected by that act, by the
circumstances and the way in which the act was committed and its
consequences, by the person of its perpetrator, the degree of his or
her guilt and by his or her motive.

     Article 46 para. 2 of the Constitution guarantees to everybody
who claims to have been denied his or her rights through a decision
made by a public authority the right to turn to a court of law and have
the legality of the decision reviewed, unless otherwise provided by
law.  The review of decisions in matters of fundamental rights and
freedoms shall not be excluded from the jurisdiction of courts of law.

     Article 121 of the Constitution entitles the Government to grant
a pardon in matters concerning minor offences.

     Pursuant to Article 127 of the Constitution, the Constitutional
Court decides on complaints about final decisions made by, inter alia,
local government authorities and local self-governing bodies in cases
concerning violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms of
citizens, unless the protection of such rights falls under the
jurisdiction of another court.

COMPLAINTS

     The applicant alleges that his right to a fair hearing before an
independent and impartial tribunal established by law, as guaranteed
by Article 6 of the Convention, was violated in the proceedings leading
to the imposition of a fine on him.  He also alleges a violation of
Article 13 of the Convention in this respect.

     The applicant further complains that in the proceedings in which
he was fined he was discriminated against on the ground of being of
Czech origin.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

     The application was introduced on 13 June 1994 and registered on
6 January 1995.

     On 19 October 1995 the Commission decided to communicate the
applicant's complaints concerning the proceedings leading to the
imposition of a fine on him to the respondent Government and to declare
the remainder of the application inadmissible.

     The Government's written observations were submitted on
8 January 1996.  The applicant replied on 20 January 1996.  He
submitted further observations on 12 and 22 March, 21 June and
5 August 1996.

THE LAW

1.   The applicant complains that his right to a fair hearing by an
independent and impartial tribunal and his right to an effective remedy
before a national authority was violated in the proceedings in which
he was fined under the Minor Offences Act.  He alleges a violation of
Articles 6 and 13 (Art. 6, 13) of the Convention which provide, so far
as relevant, as follows:
                          Article 6 (Art. 6)

     "1.   In the determination of ... any criminal charge against
     him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing ... by an
     independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
     ..."

                         Article 13 (Art. 13)

     "Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this
     Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a
     national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been
     committed by persons acting in an official capacity."

     The Government submit that Article 6 (Art. 6) of the Convention
is not applicable to the proceedings at issue.  In particular, they
point out that the minor offence for which the applicant was fined does
not fall under criminal law in the Slovak legal system.

     In the Government's view, the act for which the applicant was
fined lacks a serious character and cannot also constitute a breach of
the general criminal law.  They contend, with reference to Section 1
of the Minor Offences Act, that the purpose of the latter is to prevent
wrongful acts of an administrative nature in the exercise of the public
administration and in relations between citizens, and that the Act does
not encourage punishment.  They therefore consider that the minor
offence at issue is not criminal in nature.

     Finally, the Government  contend that the nature and degree of
severity of the penalty incurred by the applicant do not warrant
classifying the minor offence at issue as criminal, either.  They point
out, in particular, that the imposition of a sanction under the Act is
within the discretionary power of the administrative authority
concerned, and that the sanctions for minor offences are not entered
in the criminal record.

     The applicant disagrees and alleges, in substance, that his
rights guaranteed by Articles 6 and 13 (Art. 6, 13) of the Convention
were violated.

     After an examination of these issues in the light of the parties'
submissions, the Commission considers that they raise questions of fact
and law, including the question of the applicability of Article 6
(Art. 6) of the Convention, which can only be determined by an
examination of the merits.  It follows that the applicant's aforesaid
complaints cannot be declared inadmissible as being manifestly ill-
founded within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the
Convention.  No other grounds of inadmissibility have been established.

2.   The applicant further alleges that the authorities dealing with
his case discriminated against him on the ground that he is of Czech
origin.  He alleges a violation of Article 14 (Art. 14) of the
Convention which reads as follows:

     "The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this
     Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground
     such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other
     opinion, national or social origin, association with a national
     minority, property, birth or other status."

     The Commission finds, insofar as the matter complained of has
been substantiated and is within its competence, that in the present
case there is no appearance of discrimination contrary to Article 14
(Art. 14) of the Convention.

     It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-
founded within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the
Convention.

     For these reasons, the Commission, unanimously,

     DECLARES INADMISSIBLE the applicant's complaint under Article 14
     of the Convention;

     DECLARES ADMISSIBLE, without prejudging the merits, the
     remainder of the application.

        M. de SALVIA                          S. TRECHSEL
      Deputy Secretary                         President
     to the Commission                     of the Commission