SECOND SECTION

PARTIAL DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 30793/03 
by Radovan ZDRAŽÍLEK and Emílie ZDRAŽÍLKOVÁ 
against the Czech Republic

The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting on 7 March 2006 as a Chamber composed of:

Mr J.-P. Costa, President
 Mr I. Cabral Barreto
 Mr K. Jungwiert
 Mr V. Butkevych
 Mr M. Ugrekhelidze
 Mrs A. Mularoni, 
 Mrs E. Fura-Sandström, judges
and Mr S. Naismith, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 22 September 2003,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicants, Mr Radovan Zdražílek and Ms Emílie Zdražílková, are two Czech nationals who were born in 1928 and 1932 respectively and live in Brno.

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

On 30 September 1991 the applicants made a request to a municipal engineering organisation, with headquarters in Brno, under the Extrajudicial Rehabilitation Act (Law no. 87/1991), for an agreement on the return of property which they had been forced to sell in 1973. On 10 October 1991 the engineering organisation refused their request.

On 4 February 1992 the applicants brought an action in the Brno Municipal Court (městský soud) for recovery of the property in issue.

In a judgment of 9 August 1993 the court ordered the engineering organisation to conclude a restoration agreement with the applicants.

On 4 October 1993 the defendant appealed. On 28 December 1993 the applicants submitted their comments.

On 22 February 1994 the Brno Regional Court (krajský soud) quashed the first instance judgment and remitted the case to the Municipal Court which, on 17 October 1996, admitted a modification of the applicants’ action.

On an unspecified date in 1996 or 1997 the Brno Roads, a.s. (Brněnské komunikace, a.s.), Town Brno (Město Brno) and the Brno Metropolitan Office (Magistrát města Brna) joined the proceedings as new defendants, in substitution of the original organisation.

By a judgment of 24 November 1997 the Municipal Court held that Town Brno had to conclude the restitution agreement with the applicants.

On 29 July 1999 the Regional Court partly modified and partly upheld this judgment.

On 1 October 1999 the applicants filed an appeal on points of law (dovolání) which, on 29 August 2000, the Supreme Court (Nejvyšší soud) granted, quashing the judgments of the lower courts and remitting the case to the Municipal Court.

On 21 August 2001 the Constitutional Court (Ústavní soud) rejected the applicants’ appeal of 12 January 2001 in which they alleged that the proceedings had lasted an unreasonably long time.

On 7 December 2000 the Municipal Court appointed an expert to establish the purchase price on the day of the sale of the applicants’ property.

By a letter of 24 January 2001, the applicants informed the expert that they were ready to cooperate with him.

On 8 April 2002 the expert submitted his opinion, on which, on 9 April 2002, the applicants commented. On 31 July 2002 he replied.

In a judgment of 26 March 2003 the Municipal Court again ordered Town Brno to conclude the restitution agreement with the applicants.

On 9 June 2003 Town Brno appealed. On 1 July 2003 the applicants submitted their written observations.

On 3 September 2004 the Regional Court quashed the Municipal Court’s judgment and remitted the case to the first instance court.

It appears that the applicants’ restitution case is still pending.

COMPLAINTS

1. The applicants complain under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the excessive length of the restitution proceedings and a violation of the principles of the fairness of and the equality of arms between the parties to the proceedings.

2. They further allege a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

THE LAW

1. The applicants complain under Articles 6 § 1 of the Convention that the restitution proceedings have lasted an unreasonably long time.

Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, in so far as relevant, provides:

 “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal ....”

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 § 3 (b) of the Rules of the Court, to give notice of it to the respondent Government.

2. The applicants further complain that the principles of the fairness of and the equality of arms between the parties to the proceedings were not respected by the national courts, and that their property rights have been violated as a consequence.

The Court notes that the restitution proceedings have not yet been terminated. Hence, the applicants’ property rights remain uncertain and their complaint to the Court is premature.

Since the machinery of protection established by the Convention is subsidiary to the national systems safeguarding human rights (see Akdivar and others v. Turkey, judgment of 16 September 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-IV, §§ 65-66), it is not for the Court to speculate on the outcome of the restitution proceedings which are currently pending, and the various legal avenues which may become open to the applicants after their termination.

This part of the application must therefore be rejected for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Decides to adjourn the examination of the applicants’ complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention relating to the length of the restitution proceedings;

Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.

S. Naismith J.-P. Costa  
 Deputy Registrar President

ZDRAŽÍLEK AND ZDRAŽÍLKOVÁ v. THE CZECH REPUBLIC DECISION


ZDRAŽÍLEK AND ZDRAŽÍLKOVÁ v. THE CZECH REPUBLIC DECISION