Application no. 33529/08
by Alica KOUDELOVÁ and Lýdia DROBNÁ
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 5 October 2010 as a Committee composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 24 June 2008,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government requesting the Court to strike part of the application out of the list of cases and to the applicants' reply,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicants, Mrs Alica Koudelová and Mrs Lýdia Drobná, are Slovak nationals who were born in 1927 and 1929 and live in Suncity West Arizona (in the United States of America) and in Heidelberg (in Germany) respectively. They were represented before the Court by Mr M. Strážnický, a lawyer practising in Bratislava. The Government of the Slovak Republic (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mrs M. Pirošíková.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
On 26 June 1992 the applicants lodged with the Považská Bystrica District Court an action in respect of the validity of nationalization of real property, the validity of purchase of the real property and determination that the real property was a part of a patrimony.
In the meantime, on 26 November 2003 the Constitutional Court decided that the applicants' right to a hearing within a reasonable time had been violated. The Constitutional Court awarded 30,000 Slovakian korunas (SKK)1 to each applicant in just satisfaction in respect of non-pecuniary damage. It ordered the District Court proceed without further delays. It also ordered the District Court and the Supreme Court to reimburse the applicants' legal costs.
The case was examined at three levels of jurisdiction and was decided by a final decision of the Trenčín Regional Court on 17 April 2007 which upheld the first-instance judgment of 11 October 2006 to dismiss the applicants' claim.
On 11 December 2007 the Supreme Court rejected the applicants' appeal on points of law.
On 24 January 2008 the Constitutional Court rejected the applicants' constitutional complaint of a violation of their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.
A. Length of the proceedings
The applicants complained of the length of the civil proceedings. They relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention which, in so far as relevant, provides as follows:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
By letter dated 29 June 2010 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by this part of the application. They further requested the Court to strike out that part of the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.
The declaration provided as follows:
“The Government acknowledge both the applicants' status of the victim within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention and the unreasonable duration of the domestic proceedings in which the applicants were involved.
I, Marica Pirošíková, the Agent of the Government of the Slovak Republic before the European Court of Human Rights, declare that the Government offer to pay ex gratia EUR 2,600 (two thousand six hundred euros) to each of the applicants, Mrs Alica Koudelová and Lýdia Drobná. This sum shall cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage together with any costs and expenses incurred by the applicants with respect to the violation of their right under the Convention.
The Government would suggest that the above information be accepted by the Court as “any other reason” justifying the striking out of the case of the Court's list of cases, as referred to in Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.
In the event of the Court's decision pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the Convention, the Government undertake to pay to the applicants the declared sum within the three months from the date of notification of the decision. In the event of failure to pay this sum within the said three-month period, the Government undertake to pay simple interest on it, from expiry of that period until settlement, at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points. This payment will constitute the final settlement of the case.”
In a letter of 9 August 2010 the applicants expressed the view that the sum mentioned in the Government's declaration was unacceptably low and requested that the case be examined by the Court.
The Court recalls that Article 37 of the Convention provides that it may at any stage of the proceedings decide to strike an application out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to one of the conclusions specified, under (a), (b) or (c) of paragraph 1 of that Article. Article 37 § 1 (c) enables the Court in particular to strike a case out of its list if:
“for any other reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application”.
It also recalls that in certain circumstances, it may strike out an application under Article 37 § 1(c) on the basis of a unilateral declaration by a respondent Government even if the applicant wishes the examination of the case to be continued.
To this end, the Court will examine carefully the declaration in the light of the principles emerging from its case-law, in particular the Tahsin Acar judgment (Tahsin Acar v. Turkey, [GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI; WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland (dec.) no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007; and Sulwińska v. Poland (dec.) no. 28953/03).
The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Slovakia, its practice concerning complaints about the violation of one's right to a hearing within a reasonable time (see, for example, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII; Cocchiarella v. Italy [GC], no. 64886/01, §§ 69-98, ECHR 2006-V; Majewski v. Poland, no. 52690/99, 11 October 2005; and Kuril v. Slovakia, no. 63959/00, §§ 35-43, 3 October 2006; Rapoš v. Slovakia, no. 25763/02, §§ 27-34, 20 May 2008; or Bič v. Slovakia, no. 23865/03, §§ 33-41, 4 November 2008).
Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the Government's declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed – which is consistent with the amounts awarded in similar cases -the Court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of this complaint (Article 37 § 1(c)).
Moreover, in light of the above considerations, and in particular given the clear and extensive case-law on the topic, the Court is satisfied that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto does not require it to continue the examination of this part of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine).
B. Remaining complaints
The applicants also complained of unfairness of the proceedings and alleged that the courts' decisions had resulted in a violation of their right under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
However, in the light of all the material in its possession, and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, the Court finds that they do not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights guaranteed under the Convention or its Protocols.
It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government's declaration under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention and of the modalities for ensuring compliance with the undertakings referred to therein;
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in so far as it relates to the above length of proceedings complaint in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention;
Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.
Fatoş Aracı Ljiljana
Deputy Registrar President
KOUDELOVÁ AND DROBNÁ v. SLOVAKIA DECISION
KOUDELOVÁ AND DROBNÁ v. SLOVAKIA DECISION