Application no. 37548/04
by Pelageya Andreyevna SUKHORUKIKH
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting on 21 September 2006 as a Chamber composed of:
Mr C.L. Rozakis, President,
Mr L. Loucaides,
Mrs F. Tulkens,
Mrs N. Vajić,
Mr A. Kovler,
Mrs E. Steiner,
Mr K. Hajiyev, judges,
and Mr S. Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 15 May 2004,
Having regard to the decision to apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the case together,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Ms Pelageya Andreyevna Sukhorukikh, is a Russian national who was born in 1913 and lives in Voronezh. She was represented before the Court by Ms T. Sukhorukikh, her daughter. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr P. Laptev, the Representative of the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
Since 1995 the applicant became entitled to a special additional allowance to her retirement pension. However, that allowance was not paid to her. She brought proceedings against the local social security office, and on 27 April 2001 the Kominternovskiy District Court of Voronezh satisfied her claims. The District Court awarded her 7,303.08 Russian Roubles (RUR) on account of the arrears due to her, plus RUR 13,348.14 as compensation for losses caused by the cost-of-living increase. Thus, the applicant was awarded a total of RUR 20,651.22. That judgment was not appealed against. On 7 May 2001 it became final and enforceable; however, it remained unenforced until the end of 2005.
On 9 December 2005 the authorities transferred RUR 20,651 (the outstanding amount of the judgment debt) to the applicant’s bank account.
On 26 December 2005 the applicant signed an agreement with the social security office of Voronezh. That agreement in its relevant part provided as follows:
“(a) Under the present agreement the authorities of the Russian Federation shall pay the applicant:
· RUR 20,651.22 in respect of her judgment debt ...;
· RUR 20,651.22 (100% of the judgment debt) in respect of non-pecuniary damage sustained as a result of a violation of her rights as well as in respect of costs and expenses incurred before the European Court [of Human Rights].
In total RUR 41,302.21.
The indicated amount shall be transferred to the applicant’s bank account and paid in Russian currency within 5 days from the date on which the friendly settlement agreement is signed. The said payment will constitute the final settlement of the case.
(b) Ms Pelageya Andreyevna Sukhorukikh declares that she has no more claims against the Russian Federation on the facts submitted in her application to the European Court, provided that the provisions of paragraph (a) are satisfied.
Once the provisions of paragraph (a) are satisfied, the Russian Federation and the applicant undertake to inform the European Court thereof.
The present agreement constitutes the final settlement of the dispute. The Russian Federation and the applicant undertake not to seek the transfer of the case to the Grand Chamber ...”
On 28 December 2005 the amount of compensation stipulated in the agreement of 26 December 2005 (RUR 20,641.77) was transferred by the authorities to the applicant’s bank account. Given that the amount of judgment debt had been already transferred to the applicant, the authorities thus complied with their obligations under the agreement of 26 December 2005.
The applicant complained under Articles 6 and 13 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention about the delayed enforcement of the judgment of the Kominternovskiy District Court of Voronezh in her favour.
The applicant complained that the delay in the enforcement of the judgment of 27 April 2001 amounted to a violation of Articles 6 and 13 of the Convention, as well as of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 thereto.
The Government admitted that the applicant’s rights under the Convention had been violated and maintained that the case ought to be struck off the list of cases due to the fact that they had paid the applicant the judgment debt as well as compensation for non-pecuniary damage sustained as a result thereof, in compliance with the settlement which the applicant had accepted. In support they provided the Court with a copy of the agreement of 26 December 2005, signed by the applicant and the head of the local social security office, Mr Popov. The Government also produced copies of the bank transfer orders, confirming the receipt by the applicant of the amounts stipulates in the agreement.
The applicant confirmed that she had signed the agreement with the authorities. She produced a copy of the agreement of 26 December 2005. That copy was signed by Ms Minakova, a specialist of the social security office. However, the applicant maintained that the agreement she had signed was null and void since Ms Minakova had not been duly authorised to act for the Government. The copy produced by the Government and signed by Mr Popov was, in the applicant’s view, fake as she had allegedly never met that person.
Further, the applicant claimed that she had signed the agreement of 26 December 2005 because Ms Minakova had told her that the social security office would soon cease its existence and that the agreement would be her last chance to get the money.
In sum, the applicant refused to accept the terms of the agreement and insisted on continuation of the proceedings in her case.
The Court notes that the applicant does not want to withdraw her application. Nevertheless, the Court will examine whether the circumstances call for the striking the case out of the list, as the Government suggested.
Article 37 of the Convention, referred to by the Government, reads:
“1. The Court may at any stage of the proceedings decide to strike an application out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to the conclusion that
(a) the applicant does not intend to pursue his application; or
(b) the matter has been resolved; or
(c) for any other reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application.
However, the Court shall continue the examination of the application if respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto so requires.
The Court notes that the violation of applicant’s rights was acknowledged by the Government. Further, they unconditionally paid her the amount of the judgment debt and, moreover, offered a compensation for the breach of her Convention rights. As soon as the applicant signed the agreement, the amount of compensation was transferred to her bank account as well.
The Court further notes that the applicant did not deny that she had accepted the terms of the agreement proposed by the authorities and received the amounts stipulated in it. Furthermore, nothing in the case-file suggests that the applicant was subjected to undue pressure, that she was misinformed or that the authorities otherwise foisted onerous or unfavourable terms on her.
The Court recalls that in the recent cases Paritchi v. Moldova ((dec.), no. 54396/00, 1 March 2005) and Podbolotova v. Russia ((dec.), no. 26091/02, 24 November 2005) it made recourse to Article 37 § 1 (c) in the situations where the applicants first settled their cases at the domestic level but then disagreed to regard their case settled and insisted on the examination of their applications. The Court sees not reason to depart from this practice in the present case. It considers that, in the circumstances of the case, it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application.
Finally, the Court notes that the complaint made by the applicant in this case was of a pecuniary nature and concerned an alleged violation of her right to have a final court decision, made in her favour against a State authority, enforced. Her complaint is similar to this made in the Burdov v. Russia case (Burdov v. Russia, no. 59498/00, ECHR 2002-III, admissibility decision of 21 June 2001, judgment of 7 May 2002). Against this background, given the admissions made in the Government’s observations and the conditions of the agreement of 26 December 2005, the Court finds no reasons of a general character, as defined in Article 37 § 1 in fine, which would require the examination of the application by virtue of that Article.
Accordingly, Article 29 § 3 of the Convention should no longer apply to the case and it should be struck out of the list under Article 37 § 1 (c).
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to discontinue the application of Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Søren Nielsen Christos Rozakis
SUKHORUKIKH v. RUSSIA DECISION
SUKHORUKIKH v. RUSSIA DECISION