THE FACTS

Whereas the facts presented by the applicant may be summarised as
follows:

The applicant is an Austrian citizen, born in 1897 and at present
residing in Vienna. His application, which is supported by numerous
documents, deals with the applicant's claim for a disability pension
under the Austrian Victims of War Maintenance Act 1957
[Kriegsopferversorgungsgesetz 1957 (hereinafter quoted as the 1957
Act)]. The applicant alleges, in this respect, that he was denied a
fair and public hearing by the Austrian authorities, namely by the
Administrative Court.

The applicant served between 1939 and 1945 in the German army and it
appears that he was injured several times. At the end of the war he was
captured by the Russian Army. He was released in July 1945, and alleges
that, since that time, he has suffered from several diseases as a
consequence of the war. Apparently this forced the applicant to sell
his food store as he was incapable of standing the whole day. The
applicant then changed his profession but it appears that he was
permanently disabled thereafter.

In 1949 the applicant instituted proceedings with the Provincial
Invalids' Agency of Vienna (Landesinvalidenamt). He maintained that his
diseases were a consequence of his military service and that he was
thus entitled to draw a pension under the above Act. The applicant
indicated that he was suffering from a stomach disease, sclerosis and
a foot disease (Senkspreizfüsse).

On .. June 1950, the Provincial Invalids' Agency decided to reject the
applicant's claim for a pension for insufficient proof that the
sclerosis was caused by the applicant's military service. As regards
the stomach disease, the Agency stated that this had already been
cured. The applicant was, however, granted an allowance for his foot
disease as the Agency had established that this was in part caused by
the military service and that it reduced the applicant's earning
capacity.

On the applicant's appeal, the Arbitration Commission of the Provincial
Invalids' Agency (Schiedskommission beim Landesinvalidenamt) confirmed
this decision on .. March 1951. In the course of the further
proceedings the applicant put numerous claims that his dental disease,
his permanent bronchitis and an emphysema of the lungs should also be
taken into consideration, but the above Arbitration Commission
apparently did not allow them.

Subsequently, the applicant appealed against these decisions to the
Minister of Social Administration and to the Administrative Court
(Verwaltungsgerichtshof) and, after lengthy proceedings which lasted
more than 12 years and in the course of which numerous experts were
heard, the Administrative Court gave four judgments in favour of the
applicant. The Arbitration Commission decided again on .. September
1965, and recognised that the applicant's feet and teeth diseases were
at least in part caused by his military service and granted him a
disability allowance. As regards the other disease, the Commission held
that they were not the result of The applicant's service in the German
army and he was therefore not granted a pension.

The applicant again lodged an appeal against this decision with the
Administrative Court which once more quashed parts of the Commission's
decision, namely the refusal to recognise the sclerosis and to admit
only parts of the foot disease as being caused by the war. The Court
held that procedural rules had been disregarded by the Arbitration
Commission. This judgment was served on the Arbitration Commission on
.. July 1966.

On 23 December 1966 the applicant requested the Minister of Social
Administration to decide upon his request for a pension under the 1957
Act, as the Arbitration Commission had not decided within the statutory
delay of 6 months. The applicant repeated this request on 22 May, 15
June, 21 June and 13 July 1967. By decision of .. August 1967, the
Minister of Social Administration dismissed the applicant's request for
a disability pension under the 1957 Act and stated that the applicant's
sclerosis was not to be taken into consideration since it was not
caused by the applicant's military service. The Minister furthermore
declared that the applicant's foot disease was in part a consequence
of the war.

The Minister based the decision on several expert opinions which had
been previously given in this case by several specialists and on two
recent opinions of other experts. From the latter it followed that the
reasons for the sclerosis were still generally unknown, but it was
almost certain that this disease was not caused by circumstances
which rested outside the person of the applicant. As regards the
pension, the Minister held that only such persons whose earning
capacity was reduced by 25% as a result of their military service were
entitled to a pension under the 1957 Act. As the applicant's foot
disease only diminished his earning capacity by 10% and the loss of his
teeth not being taken into consideration as they did not affect his
ability to work, the Minister refused the granting of a pension.

On 21 September 1967, the applicant lodged a further appeal with the
Administrative Court. He complained that the Minister of Social
Administration had given his decision on the basis of a report drawn
up by the Arbitration Commission and that he had thus not acted
independently. The applicant also complained that the Minister had
wrongly established the facts of his case and that the two recent
expert opinions could not be followed. The applicant's principal
complaint concerned the statement of the Minister that his sclerosis
was not caused by the war. In his appeal the applicant explicitly
requested that the Court should hear the parties in a public oral
hearing.

By judgment of .. September 1968, the Administration Court quashed the
Minister's decision insofar as it concerned the foot disease and the
disability pension under the 1957 Act. As regards the sclerosis, the
court held that the Minister's decision was lawful and that no
procedural errors whatsoever had been committed. The applicant's
request for a public oral hearing was not dealt with in this decision
but it appears that the Court did not hear the parties.
The applicant now complains that the Administration Court decided this
appeal in camera without having heard the parties as requested by him.

He alleges a violation of Article 6 of the Convention.

THE LAW

Whereas the applicant complains that the Austrian Administrative Court
failed to hear the parties when deciding the applicant's claim for a
disability pension under the Maintenance of Victims of War Act 1957
(Kriegsopferversorgungsgesetz); whereas the applicant claims that he
was thus denied a public hearing of his case within the meaning of
Article 6, paragraph (1) (Art. 6-1), of the Convention which provides
that "... In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ...
everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable
time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law ...";

Whereas the question arises whether a claim by a private individual
against a state for a pension by reason of his being permanently
disabled as a consequence of his military service during the war is to
be considered as a "civil right" within the meaning of this provision.

Whereas the Commission has pointed out in a number of previous
decisions (see e.g. Application No. 3159/67, Collection of Decisions,
Vol. 27, p. 115) that in this connection it is not decisive whether the
right claimed by the applicant constitutes a "civil right" in the
country concerned and that the term "civil rights and obligations"
cannot be construed as a mere reference to the domestic law of the High
Contracting Party concerned; that, on the contrary, it relates to an
autonomous concept which must be interpreted independently, although
the general principles of the domestic laws of the High Contracting
Parties must necessarily be taken into consideration in any such
interpretation;

Whereas the applicant claimed a war disability pension under the
Austrian legislation which provides such pension for persons who, as
a result of their service in the armed forces during the last war, are
entirely, or to a great part, disabled and thus unfit, wholly or
partly, to earn their livelihood; whereas these pensions are granted
by the State in the execution of its aim to take care of the individual
well-being of its citizens and especially for those who served in its
armed forces; whereas, as a result, a claim such as that of the present
applicant is entirely based on public law; whereas, accordingly, the
proceedings in question concerned the exercise of duties and powers
imposed under public law on the Government in the implementation of the
above aim and also concerned the rights of the applicant arising out
of this relationship; whereas it follows that the proceedings before
the Administrative Court were not concerned with the determination of
the applicant's "civil rights or obligations" and therefore fall
outside the competence of the Commission ratione materiae;

Whereas, consequently, this application is incompatible with the
provisions of the Convention within the meaning of Article 27,
paragraph (2) (Art. 27-2), of the Convention;

Now therefore the Commission DECLARES THIS APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE