FIFTH SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 53746/00 
by Ivan Miroslavov IVANOV 
against Bulgaria

The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting on 15 May 2006 as a Chamber composed of:

Mr P. Lorenzen, President
 Mrs S. Botoucharova
 Mr K. Jungwiert
 Mr V. Butkevych
 Mrs M. Tsatsa-Nikolovska
 Mr R. Maruste, 
 Mr J. Borrego Borrego, judges, 
and Mrs C. Westerdiek, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 7 September 1999,

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 FACTS

The applicant, Mr Ivan Miroslavov Ivanov, is a Bulgarian national who was born in 1972 and lives in Pazardzhik. He was represented before the Court by Mr V. Stoyanov, a lawyer practising in Pazardzhik.

The respondent Government were represented by their agent, Ms M. Karadjova, of the Ministry of Justice.

The circumstances of the case

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

The criminal proceedings

On 6 June 1990 two girls, who were mentally challenged, were raped in the town of Pazardzhik on several occasions in the course of the day.

A preliminary investigation was opened on the next day, 7 June 1990, against an unknown assailant.

On 12 October 1990 the Pazardzhik District Prosecutor’s Office suspended the investigation as the victims could not assist in identifying the offenders or the places where the offences had taken place.

The preliminary investigation was resumed on 12 November 1990 against the applicant and another two individuals (the “co-accused”).

An order was issued on 28 January 1992 for the police to bring the applicant before the investigator for questioning as he had repeatedly failed to appear before him. The authorities, however, established that the applicant was serving in the military at the time where he remained until September 1992.

On 28 February 1994 the applicant was charged that, together with the co-accused, he had raped the two girls. A restriction was imposed on the applicant not to leave his place of residence without the permission of the Pazardzhik District Prosecutor’s Office. The applicant was questioned on the same day and confessed to the offence.

The applicant and the co-accused were questioned on 2 and 14 March 1994. One of the co-accused also confessed to the offences.

A medical expert’s report was commissioned on 26 April 1994.

On an unspecified date another person was also charged that, together with the applicant and the co-accused, he had raped the two girls.

On 24 June 1994 the investigator in charge of the investigation forwarded the case file of the applicant and the co-accused to the Pazardzhik District Prosecutor’s Office with the opinion that an indictment for rape should be filed against them.

On 21 July 1994 an indictment for rape against the applicant and the co-accused was submitted to the Pazardzhik District Court.

A hearing before the Pazardzhik District Court on 27 October 1994 was adjourned because two of the co-accused failed to appear. One of them had been duly summoned, while the other had not been because his address was not known.

The next hearing before the Pazardzhik District Court of 27 February 1995 was adjourned because of the failure of some witnesses to appear and the defective summoning of some other witnesses.

On 19 April 1995 the Pazardzhik District Court remitted the case to the investigation.

The charges against the applicant and the co-accused were amended on 26 May 1995.

The applicant failed to appear for questioning before the investigator on 7 June 1995, so an order for his detention on remand was issued on 12 June 1995.

On 23 August 1995 an order for the applicant’s arrest was issued.

The Pazardzhik Police, in a report of 8 September 1995, stated that the applicant’s mother had informed them that the applicant had left the country two weeks earlier and had gone to Yugoslavia to look for work. The applicant contended that he returned to Bulgaria soon thereafter.

The applicant further contended, which the Government did not expressly challenge, that sometime in 1995 a restriction was imposed on him not to leave the country without the permission of the Prosecutor’s Office or the courts.

The applicant was detained on remand on an unspecified date.

The applicant contended, which the Government did not expressly challenge, that in 1998 the investigator in charge of the preliminary investigation resigned from the investigation service and that the case was reassigned to another investigator only after a complaint was filed by the applicant on 19 August 1999.

On an unspecified date the applicant appealed against his detention. The Pazardzhik District Court heard his appeal on 17 January 2000 and released him on bail.

The Pazardzhik District Prosecutor’s Office returned the case file of the applicant and the co-accused to the investigating authorities on 7 February 2000 with instructions to continue the investigation.

The charges against the applicant were amended on 21 November 2002 to include two counts of rape. He was also questioned on the same day.

In December 2002 and then again in June 2003 arrest warrants were issued and executed against one of the co-accused who had changed his last name and moved to live in another town.

The Government contended, which the applicant did not challenge, that on 3 June 2003 a national arrest warrant was issued for the applicant. He was apparently detained soon thereafter.

The results of the preliminary investigation were presented to the applicant on 17 June 2003.

On 23 June 2003 the investigator in charge of the investigation forwarded the case file of the applicant and the co-accused to the Pazardzhik District Prosecutor’s Office with the opinion that an indictment for rape should be filed against them.

The preliminary investigation against the applicant was partially terminated on 14 July 2003. The only outstanding charge against him concerned one count of rape.

A revised indictment was filed against the applicant and the co-accused on 15 October 2003.

The Pazardzhik District Court conducted two hearings on 24 March and 23 April 2004, both of which were adjourned due to the defective summoning of some of the parties and the victims.

As of 8 June 2005, the date of the applicant’s last communication to the Court, the case was still pending before the court of first instance.

COMPLAINTS

1.  The applicant complained under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention of the excessive length of the criminal proceedings against him and the alleged lack of effective remedies to speed up the proceedings and have the case heard by a court. He submitted that the length of the criminal proceedings and the restrictions imposed on him damaged his reputation in the community and hindered him in finding a suitable job to support his family.

2.  The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the criminal proceedings against him were unfair because the Prosecutor’s Office was both supervising the preliminary investigation and leading the prosecution against the applicant at the court stage of the proceedings.

3.  The applicant complained under Article 3 of the Convention that he had been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment resulting from the length of the criminal proceedings against him.

4.  The applicant complained under Article 13, in conjunction with Article 6 § 2 of the Convention and Article 3 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention, that under domestic law he did not have the right to seek compensation for the partial termination of the preliminary investigation against him on 14 July 2003.

THE LAW

A.  Complaints under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention in respect of the length of the criminal proceedings and the lack of an effective remedy relating thereto

The applicant complained under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention of the excessive length of the criminal proceedings against him and the lack of an effective remedy relating thereto.

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

“In the determination of ... any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”

Article 13 of the Convention provides:

“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] 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 did not expressly challenge the admissibility of the applicant’s complaints.

The applicant reiterated his complaints and contended that the authorities were responsible for the significant delays and periods of inaction in the criminal proceedings against him. In addition, he stressed that the proceedings were still ongoing more than fifteen years after the date on which the alleged offences had been committed.

The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaints raise serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of their merits. The Court concludes therefore that these complaints are not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. No other ground for declaring them inadmissible has been established.

B.  The remainder of the applicant’s complaints

The Court has examined the remainder of the applicant’s complaints as submitted by him. However, in the light of all the material in its possession, and in so far as the matters complained of were within its competence, the Court finds that they do not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention or its Protocols.

It follows that this part of the application must be rejected as being manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares admissible, without prejudging the merits, the applicant’s complaints concerning the alleged excessive length of the criminal proceedings against him and the lack of an effective remedy relating thereto;

Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.

Claudia Westerdiek Peer Lorenzen 
 Registrar President

IVANOV v. BULGARIA DECISION


IVANOV v. BULGARIA DECISION