AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
Application no. 59344/00
by Rustem Gumerovich SULTANOV
The European Court of Human
Rights (Second Section), sitting on
18 January 2005 as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. Costa, President,
Mr I. Cabral Barreto,
Mr R. Türmen,
Mr V. Butkevych,
Mr M. Ugrekhelidze,
Mr A. Kovler,
Mrs E. Fura-Sandström, judges,
and Mrs S. Dollé, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 8 July 2000,
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, Rustem Gumerovich Sultanov, is a Russian national who was born in 1951 and lives in Ufa. He was represented before the Court by Mr E.S. Kareyev and Mr. D.E. Kareyev, lawyers practising in Ufa. The respondent Government were represented by Mr P.A. Laptev, the representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
1. Decisions concerning the demolition of the applicant's house and the construction of a hotel, and their execution
The applicant and three other members of his family lived in a house with a total area of 91.7 sq. m. and a living space of 60.8 sq. m. and an adjacent plot of land in the centre of the town of Ufa.
In accordance with a zoning plan governing land use and land development in the town of Ufa, a hotel complex was to be built in the town centre which required the expropriation of the necessary land and the demolition of a number of old houses which stood on the site, including the applicant's.
By Resolution 1829 of 30 May 1997, the local authority declared the houses unusable for permanent residence and ordered the district authority to demolish them and re-accommodate the occupants.
The district authority offered the applicant's family two flats in one block of flats with an overall living space of 94.9 sq. m.
By Resolution 2080 of 17 June 1997, the local authority issued a permit for the construction of the hotel complex.
On 27 June 1997 the local authority ordered a commission to evaluate the plants on the applicant's land. On 1 July the commission valued them at 53,203,000 Russian roubles (RUR)1. On 2 July 1997 the local authority confirmed the commission's assessment and ordered that the above amount be paid to the applicant.
By Resolution 2198 of 3 July 1997, the local authority ordered the seizure of the land occupied by the applicant and its use for the construction of a hotel.
As the applicant had refused to move to the flats offered to him, the district authority documented his refusal on 8 July 1997. In the relevant act, the applicant stated that he preferred to live in his own house rather than in a block of flats.
On 8 July 1997 the applicant refused to allow the contractors to enter his land.
On 17 July 1997 compensation of RUR 53,203,000 was paid to the applicant.
On 7 August 1997 the district authority issued documents entitling the applicant's family to a protected tenancy in two publicly-owned flats in the same block, with an overall living space of 94.9 sq. m. in exchange for the demolition of their house.
From 26 September 1997 to 3 October 1997 the eviction of the applicant's family by the bailiffs took place on the basis of a writ of execution issued by the Kirov District Court of Ufa on 4 September 1997 in pursuance of its judgment of 14 August 1997 (see below). The applicant and his family were settled in their two new flats.
Pursuant to the local authority's decision, on 3 October 1997 a commission valued the applicant's house at RUR 39,334,0002. This money was paid to the applicant on 16 October 1997.
Soon afterwards the house was demolished.
2. Proceedings concerning the land
(i) First set of proceedings
The local authorities applied to a court seeking an order to the applicant not to put obstacles to the way of the construction works. The applicant lodged a counter-claim challenging Resolution 2198 of 3 July 1997.
On 14 July 1997 the Kirovskiy District Court of Ufa examined the case. The court found that the applicant was not the proprietor of the land but had only a right of use. The court further noted that the applicant chose not to dispute the valuation of his garden plants though he had been advised of that right by the court. The court granted the action of the district authority and rejected the applicant's claim.
The judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan on 29 July 1997.
(ii) Second set of proceedings
The applicant brought proceedings against the local authority challenging its refusal in 1993 to issue a certificate of ownership of the land which he occupied. On 13 March 2001 the Oktyabrskiy District Court of Ufa rejected the application as the applicant had missed the relevant limitation period. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan upheld the judgment on 26 April 2001.
3. Proceedings concerning the applicant's eviction
(i) First set of proceedings
On 1 August 1997 the Ufa Kirovskiy
District Authority brought proceedings before the Kirov District Court
of Ufa requesting the applicant's eviction from his house on the basis
of Resolution 1829 dated
30 May 1997 of the Ufa town authority. The applicant submitted his written observations and requested the court to decide the case in his absence.
On 14 August 1997 the court examined the case. It found that the district authority had given the applicant's family, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the law, two flats in the same block with an overall living space of 94.9 sq. m., exceeding the total area of 91.7 sq. m. in the applicant's house. It noted that the applicant had refused to move to those flats because he preferred to live in his house. The district court ordered the eviction and transfer of the applicant's family to the new flats provided by the district authority. The applicant appealed.
On 21 October 1997 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan upheld the judgment.
(ii) Quashing of the judgment of 14 August 1997 and the decision of 21 October 1997 by way of supervisory review proceedings
Upon the applicant's requests
for a supervisory review (надзор) of the proceedings, on 7 June 1999 the Deputy
President of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation lodged a special
appeal (протест) against the above decisions with the Supreme
Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan. He requested the quashing of
the decisions dated 14 August 1997 and
21 October 1997 because, inter alia, of the lack of adversarial proceedings, as the district authority had advanced at the hearing before the first instance court new arguments in support of their request for the applicant's eviction on which the applicant could not comment.
On 30 July 1999 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan allowed the appeal and quashed the decisions on this basis and the fact that the courts had failed to apply the law regulating compensation in respect of property seized for public needs. The court remitted the case to the first instance court for a new examination.
(iii) The applicant's counter-claim
On an unspecified date after 30 July 1999, the applicant lodged a counter-claim for repossession of the house and non-pecuniary damages. On 4 November 1999 the Kirovskiy District Court of Ufa refused to deal with it. On the applicant's appeal, on 20 January 2000 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan quashed the decision and, on an unspecified date before 14 April 2000, the District Court initiated proceedings on the applicant's action and joined it to the pending proceedings concerning the applicant's eviction.
(iv) Second set of proceedings
On 14 April 2000 the Kirovskiy
District Court of Ufa examined the case. The applicant, who had requested
the court to decide the case in his absence, did not participate in
the hearing. The court noted that, by the final decision of the Supreme
Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan dated
29 July 1997, the applicant's land had been taken for public needs and that the lawfulness of that deprivation could not be disputed in the present proceedings. The court further noted that, in order to build a hotel complex, which had been completed in December 1998, the demolition of the applicant's house had been necessary. The court also noted that the alternative accommodation given to the applicant had a total living space exceeding that of the demolished house and was worth at least twice as much, according to an expert opinion obtained by the court on 21 March 2000. Account being taken of the money paid to the applicant for the house, the court found that the State had duly compensated the applicant. The court granted the action of the district authority and rejected the applicant's claim. It held that the applicant's right to the house had ceased in August 1997 and that the applicant could be evicted and transferred to the alternative accommodation provided by the district authority. As the applicant had already been evicted from the house, no execution of that decision was required.
The applicant appealed. On 5 June 2000 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan quashed the judgment of 14 April 2000 on the grounds of the unlawful composition of the court, and the court's failure to examine properly the evidence or to apply the relevant law. The case was remitted to the first instance court for a new examination.
On 26 March 2001 the District Court examined the case. The applicant, who had been duly notified of the hearing, did not appear, having requested the court to decide the case in his absence. The applicant amended his claims, now requesting higher compensation for the house and the garden plants, as well as compensation for an alleged loss of profit from the plants. The court observed that, in order to implement the public purpose for which the land had been taken, namely the construction of a hotel complex, the demolition of the applicant's house had been necessary. The court noted that the hotel complex had been built in December 1998 and that it was now used for the reception of representatives of the federal government and governments of foreign States, being managed by a State institution. The court found that the applicant never owned the land de jure. He used it in so far as he owned the house on it. Moreover a part of the land had been taken by him without permission. The court held that, in the absence of the applicant's consent to acquire ownership of the two flats offered to him, the district authority had rightly given him a protected tenancy in the flats. Taking into account the applicant's entitlement to the acquisition of the ownership of the flats free of charge by way of privatisation, the court noted that they were at least twice as expensive as the cost of the applicant's house. The court found that, together with the RUR 39,334,000 paid to the applicant for the house, the State had duly compensated the applicant. As regards the garden plants, the court estimated their value in accordance with statutory requirements, and found that the compensation paid to the applicant exceeded that amount. The court found for the district authority. The applicant's claims for repossession of the house and non-pecuniary damages were made into separate proceedings. The remainder of his claims was rejected. The court declared that the applicant's property rights to the house had ceased in August 1997, and ordered the eviction and transfer of the applicant and his family to the two flats given by the district authority. As the applicant had already been evicted from the house, no execution of that decision was required.
On appeal, on 3 May 2001 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan, having heard the applicant and his counsel and the district authority, quashed the part of judgment concerning the applicant's claim for loss of profits in relation to the plants, and upheld the remainder. The court referred to the fact that the applicant's house had been declared unsuitable for permanent residence.
On 9 July 2003 the District Court examined the applicant's claims against the district authority for repossession of the house and damages, including the alleged loss of profits in relation to the plants. It also examined four other actions brought by the applicant against various authorities of the Republic of Bashkortostan in connection with the demolition of his house. The court rejected the claim concerning loss of profits as being unsubstantiated, taking into account an expert opinion on the point. The remainder of the claims was rejected as ill-founded.
On 14 August 2003 the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan upheld the judgment on appeal.
4. Other proceedings
Being dissatisfied with the way in which the judicial authorities in the aforementioned proceedings and various local and federal authorities and other persons had dealt with his case, the applicant attempted to bring proceedings against them all. However, his actions were either disallowed as having no basis in domestic law or not examined because of the applicant's failure to meet relevant procedural requirements.
1. The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the length of the proceedings brought by him against the district authority for repossession of the house and damages.
2. He further complained under Article 8 of the Convention that his eviction breached his right to respect for his home.
3. The applicant also complained that he had been deprived of his house in breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
4. Lastly, he complained, invoking Articles 6 and 13 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No.1, about the outcome of the court proceedings to which he had been a party and a violation of his right to a fair hearing. In particular, he complained that he had been denied access to court in respect of his actions against various local and federal authorities concerning the way in which they had dealt with his complaints. He also alleged that the State security services had hindered his correspondence to the Court.
1. The applicant complained that the length of the proceedings brought by him against the district authority for repossession of the house and damages had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
In their observations of 17 April 2001, the Government submitted that the application was premature and that, in any event, the length of the proceedings at the time could not be considered unreasonable.
The applicant maintained his complaint.
The applicant brought proceedings against the district authority on an unspecified date between 30 July 1999 and 4 November 1999. Even assuming that the applicant had brought the action on 30 July 1999, the earliest possible date, the Court considers that the complaint is manifestly ill-founded in view of the following considerations:
The proceedings in question ended on 14 August
2003, when the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan upheld
the judgment of
9 July 2003 on appeal. The period to be taken into consideration thus lasted over four years.
The Court reiterates that the reasonableness of the length of proceedings must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of the case and with reference to the criteria established by its case-law, particularly the complexity of the case, the conduct of the applicant and of the relevant authorities and what was at stake for the applicant in the dispute (see, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII).
The Court considers that the present case was not particularly complex. As regards the applicant's conduct, there is no indication in the case file that it contributed noticeably to the length of the proceedings. In so far as the conduct of the judicial authorities is concerned, the Court observes that the case was examined by two levels of jurisdiction, each seeing the case three times. It is true that there is no indication, apart from obtaining an expert opinion on the profitability of the applicant's garden plants, of any developments in the case pending before the Kirovskiy District Court of Ufa between 3 May 2001 and 9 July 2003. The Court considers that such a delay in the conduct of the hearing could have been minimised. However, in two other instances it took the District Court less than a year to decide the case. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan considered the case on appeal within the two month time-limit on each occasion.
The Court recalls that a delay at some stage may be tolerated if the overall duration of the proceedings cannot be deemed excessive (see, for example, Pretto and Others v. Italy, judgment of 8 December 1983, Series A no. 71, p. 16, § 37).
The foregoing considerations lead the Court to conclude, having regard to what was at stake for the applicant, that the total duration of the proceedings of four years does not give rise to any appearance of a violation of the reasonable time requirement of Article 6 § 1. It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
2. The applicant next complained that his eviction breached his rights under Article 8 of the Convention, which provides as follows:
“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
The Government submitted in their observations of 17 April 2001 that the complaint, in so far as it concerned events preceding the entry of the Convention into force in respect of Russia, fell outside the Court's competence. In so far as the complaint concerned the proceedings in the case which were reopened by way of a supervisory review initiated by the applicant, it was premature as the proceedings had not come to an end.
The applicant maintained his complaint.
As regards its competence ratione temporis, the Court notes that the applicant was evicted as a result of proceedings which began on 1 August 1997 and ended, after a reopening, on 3 May 2001, i.e. after 5 May 1998 when the Convention entered into force in respect of Russia. However, the Court finds the complaint anyway inadmissible for the following reasons:
The Court observes that the applicant lived in the house in question before his eviction, being its legitimate owner. The house can therefore be regarded as his home for the purposes of Article 8 of the Convention. The ordering of the applicant's eviction by the domestic courts constituted an interference with his right to respect for his home which was based on the domestic law and apparently pursued the aims of the effective use of the town land, in accordance with a zoning plan, and the security of the applicant and others, taking into account the unsuitability of the house for permanent residence. Consequently, the Court considers that the interference pursued legitimate aims in compliance with paragraph 2 of Article 8 of the Convention.
The ordering of the applicant's eviction, by the judgment of the Kirovskiy District Court of Ufa of 26 March 2001 and the decision on the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan of 3 May 2001, was based, in accordance with the zoning plan, on the public need for a hotel complex, the unsuitability of the applicant's house for permanent residence, and the provision of alternative accommodation and compensation. The Court observes that the alternative accommodation, in which the applicant had a protected tenancy, did not worsen his housing situation. Instead, its living space and market value exceeded those of the house. It also observes that the applicant received compensation for the demolished house, the amount of which does not appear manifestly disproportionate. The Court considers that the reasons on which the above court decisions were based were sufficiently persuasive, and that the national authorities acted within the margin of appreciation afforded to them in such matters. The Court concludes that the interference with the applicant's rights under Article 8 of the Convention was proportionate, justifiable and, ultimately, necessary.
It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
3. The applicant also complained that depriving him of his house breached his rights under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, which provides, in so far as relevant, as follows:
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest ...”
The Government's observations were as above.
However, the Court finds, for the same reasons set out above under Article 8 of the Convention, that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must also be rejected pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
4. Lastly, the Court has examined the remainder of the applicant's complaints as submitted by him. However, having regard to all the material in its possession, it finds that these complaints 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 similarly be rejected as being manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares the application inadmissible.
S. Dollé J.-P. Costa
SULTANOV v. RUSSIA DECISION
SULTANOV v. RUSSIA DECISION