Application no. 65419/01
by Jozef DOBIÁŠ, Ľuboš DOBIÁŠ and Margita DOBIÁŠOVÁ
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 11 July 2006 as a Chamber composed of:
Sir Nicolas Bratza, President,
Mr J. Casadevall,
Mr G. Bonello,
Mr M. Pellonpää,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr S. Pavlovschi,
Mr J. Šikuta, judges,
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 17 November 2000,
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 formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The first applicant, Mr Ľuboš Dobiáš, was born in 1977. He is the son of Mr Jozef Dobiáš (the second applicant) and Mrs Margita Dobiášová (the third applicant) who were born in 1949 and in 1950 respectively. The applicants are Slovakian nationals and live in Partizánske. They were represented before the Court by Ms Z. Kupcová, a lawyer practising in Bratislava.
The respondent Government were represented by Mrs A. Poláčková, their Agent.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
1. Background to the case
In 1997 the first applicant was shot in the head in a café. The shot was fired by a waiter during an altercation in which the applicant was not involved. As a result of the injury the applicant is irreversibly blind.
In a penal order issued on 19 September 1997 the waiter was convicted of two offences and a conditional sentence was imposed on him. The first applicant was referred to a civil court regarding his claim for damages.
All three applicants claimed compensation for damage. On 28 May 1999 the District Court in Partizánske ordered the waiter and his employer to pay specific sums of money to the applicants. On 16 February 2000 the Regional Court in Trenčín upheld the first-instance judgment. The decision became final on 3 May 2000 and enforceable on 3 August 2000. The employer paid the applicants approximately 15% of the sum, as ordered by the courts.
On 22 May 2000 the waiter donated to his mother property which he owned. The donee transferred that property to another person on 22 September 2000.
2. Proceedings on applicants’ action of 31 August 2000
On 31 August 2000 the applicants challenged before the District Court in Partizánske the donation contract under which the waiter had transferred property to his mother.
In the course of September and October 2000 the applicants submitted further information at the court’s request and paid the court fee.
On 27 November 2000 the defendant filed her submissions on the case.
On 25 January 2001 the defendant challenged the judge hearing the case. The hearing scheduled for 1 February 2001 was adjourned.
In February 2001 the judge unsuccessfully attempted to hear the defendant. In April 2001 the District Court judges submitted comments on the defendant’s request. On 24 May 2001 the Regional Court in Trenčín dismissed the defendant’s request for exclusion of the District Court judge from the proceedings. This decision became final on 7 July 2001.
On 11 July 2001 the defendant excused herself from a hearing scheduled for 12 July 2001. The case was adjourned. On the same day the defendant filed an appeal on points of law against the Regional Court’s decision of 24 May 2001.
At the District Court’s request of 14 August 2002 the defendant submitted on 30 August 2002 the reasons for her appeal on points of law. The file was submitted to the Supreme Court on 16 September 2002. On 17 December 2002 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on points of law. The file was returned to the District Court on 23 January 2003.
On 19 August 2003 the defendant informed the court that health problems prevented her from attending the hearing on 21 August 2003. The court held a hearing in the defendant’s absence.
In the course of August and September 2003 the District Court obtained further evidence.
On 24 September 2003 the defendant again challenged the participation of the judge in the proceedings. On 25 September 2003 the case was adjourned in response to that challenge.
On 26 September 2003 the applicants extended their action in that they also sued the partner of the person to whom the defendant had transferred the property in September 2000.
On 19 May 2004 the District Court submitted the request for exclusion of one of its judges to the Regional Court. The latter court dismissed the request on 14 June 2004.
With effect from 1 January 2005 the cases pending before the Partizánske District Court were transferred to the District Court in Topoľčany in the context of the reorganisation of the judiciary in Slovakia.
On 26 January 2005 the District Court obtained further documentary evidence.
On 3 January 2006 the District Court granted another person leave to join the proceedings as a defendant. It also allowed the request for an extension of the applicants’ claim. On 24 June 2006 one of the defendants appealed.
The proceedings are pending before the court of appeal.
3. Execution proceedings
On 28 September 2000 the applicants requested an executions officer to enforce the sums which the waiter had been ordered to pay under the Partizánske District Court’s judgment of 28 May 1999.
On 5 October 2000 the District Court authorised the officer to carry out the execution.
As the notification of the execution could not be served on the debtor, on 1 December 2000 the executions officer asked several authorities for assistance.
On 11 December 2000 the debtor informed the executions officer that he was unemployed and indigent. The debtor undertook to pay the sum in issue in instalments.
On 15 June 2001 the executions officer proposed that the police should withhold the passport of the debtor as he had failed to pay the instalments and was supposed to be looking for work abroad.
On 3 September 2001 the Social Insurance Administration informed the executions officer of the name of the debtor’s employer.
On 24 September 2001 the executions officer ordered the employer to withhold a part of the debtor’s salary. The order was served on the debtor on 5 November 2001 and on his employer on 7 November 2001.
On 20 February 2003 the executions officer returned the authority to carry out the execution to the District Court.
On 6 March 2003 a different execution officer was authorised to proceed with the execution.
On 11 December 2003 the executions officer in charge of the case was removed from her function at her own request. Another officer was appointed as her substitute with effect from 31 December 2003.
On 31 March 2004 and in the course of April 2004 the executions officer took several steps with a view to clarifying the position and enforcing the sum in issue.
The applicants submitted that their request for execution could not be processed effectively prior to the determination of their civil action of 31 August 2000 as the debtor had transferred all his property to other persons and had stopped working.
4. Constitutional proceedings
On 6 May 2004 the applicants filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court. They alleged a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention and of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
On 27 October 2004 the Constitutional Court found that the District Court in Partizánske had violated the applicants’ right to a hearing within a reasonable time in both sets of proceedings. It ordered the District Court to deal with the cases without further delays and granted SKK 40,000 (the equivalent of approximately EUR 1,000) to each of the applicants by way of just satisfaction for the violation found.
The applicants complained about the excessive length of both the civil and the execution proceedings. They alleged that they were prevented from peacefully enjoying their possessions. The applicants invoked Articles 6, 13, 14 and 17 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
On 23 May 2006 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicants’ representative:
“We, Ľuboš Dobiáš, Jozef Dobiáš and Mária Dobiášová, the applicants, note that the Government of the Slovak Republic are prepared to pay us the global sum of 6,000 (six thousand) euros with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, will be converted into Slovakian korunas at the rate applicable on the date of payment and free of any taxes that may be applicable. It will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. From the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.
We accept the proposal and waive any further claims against Slovakia in respect of the facts giving rise to this application. We declare that this constitutes a final resolution of the case. ”
On 24 May 2006 the Court received the following declaration signed by the Agent of the Government:
“I, Alena Poláčková, Agent of the Government of the Slovak Republic, declare that the Government of the Slovak Republic offer to pay the global sum of 6,000 (six thousand) euros to the applicants with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, will be converted into Slovakian korunas at the rate applicable on the date of payment and free of any taxes that may be applicable. It will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 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. The payment will constitute the final resolution of the case.”
The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols and finds no reasons to justify a continued examination of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention). Accordingly, Article 29 § 3 of the Convention should no longer apply to the case and it should be struck out of the list.
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.
T.L. Early Nicolas Bratza
DOBIÁŠ v. SLOVAKIA DECISION
DOBIÁŠ v. SLOVAKIA DECISION