ПОСТАНОВЛЕНИЕ Европейского суда по правам человека от 11.02.2003"ДЕЛО "БУКОВСКИ (bukowski) ПРОТИВ ПОЛЬШИ" [рус., англ.]

on the assessment of his loss.
28. On 2 November 1998 he submitted his comments on the value of certain construction works, as assessed by K.S. He further asked the court to proceed with his case and to give "any ruling terminating the proceedings that have so far lasted 13 years".
29. On 26 November 1998 the applicant again asked the court to give a ruling.
30. The next hearing took place on 8 February 1999. The court heard evidence from K.S. and adjourned the proceedings to enable the expert to prepare a supplementary report.
31. At the hearing held on 26 April 1999, the court ordered K.S. to prepare yet another supplementary report.
32. Subsequent hearings were held on 25 August and 22 November 1999. The court heard evidence from the expert and, on 22 November 1999, once again ordered the applicant to specify his claims.
On 10 January 2000 the applicant informed the court in writing that he had already specified his claims on three occasions.
33. On 15 May 2000 the court held a hearing, but then adjourned the proceedings sine die.
The next hearings were listed for 10 April and 5 July 2001 and, subsequently, for 14 February and 14 May 2002.
34. In the light of the material before the Court, it appears that the proceedings are still pending in the court of first instance.
THE LAW
I. Alleged violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
35. The applicant complained that his claim for damages had not been determined within a "reasonable time". He alleged a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention which, in its relevant part, reads:
"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations..., everyone is entitled to a... hearing within a reasonable time by [a]... tribunal..."
A. The parties submissions
1. The applicant
36. The applicant maintained that the length of the proceedings in his case, which had already exceeded 16 years, was manifestly incompatible with the requirement of "reasonable time" laid down in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
It was true, he added, that the period that had occurred before 1 May 1993 lay outside the Court"s jurisdiction ratione temporis. Yet during the subsequent more than 9 years the authorities had not made any significant progress in the proceedings which, as 16 years ago, were still pending before the first-instance court.
37. In the applicant"s submission, the issues involved in the determination of his claim were not complicated. The case concerned an ordinary claim for damages based on undisputed facts and the only disputable question to be determined was the loss he had sustained. Such matters, however, were normally for the trial court to determine.
The applicant further argued that the fact that the Regional Court needed to obtain expert evidence had not made the case difficult. He considered that it was only natural that courts referred to experts in cases where the resolution of the claim depended on special knowledge.
38. The applicant admitted that he had several times challenged the expert reports. But, he asserted, he had simply used his procedural rights for good cause because those reports had been incorrect. That had not delayed the proceedings substantially.
In his opinion, the manner in which the Regional Court had handled the case and, especially, had obtained evidence, was the principal cause of delay. In that connection, the applicant stressed that, under Article 6, the courts were responsible for supervising experts" work. This supervision extended to the accuracy, consistency and fairness of experts" findings. It had been for the Regional Court to rule on his claim, despite the fact that the expert reports had been contradictory.
The applicant concluded that Article 6 § 1 had been violated.
2. The Government
39. The Government submitted that the applicant"s case involved complicated issues of fact and law. Moreover, the Regional Court had needed to obtain 6 expert reports in order to ascertain the value of the claim. The process of taking evidence had been complex because the experts had been in disagreement as to the value of the loss sustained by the applicant and, in addition, the applicant had repeatedly contested their reports.
40. The Government further maintained that the authorities had shown due diligence in dealing with the applicant"s case. They nevertheless admitted that there had been some delays that might be attributed to the conduct of the Regional Court. For instance, on certain occasions it had adjourned hearings without a further date having been fixed. It was also true that, in order to accelerate the process of obtaining evidence, the court could have supervised better the conduct of the parties.
41. Yet, in the Government"s opinion, the procrastination in the proceedings had at least partly been caused by the applicant"s behaviour. In particular, he had made numerous complaints about the length of the trial. That, in turn, had resulted in the case-file having been many times sent to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. According to the Government, the resultant hold-up in the proceedings amounted to 5 months.
42. The Government accepted that it was incumbent on the State to organise its legal system so as to allow the courts to comply with the requirements of Article 6 § 1, including the right to have a hearing within a reasonable time. Yet, in their submission, the authorities had discharged that duty in the present case by increasing gradually, that is to say from 1993 up to the present, the budgetary spending on the judiciary and, especially, on the Warsaw Regional Court, which was the most overburdened court in Poland.
In sum, the Government invited the Court to find that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
B. The Court"s assessment
1. Period to be taken into consideration
43. The Court observes that the proceedings in question began on 15 March 1986 and, according to the information available to the Court, are still pending in the Warsaw Regional Court. They have therefore already lasted 16 years and 10 months (see paragraphs 9 and 34 above).
However, since the Court"s jurisdiction ratione temporis in respect of Poland covers only the facts and decisions subsequent to 1 May 1993, the Court may take into consideration only the period of 9 years, 8 months and 20 days occurring after that date. It may, however, have regard to the stage in the proceedings reached on that date (see, for instance, Humen v. Poland [GC], no. 26614/95, 15 October 1999, § 59, unreported).
2. Compliance with the "reasonable time" requirement
44. The Court will assess the reasonableness of the length of the proceedings 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 (see, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII; and Humen v. Poland cited above, § 60).
45. In the present case the Government first relied on the complexity of the case and, especially, on the difficulty involved in the process of obtaining expert evidence. In the applicant"s submission, the contradictions between experts had not made the case difficult because such matters were normally for the court to resolve (see paragraphs 37 and 39 above).
46. The Court accepts that in the present case the need to take expert evidence on several occasions could have complicated the procedure to some, although not a high, degree. It also accepts that the fact that the applicant repeatedly challenged the expert reports could have caused a certain delay (see paragraphs 12, 27 - 28 and 38 above). However, those factors cannot justify the total, significant length of the proceedings and several, considerable periods of inactivity on the part of the Warsaw Regional Court.
47. In that regard, the Court observes that from 29 September 1993 to 4 October 1995, that is to say for more than 2 years, no hearing was held (see paragraphs 12 - 17 above). Subsequently, the court adjourned the proceedings for about 1 year lasting from 6 March 1996 to 26 May 1997 (see paragraphs 19 - 22 above). It again adjourned them for a similarly long period between May 2000 and April 2001 (see paragraph 33 above). Those successive gaps in the procedure resulted in a total delay of some 4 years.
48. On the material before it, the Court finds no convincing justification for that delay. Nor is it satisfied that the steps taken by the State in order to remedy the situation in the Warsaw Regional Court (see paragraph 42 above) have so far accelerated the proceedings in the applicant"s case.
49. In view of the foregoing, the Court concludes that the relevant authorities have failed to respect the applicant"s right to have a hearing within a "reasonable time".
There has accordingly been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
II. Application of Article 41 of the Convention
50. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
"If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party."
A. Damage
51. The applicant asked the Court to award him 150,000 Polish zlotys (PLN) for both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage caused by the protracted length of the proceedings in his case.
52. The Government considered that the amount claimed was inordinately excessive. They asked the Court to rule that the finding of a violation would constitute in itself sufficient just satisfaction. In the alternative, they invited the Court to make an award of just satisfaction on the basis of its case-law in similar cases and national economic circumstances.
53. The Court"s conclusion, on the material before it, is that the applicant has failed to demonstrate that he sustained any pecuniary damage on account of the length of the litigation in which he has been involved.
54. However, the Court accepts that the applicant has certainly suffered non-pecuniary damage, such as distress and frustration resulting from the undue prolongation of the proceedings. Making its assessment on an equitable basis, the Court awards the applicant 8,000 euros under this head.
B. Costs and expenses
55. The applicant did not submit any separate claim for costs and expenses involved in the proceedings before the Court.
C. Default interest
56. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points (see Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 28957/95, § 124, to be published in ECHR 2002 -...)
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
2. Holds
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final according to Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 8,000 (eight thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that 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;
3. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant"s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 11 February 2003, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Nicolas BRATZA
President
{Francoise} ELENS-PASSOS
Deputy Registrar

ПОСТАНОВЛЕНИЕ Европейского суда по правам человека от 11.02.2003"ДЕЛО "ХАММЕРН (hammern) ПРОТИВ НОРВЕГИИ" [рус., англ.]  »
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