INTRODUCTION. The case concerns excessive length of proceedings.
CASE OF IALTEXGAL AURICA S.A. v. THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA
(Application no. 16000/10)
16 February 2021
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of IaltexgalAurica S.A. v. the Republic of Moldova,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Branko Lubarda, President,
Pauliine Koskelo, judges,
and Hasan Bakırcı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to:
the application (no. 16000/10) against the Republic of Moldova lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a company incorporated in Moldova,IaltexgalAurica S.A. (“the applicant”), on 11 March 2010;
the decision to give notice to the Moldovan Government (“the Government”) of the complaint concerning length of proceedings and to declare inadmissible the remainder of the application;
the parties’ observations;
Having deliberated in private on 26 January 2021,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case concerns excessive length of proceedings.
2. The applicant company was involved in civil proceedings with another company which had started on 28 April 2006 and ended on 3 December 2014. It is not clear from the documents submitted by the parties how many levels of jurisdiction examined the case, but it appears that the first instance court examined it for more than six years.
3. On 20 December 2011 the applicant company initiated proceedings against the Ministry of Finance in accordance with Law No. 87, claiming compensation for excessive length of proceedings.
4. By a final judgment of the Supreme Court of Justice of 18 July 2012, it was found that although the applicant company had been responsible for an important part of the delay, the proceedings which were still pending before the first instance court at that time for over six years had been excessively long and in breach of the applicant’s rights guaranteed by Article 6 of the Convention. The applicant company was awarded compensation in the amount of 5,000 Moldovan lei (MDL) (the equivalent of some 329 Euros (EUR) at the time).
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
5. The applicant complained that the length of the proceedings before the first instance court had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement, laid down in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations …, everyone is entitled to a … hearing within a reasonable time by [a] … tribunal…”
6. The Government submitted that the applicant company had lost its victim status as a result of the courts’ rulings in the proceedings initiated by it under Law No. 87.
7. The Court reiterates that a decision or measure favourable to an applicant is not in principle sufficient to deprive him or her of victim status unless the national authorities have acknowledged, either expressly or in substance, and then afforded redress for, the breach of the Convention (see Amuur v. France, 25 June 1996, § 36, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996‑III).
8. In the instant case it is true that the domestic courts held that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement. That said, the Court finds that the question of the applicant’s victim status as regards the redress for the violation of its rights is inextricably linked to the merits of the complaint. Therefore, it considers that both questions should be joined and examined together.
9. The Court further notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill‑founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. No other ground for declaring it inadmissible has been established. It must therefore be declared admissible.
10. The Government argued that the applicant company lost its victim status after the domestic courts ruled on its Law No. 87 action.
11. The applicant company disagreed.
12. The Court notes that the domestic courts found a breach of Article 6§ 1 of the Convention on account of the excessive length of the proceedings before the first instance court and it sees no reason to disagree with that finding. The Court also notes that the domestic courts awarded the applicant company compensation for non-pecuniary damage and considers that the principal issue is whether the award made was proportionate to the damage suffered by the applicant. It recalls in this latter respect that the level of compensation must not be unreasonable in comparison with the awards made by the Court in similar cases (see Burdov v. Russia (no. 2), no. 33509/04, § 99, ECHR 2009). Where, as in the present case, the victim status and therefore, the existence of a violation, is linked with the monetary redress afforded at domestic level, the Court’s assessment necessarily involves comparison between the actual award and the amount that the Court would award in similar cases (see, mutatis mutandis, Scordino v. Italy (no. 1) [GC], no. 36813/97, § 181, ECHR 2006‑V, and Holzinger v. Austria (no. 1), no. 23459/94, § 21, ECHR 2001‑I).
13. The Court notes that the domestic courts awarded the applicant company the equivalent of EUR 329 in respect of non‑pecuniary damage for a duration of proceedings exceeding six years. This amount is considerably below the amounts awarded by the Court in cases in which it has found a violation of Articles 6 § 1 of the Convention (see, for example, Cravcenco v. Moldova, no. 13012/02, § 70, 15 January 2008) where the Court awarded the applicant EUR 3,000 for excessive length of proceedings of more than nine years.
14. In the light of the foregoing, the Court considers that the applicant company can still claim to be a victim of a violation of Articles 6 § 1 of the Convention. It therefore dismisses the Government’s objection.
15. It also finds that there has been a violation of Articles 6 § 1 of the Convention, which arises from the excessive length of the proceedings.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION
16. In conjunction with the above complaint, the applicant company complained that its right to an effective remedy had been breached. It relied on Article 13 of the Convention, which provides as follows:
“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.”
17. Having regard to the facts of the case, the submissions of the parties and its findings under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the Court considers that it is not necessary to examine either the admissibility or the merits of the complaint under Article 14 (see Kaos‑GL v. Turkey, 450 no. 4982/07, § 65, 22 November 2016; GhiulferPredescu v. Romania, 451 no. 29751/09, § 67, 27 June 2017; Political Party “Patria” and Others v. the Republic of Moldova, nos. 5113/15 and 14 others, § 41, 4 August 2020).
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
18. 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.”
19. The applicant claimed 14,125 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damage and EUR 6,500 for non-pecuniary damage.
20. The Government argued that there was no causal link between the alleged violation and the pecuniary damage claimed. They also argued that the non-pecuniary damage claimed was excessive and asked the Court to dismiss it.
21. The Court does not discern any causal link between the violation found and the pecuniary damage alleged; it therefore rejects this claim. On the other hand, it considers that the applicant company is entitled to non‑pecuniary damage. Taking into consideration the fact that the applicant was already awarded the equivalent of EUR 329 by the domestic courts, the Court awards it EUR 500 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
B. Default interest
22. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the complaint concerning Article 6 § 1 admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
3. Holds that there is no need to examine the admissibility or the merits of the complaint under Article 13 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, EUR 500 (five hundred euros) plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement;
(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;
5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 16 February 2021, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Hasan Bakırcı Branko Lubarda
Deputy Registrar President