CASE OF PETER v. SLOVAKIA (European Court of Human Rights) Application no. 14112/21

FIRST SECTION
CASE OF PETER v. SLOVAKIA
(Application no. 14112/21)
JUDGMENT
STRASBOURG
2 December 2021

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Peter v. Slovakia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Erik Wennerström, President,
Lorraine Schembri Orland,
Ioannis Ktistakis, judges,
and Viktoriya Maradudina, Acting Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 10 November 2021,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

1. The case originated in an application against Slovakia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on 27 February 2021.

2. The applicant, a Slovak national, was represented by Ms G. Kľačanová, a lawyer practising in Martin.

3. The Government of the Slovak Republic (“the Government”) were given notice of the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention concerning the excessive length of civil proceedings before the first‑instance court.

THE FACTS

4. The applicant’s details and information relevant to the application are set out in the appended table.

5. The applicant complained of the excessive length of civil proceedings before the first-instance court, which concerned his action seeking to declare null and void a certain contract of lien. The impugned period started on 10 June 2015 when the action was lodged and ended on 18 June 2020 when the first-instance court adopted its supplementary judgment on the merits.

6. On 20 August 2020 the Constitutional Court dismissed the applicant’s complaint as manifestly ill-founded. It found that the case was somewhat complex as it involved several defendants whose whereabouts were unknown, required an expert examination and encompassed a set of proceedings on an interim measure, closely linked to the merits of the dispute. In its view, the length of the proceedings was to a certain extent influenced by the applicant’s lawyer and, although there had been a change to the deciding single judge, it had not had a substantial impact on the length. Thus, the Constitutional Court concluded that the delays had not qualified as a breach of the reasonable time requirement.

7. The civil proceedings in question further continued before the court of appeal and subsequently before the Supreme Court, where they are still pending.

THE LAW

I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION

8. The applicant complained that the length of the civil proceedings before the first-instance court had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement. He relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which reads as follows:

Article 6 § 1

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations … everyone is entitled to a … hearing within a reasonable time by [a] … tribunal …”

9. The Government considered the complaint manifestly ill-founded.

10. 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 following criteria: the complexity of the case, the conduct of the applicant and the relevant authorities and what was at stake for the applicant in the dispute (see Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII).

11. The period to be examined started on 10 June 2015 and ended on 18 June 2020. It thus lasted some five years before one level of jurisdiction.

12. In the leading case of Obluk v. Slovakia (no. 69484/01, 20 September 2006), where the examined length was three years and some eight months for one level of jurisdiction, the Court has already found a violation in respect of issues similar to those in the present case.

13. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court has not found any fact or argument capable of justifying the length of the impugned proceedings at the national level. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that in the instant case the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement.

14. These complaints are therefore admissible and disclose a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

15. 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.”

16. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case‑law (see, in particular, Obluk (cited above)), the Court considers it reasonable to award the sums indicated in the appended table.

17. The Court finds 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 under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention concerning the excessive length of civil proceedings before the first-instance court admissible;

2. Holds that there has been a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention concerning the excessive length of civil proceedings before the first‑instance court;

3. Holds

(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, the amounts indicated in the appended table;

(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 2 December 2021, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Viktoriya Maradudina                              Erik Wennerström
Acting Deputy Registrar                                President

____________

APPENDIX
Application raising complaints under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
(excessive length of civil proceedings)

Application no.

Date of introduction

Applicant’s name

Year of birth

Representative’s name and location Start of proceedings End of proceedings Total length

Levels of jurisdiction

Domestic court

File number

Domestic award

(in euros)

Amount awarded for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage per applicant

(in euros)[1]

Amount awarded for costs and expenses per application

(in euros)[2]

14112/21

27/02/2021

Ivan PETER

1966

Gabriela Kľačanová

Martin

10/06/2015

 

18/06/2020

 

5 years and 9 days

1 level of jurisdiction

Constitutional Court

I. US 375/2020

0

3,300 250

[1] Plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant.

[2] Plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant.

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