CASE OF BEREZA v. POLAND (European Court of Human Rights) 16988/18

The applicant complained of the excessive length of criminal proceedings and of the lack of any effective remedy in domestic law.


FIRST SECTION
CASE OF BEREZA v. POLAND
(Application no. 16988/18)
JUDGMENT
STRASBOURG
15 December 2022

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

In the case of Bereza v. Poland,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Ivana Jelić, President,
Krzysztof Wojtyczek,
Erik Wennerström, judges,
and Viktoriya Maradudina, Acting Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 24 November 2022,

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

PROCEDURE

1. The case originated in an application against Poland lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on 4 April 2018.

2. The Polish Government (“the Government”) were given notice of the application.

THE FACTS

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

4. The applicant complained of the excessive length of criminal proceedings and of the lack of any effective remedy in domestic law.

THE LAW

I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 AND ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION

5. The applicant complainedthat the length of the criminal proceedings in question had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement and that he had no effective remedy in this connection. He relied on Article 6 § 1 and Article 13 of the Convention, which read as follows:

Article 6 § 1

“In the determination of … any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a … hearing within a reasonable time by [a] … tribunal…”

Article 13

“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.”

6. The Court notes that the Government raised a preliminary objection of abuse of the right of individual application because the applicant’s representative and life partner at the time had been caught carrying a bottle of alcohol when entering the prison where the applicant has been detained. On another occasion the prison authorities suspected that she had been involved in a sexual intercourse with the applicant during a visit. The Court has not been informed by any party whether the alleged incidents resulted in charges against the applicant’s partner.

7. The Court reiterates that an application may only be rejected as anabuseof petition in specific circumstances (see Gross v. Switzerland [GC], no. 67810/10, § 28, ECHR 2014, and Nowak v Poland, no. 60906/16, § 20, 13 October 2022). Having regard to its case-law, the Court finds no grounds on which to hold that the present case was brought in abuse of the right of application within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It follows that the Government’s preliminary objection must be dismissed.

8. 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, among many other authorities, Pélissier and Sassi v. France [GC], no. 25444/94, § 67, ECHR 1999‑II, and Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000‑VII).

9. In the leading case of Rutkowski and Others v. Poland, nos. 72287/10 and 2 others, 7 July 2015, the Court already found a violation in respect of issues similar to those in the present case.

10. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court has not found any fact or argument capable of justifying the overall length of the 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.

11. The Court further notes that the applicant did not have at his disposal an effective remedy in respect of these complaints.

12. These complaints are therefore admissible and disclose a breach of Article 6 § 1 and of Article 13 of the Convention.

II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

13. 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.”

14. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case‑law (see, in particular, Rutkowski and Others, cited above), the Court finds it reasonable to award the sum indicated in the appended table.

15. The Court further 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 application admissible;

2. Holds that this application discloses a breach of Article 6 § 1 and Article 13 of the Convention concerning the excessive length of criminal proceedings and lack of an effective domestic remedy to complain about it;

3. Holds

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

Done in English, and notified in writing on 15 December 2022, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Viktoriya Maradudina                    Ivana Jelić
Acting Deputy Registrar                  President

_________

APPENDIX
Application raising complaints under Article 6 § 1 and Article 13 of the Convention
(excessive length of criminal proceedings and lack of any effective remedy in domestic law)

Application no.

Date of introduction

Applicant’s name

Year of birth

 

Start of proceedings End of proceedings Total length

Levels of jurisdiction

Domestic decision on complaint under
the 2004 Act
Domestic award
(in Polish zlotys)
Amount awarded for non-pecuniary damage and costs and expenses per applicant

(in euros)[1]

16988/18

04/04/2018

Marcin BEREZA

1972

11/08/2006 17/11/2017 11 year(s) and 3 month(s) and 7 day(s)

2 level(s) of jurisdiction

Warsaw Court of Appeal, 11 January 2018, II S 98/17,

PLN 6,000

6,400

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

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