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The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
MrV. Zagrebelsky, judges,
and Mr E. Fribergh, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
The case originated in an application
(no. 59498/00) against the
applicant, who had been granted legal aid, was represented before the Court
by Mr N.A. Kravtsov, a lawyer practising in Rostov-on-Don. The
Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent,
Mr P.A. Laptev, Representative of the
3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that the failure to execute final judgments in his favour was incompatible with the Convention.
4. The application was allocated to the First Section of the Court (Rule 52 § 1 of the Rules of Court). Within that Section, the Chamber that would consider the case (Article 27 § 1 of the Convention) was constituted as provided in Rule 26 § 1.
By a decision of
6. The applicant and the Government each filed further evidence (Rule 59 § 1). The Chamber decided, after consulting the parties, that no hearing on the merits was required (Rule 59 § 2 in fine).
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
In 1991, following an expert opinion which established the link between
the applicant's poor health and his involvement in the
In 1997 the applicant brought proceedings against the Shakhty Social Security
Service (Óïðàâëåíèå ñîöèàëüíîé çàùèòû íàñåëåíèÿ ïî ã. Øàõòû) as the compensation
had not been paid. On
In 1999 the applicant brought an action against the Social Security Service
to challenge a reduction in the amount of the monthly payment and to recover
the unpaid compensation. On
Following a complaint by the applicant about the failure to enforce the
Following a decision taken by the Ministry of Finance, on
According to information provided by the social security service on
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
Section 9 of the Federal Law on Enforcement Proceedings of
25. Under section 13 of the Law, the enforcement proceedings should be completed within two months of the receipt of the writ of enforcement by the bailiff.
26. The applicant contended that the substantial and unjustified delays in the execution of the final judgments violated his rights under the Convention. The Court will examine this complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
I. THE APPLICANT'S VICTIM STATUS
According to the Government, the applicant ceased to be a victim of the
alleged breach of the Convention as a result of the payment of the debt
The Government also argued that the
sum of RUR 113,040.38 paid on
Lastly the Government submitted that it was open to the applicant to make a court claim for non-pecuniary damage arising from the failure to enforce the judgments should he wish to do so.
The applicant did not accept this line of reasoning. In his submission,
the penalty imposed by the domestic courts for late payment of his monthly
allowance was substantially lower than it should have been, and since the
sum of RUR 113,040.38 received on 5 March 2001 comprised the judicial awards
made in 1997, 1999 and 2000, it obviously could not include any compensation
for the non-enforcement of the court's decisions between 9 March 2000 (the
date of the last court decision) and 5 March 2001. Furthermore, the judgment
29. According to Article 34 of the Convention, “the Court may receive applications from any person ... claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the High Contracting Parties of the rights set forth in the Convention or the Protocols thereto ...”.
The Court reiterates that it falls first to the national authorities to
redress any alleged violation of the Convention. In this regard, the question
whether or not the applicant can claim to be a victim of the violation
alleged is relevant at all stages of the proceedings under the Convention
(see E. v. Austria, no. 10668/83, Commission decision of
31. The Court further reiterates that a decision or measure favourable to the applicant is not in principle sufficient to deprive him of his status as a “victim” unless the national authorities have acknowledged, either expressly or in substance, and then afforded redress for, the breach of the Convention (see, for example, Amuur v. France, judgment of 25 June 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-III, p. 846, § 36, and Dalban v. Romania [GC], no. 28114/95, § 44, ECHR 1999-VI).
Turning to the facts of the present case, it may be that the applicant has now been paid the outstanding debt in accordance with the judgments of the domestic courts. Nevertheless, the payment, which intervened only after the present application had been communicated to the Government, did not involve any acknowledgment of the violations alleged. Nor did it afford the applicant adequate redress.
32. In these circumstances, the Court considers that the applicant may still claim to be a victim of a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention and of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
II. ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
33. The relevant part of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention provides:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal ...”
The Court reiterates that Article 6 § 1 secures to everyone the right to
have any claim relating to his civil rights and obligations brought before
a court or tribunal; in this way it embodies the “right to a court”, of
which the right of access, that is the right to institute proceedings before
courts in civil matters, constitutes one aspect. However, that right would
be illusory if a
35. It is not open to a State authority to cite lack of funds as an excuse for not honouring a judgment debt. Admittedly, a delay in the execution of a judgment may be justified in particular circumstances. But the delay may not be such as to impair the essence of the right protected under Article 6 § 1 (see Immobiliare Saffi v. Italy [GC], no. 22774/93, § 74, ECHR 1999-V). In the instant case, the applicant should not have been prevented from benefiting from the success of the litigation, which concerned compensation for damage to his health caused by obligatory participation in an emergency operation, on the ground of alleged financial difficulties experienced by the State.
The Court notes that the Shakhty City Court's decisions of
37. By failing for years to take the necessary measures to comply with the final judicial decisions in the present case, the Russian authorities deprived the provisions of Article 6 § 1 of all useful effect.
38. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
III. ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1
39. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 reads as follows:
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”
40. The Court reiterates that a “claim” can constitute a “possession” within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 if it is sufficiently established to be enforceable (see Stran Greek Refineries and Stratis Andreadis v. Greece, judgment of 9 December 1994, Series A no. 301-B, p. 84, § 59).
The Shakhty City Court's decisions of
By failing to comply with the judgments of the Shakhty City Court, the
national authorities prevented the applicant from receiving the money he
could reasonably have expected to receive. The Government have not advanced
any justification for this interference and the Court considers that a
lack of funds cannot justify such an omission (see, mutatis mutandis,
Ambruosi v. Italy, no. 31227/96, §§ 28-34,
42. In sum, there has also been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
IV. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
43. 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.”
44. The Court points out that under Rule 60 of the Rules of the Court, any claim for just satisfaction must be itemised and submitted in writing together with the relevant supporting documents or vouchers, “failing which the [Court] may reject the claim in whole or in part”.
In the instant case, on
46. The Government, while referring to this claim, did not make any specific comment.
47. The Court takes the view that the applicant has suffered some non-pecuniary damage as a result of the violations found which cannot be made good by the Court's mere finding of a violation. The particular amount claimed is, however, excessive. Making its assessment on an equitable basis, as required by Article 41 of the Convention, the Court awards the applicant the sum of 3,000 euros.
B. Default interest
48. According to the information available to the Court, the statutory rate of interest applicable in Russia at the date of adoption of the present judgment is 23% per annum.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that the applicant may claim to be a “victim” for the purposes of Article 34 of the Convention;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
3. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
(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 3,000 (three thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into Russian roubles at the rate applicable at the date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that simple interest at an annual rate of 23% shall be payable from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 7 May 2002, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.