CASE OF IOANNOU AND OTHERS v. GREECE
Type de recours : Violation of Article 6 - Right to a fair trial (Article 6 - Civil proceedings ; Article 6-1 - Reasonable time) ; Violation of Article 13 - Right to an effective remedy (Article 13 - Effective remedy)
Numérotation :Numéro d'arrêt : 001-111484
Identifiant URN:LEX : urn:lex;coe;cour.europeenne.droits.homme;arret;2012-06-12;001.111484
Parties :Demandeurs : IOANNOU, Ioanna
CASE OF IOANNOU AND OTHERS v. GREECE
(Application no. 1953/10)
12 June 2012
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Ioannou and Others v. Greece,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Anatoly Kovler, President, Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, Erik Møse, judges,and André Wampach, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 22 May 2012,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 1953/10) against the Hellenic Republic lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by thirty Greek nationals whose names appear in the annex (“the applicants”), on 3 January 2010.
2. The applicants were represented by Ms E. Salamoura and Mr P. Aggelopoulos, lawyers practising in Athens. The Greek Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent’s delegates, Ms K. Paraskevopoulou, Senior Adviser at the State Legal Council, and Ms G. Kotta, Ms M. Vergou and Mr I. Bakopoulos, Legal Assistants at the State Legal Council.
3. On 16 May 2011 the application was communicated to the Government.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
4. The applicants were born on the dates listed in the Annex.
5. The applicants are employed in the General Hospital of Chalkida.
6. On 4 July 2000 they lodged an action against the hospital with the First Instance Administrative Court of Chalkida seeking the payment of a premium to their salary, ranging between 840,000 drachmas (approximately 2,465.15 euros) and 3,360,000 drachmas (approximately 9,860.59 euros), plus interest.
7. On 31 May 2002 a preliminary decision was published asking the applicants to pay the fees required (δικαστικό ένσημο) in order to comply with the procedural rules (decision no. 215/2002).
8. Following the payment of the fees required, the hearing took place on 12 March 2003.
9. On 8 October 2003 another preliminary decision was published asking the applicants to submit supplementary evidence regarding their allegations (judgment no. 570/2002).
10. Subsequently, a hearing took place on 7 June 2006 and by judgment dated 25 June 2007 the First Instance Administrative Court of Chalkida partially accepted their action (judgment no. 305/2007).
11. On 3 November 2007 the hospital lodged an appeal.
12. On 3 July 2009 the Piraeus Administrative Court of Appeal rejected the appeal and upheld the First Instance court’s decision (judgment no. 1321/2009).
13. The applicants were served with the decision on 19 October 2009.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
14. The applicants complained that the length of the proceedings 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...”
15. The Government contested that argument.
16. The period to be taken into consideration began on 4 July 2000 when the applicants lodged their action with the Chalkida First Instance Administrative Court and ended on 3 July 2009, when judgment no. 1321/2009 of the Athens Administrative Court of Appeal was published. They therefore lasted approximately nine years for two levels of jurisdiction.
17. The Court notes that the application is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
18. 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 applicants and the relevant authorities and what was at stake for the applicants in the dispute (see, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII).
19. The Court has frequently found violations of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in cases raising issues similar to the one in the present case (see Frydlender, cited above).
20. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court considers that there were repeated procedural delays over the entire course of the proceedings. As far as the applicants’ conduct is concerned, the Court notes that more than nine months of the total length of the proceedings before the national courts are attributable to them as they did not pay in time the fees required (δικαστικό ένσημο) in order to comply with the procedural rules. Due to their inaction, a preliminary decision asking them to pay the fees was issued on 31 May 2002 (decision no. 215/2002) and following their payment the hearing took place on 12 March 2003. However, the Court does not find that it was the applicants’ conduct alone which contributed to the prolonged length of the proceedings. On the contrary, the Court is of the opinion that the actual length of the proceedings - which was more than eight years - without taking into account the applicants’ delay, remains excessive. In particular, it is noted that the duration of the proceedings when the case was pending before the First Instance Administrative Court of Chalkida - which lasted for almost seven years - was at least in part attributable to the national courts. Their handling of the case did not facilitate its timely completion. In the Court’s opinion, the length of the proceedings can only be explained by the failure of the domestic courts to deal with the case diligently (see Gümüÿten v. Turkey, no. 47116/99, §§ 24-26, 30 November 2004).
21. Thus, in the light of the criteria laid down in its case-law and having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the Court considers that the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement.
There has accordingly been a breach of Article 6 § 1.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION
22. The applicants further complained of the fact that in Greece there was no court to which application could be made to complain of the excessive length of proceedings. They 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.”
23. The Government contested that argument.
24. The Court notes that this complaint is linked to the one examined above and must therefore likewise be declared admissible.
25. The Court reiterates that Article 13 guarantees an effective remedy before a national authority for an alleged breach of the requirement under Article 6 § 1 to hear a case within a reasonable time (see Kudła v. Poland [GC], no. 30210/96, § 156, ECHR 2000-XI). It notes that the objections and arguments put forward by the Government have been rejected in earlier cases (see Konti-Arvaniti v. Greece, no. 53401/99, §§ 29-30, 10 April 2003 and Tsoukalas v. Greece, no. 12286/08, §§ 37-43, 22 July 2010).
26. Τhe Court observes that on 12 March 2012 law no. 4055/1012 was published concerning the fairness and reasonable length of the judicial proceedings, which entered into force on 2 April 2012. According to articles 53 ff. of the abovementioned law, a new remedy is provided for the excessive length at each stage of proceedings in administrative cases within six months from the date of publication of the decision in question. It is further noted, however, that the new law has no retroactive effect. As a consequence, no remedy is provided for cases already completed six months before the law entered into force.
27. In the present case, the proceedings were concluded on 3 July 2009, thus more than six months prior the enactment of law no. 4055/2012. Accordingly, the Court considers that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention on account of the lack of a remedy under domestic law at the material time, whereby the applicant could have obtained a ruling upholding his right to have his case heard within a reasonable time, as set forth in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
28. 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.”
29. The applicants claimed 30,000 euros (EUR) each in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
30. The Government considered the amount claimed exorbitant and submitted that the finding of a violation would constitute sufficient just satisfaction.
31. The Court considers that the applicants must have sustained non-pecuniary damage. Ruling on an equitable basis, it awards the amount of EUR 3,000 to each applicant for non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable on this amounts.
B. Costs and expenses
32. The applicants claimed EUR 1,845 jointly for the costs and expenses incurred before the Court. They produced two bills of costs of EUR 922.50 each one, on behalf of their two legal counsels.
33. The Government contested this claim and submitted that the amount claimed was not reasonable.
34. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case-law, the Court considers it reasonable to award the applicants jointly the sum of EUR 1,000 plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants.
C. Default interest
35. 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 application admissible;
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 13 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months, the following amounts:
(i) EUR 3,000 (three thousand euros) to each applicant, plus any tax that may be chargeable on this amount, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(iii) EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros) jointly to the applicants, plus any tax that may be chargeable to them, in respect of costs and expenses;
(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;
5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 12 June 2012, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
André Wampach Anatoly Kovler Deputy Registrar President
1. Ioanna IOANNOU, born in 1968
2. Irini KOURPADAKI, born in 1969
3. Aikaterini KOSTAROU, born in 1968
4. Aikaterini PANTAZI, born in 1970
5. Ioannis MOUTSATSOS, born in 1966
6. Evridiki DELIGIORGI, born in 1959
7. Vassiliki NOULA, born in 1966
8. Evaggelia CHOULIARA, born in 1967
9. Vassiliki RAZOU-THEMELI, born in 1956
10. Efdokia MATALIOTAKI, born in 1946
11. Paraskevoula KARVELI, born in 1967
12. Argyro TSAROUCHA, born in 1967
13. Aikaterini KARAMANOU, born in 1963
14. Sophia CHAÏNA, born in 1967
15. Maria BARSAKI, born in 1964
16. Zoï DIMITRIOU, born in 1966
17. Aliki KOUTSIKOU, born in 1968
18. Xanthi PATRIKA, born in 1962
19. Theodora PAPA, born in 1954
20. Eftychia KOUSERI, born in 1961
21. Maria KARAGIANNI, born in 1963
22. Maria KARATZIDI, born in 1959
23. Irini PARASCHOU, born in 1961
24. Eftychia AVLONITOU, born in 1961
25. Sotiria DEGIANNI, born in 1952
26. Stavroula KYRIMI, born in 1964
27. Vassiliki MALAGA, born in 1960
28. Georgia TSOBANAKOU, born in 1968
29. Sophia NIKOLAOU, born in 1960
30. Theodora MAGZALTSIDOU, born in 1962
Origine de la décision
Juridiction : Cour européenne des droits de l'homme
Date de la décision : 12/06/2012