Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of European Court of Human Rights, November 09, 2010 (case CASE OF FARHAD ALIYEV v. AZERBAIJAN)

Defense:Azerbaijan
Resolution Date:November 09, 2010
 
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FOURTH SECTION

CASE OF KRYSTYNA MISIAK AND JAN MISIAK v. POLAND

(Application no. 31193/04)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

9 November 2010

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Krystyna Misiak and Jan Misiak v. Poland,

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Nicolas Bratza, President,

Lech Garlicki,

Ljiljana Mijović,

Päivi Hirvelä,

Ledi Bianku,

Nebojša Vučinić,

Vincent Anthony de Gaetano, judges,

and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 20 October 2010,

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

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in an application (no. 31193/04) against the Republic of Poland lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by two Polish nationals, Mrs Krystyna Misiak and Mr Jan Misiak ("the applicants"), on 29 July 2004.

  2. The Polish Government ("the Government") were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  3. On 30 March 2007 the President of the Fourth Section decided to give notice of the application to the Government. It was further decided to rule on the admissibility and merits of the application at the same time (Article 29 § 1). The President also gave priority to the application, pursuant to Rule 41 of the Rules of the Court.

    THE FACTS

    1. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

  4. The applicants, Mrs Krystyna Misiak ("the first applicant") and Jan Misiak ("the second applicant") were a married couple. They were born in 1925 and 1923 respectively and lived in Staszów. The second applicant died on 1 March 2006. By letters of 14 September and 19 November 2007 the first applicant informed the Court of the identity of the second applicant's heirs, Ms Marta Misiak, Ms Teresa Macias, Ms Anna Wójcikowska and Mr Stanisław Misiak. They expressed a wish to continue the application in the second applicant's stead.

    1. Civil proceedings for the division of inheritance and dissolution of co-ownership ("the first set of civil proceedings")

  5. Facts before 1 May 1993

  6. On 20 January 1980 the applicants brought an action for the division of an inheritance with the Staszów District Court (Sąd Rejonowy).

  7. Between 12 September 1981 and 7 January 1983 the court held ten hearings in the proceedings.

  8. On 31 August 1983 the Staszów District Court stayed the proceedings. They were resumed on an unknown date in 1984.

  9. On 17 October 1986 the applicants challenged the impartiality of the judge dealing with the case. The challenge was dismissed as unfounded by the Staszów District Court on 3 February 1987.

  10. On 14 January 1992 the court stayed the proceedings.

  11. On 22 March 1992 an expert who had been called to give an opinion informed the court that he had not been admitted to the applicant's property. On 1 October 1992 another expert submitted his opinion.

  12. Facts after 1 May 1993

  13. On 22 April 1997 the applicants asked the court to resume the proceedings.

  14. On 30 June 1997 the proceedings were resumed.

  15. By a decision of 11 July 1997 the Staszów District Court discontinued the proceedings because no motion for the resumption of the proceedings had been lodged within a period of three years. On 5 February 2000 the applicants lodged an interlocutory appeal against this decision.

  16. By a decision of 25 April 2000 the District Court rejected the interlocutory appeal, as lodged outside the prescribed time-limit.

  17. On 16 August 2000 the Tarnobrzeg Regional Court (Sąd Okręgowy) quashed the above-mentioned decision and remitted the case.

  18. On 25 October 2000 the Regional Court quashed the decision of 11 July 1997.

  19. On 13 February 2001 the proceedings were stayed because the applicants had failed to comply with a court order to submit necessary documents.

  20. On 6 March 2001 the court dismissed the applicants' motion to resume the proceedings.

  21. On 27 May 2001 the applicants complained to the President of the District Court about the delay in the proceedings. On 29 June 2001 the President of the District Court informed them that he had already instructed the judge dealing with the case to proceed promptly with the trial.

  22. The proceedings were resumed on an unspecified date in August 2001.

  23. Between 12 October 2001 and 6 March 2002 the court scheduled five hearings, two of which were adjourned.

  24. On 8 April 2002 the Staszów District Court gave a preliminary decision (postanowienie wstępne) by which it declared that the applicants had acquired the ownership of the real estate at issue by positive prescription as of 2 June 1978.

  25. A further hearing was held on 18 June 2002.

  26. On 22 November 2002 the proceedings were stayed due to the death of one of the parties.

  27. In the meantime the case file was referred to the Kielce Regional Court and later to the Kraków Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny), before which the applicants' claim for damages has been examined (see paragraphs 45-63 below).

  28. The proceedings are still pending.

    1. Proceedings under the 2004 Act

  29. On 13 July 2005 the applicants lodged a complaint about a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time in respect of the first set of civil proceedings and sought damages. They relied on the Law of 17 June 2004 on complaints about a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time (Ustawa o skardze na naruszenie prawa strony do rozpoznania sprawy w postępowaniu sądowym bez nieuzasadnionej zwłoki - "the 2004 Act").

  30. On 7 October 2005 the Kielce Regional Court (Sąd Okręgowy) dismissed the complaint. The court acknowledged the excessive length of the proceedings as a whole. However, it held that the 2004 Act only produced legal effects as from the date of its entry into force (17 September 2004). Consequently, it examined the applicants' claim only in respect of the last two years of the proceedings. The court found that during the relevant part of the proceedings, there had been no inactivity or undue delay on the part of the domestic court. It was emphasised that the proceedings were stayed because of the death of one of the parties and that they could not have been continued due to events beyond the trial court's control.

    1. Civil proceedings for delivery of property ("the second set of civil proceedings")

  31. On 12 January 1994 the applicants lodged a claim with the Staszów District Court, requesting delivery of a property.

  32. Hearings were held on 23 February and 23 March 1994.

  33. On 13 April 1994 the proceedings were stayed.

  34. By a decision of 28 September 1998 the court discontinued the proceedings. It held that a period of three years had elapsed and that the parties had not lodged a motion for the resumption of the proceedings in the interim.

  35. On 6 October 1998 the applicants appealed. They argued that they had lodged a motion for the resumption of the proceedings on 22 December 1997.

  36. On 20 October 1998 the court quashed the decision of 28 September and resumed the proceedings.

  37. On 12 November 1998 a hearing was held.

  38. On 22 April 1999 the proceedings were stayed upon the applicants' motion.

  39. On 18 April 2002 the applicants lodged a motion for the proceedings to be resumed. It was dismissed on 10 May 2002.

  40. On 3 September 2002 the applicants again sought the resumption of the proceedings. They were resumed on 24 September 2002.

  41. On 16 October 2002 a further hearing was held in the case.

  42. On 7 November 2002 the court ordered that an expert's opinion was to be obtained.

  43. On 4 December 2002 the expert submitted his opinion.

  44. On 27 February 2003 the Staszów District Court delivered a judgment, allowing the applicants' claim.

  45. On 17 June 2003 the defendant lodged his appeal together with a motion for retrospective leave to appeal. On 27 August 2003 the Staszów District Court dismissed the motion and rejected the appeal.

  46. The defendant lodged an interlocutory appeal which was dismissed by the Kielce Regional Court on 9 March 2004.

    1. Claim for damages under the 2004 Act

  47. On 11 July 2005 the applicants lodged a claim for damages under section 16 of the 2004 Act read in conjunction with Article 417 of the Polish Civil Code.

  48. On 13 September 2005 the Kielce Regional Court found itself not competent to deal with the case and referred it to the Staszów District Court.

  49. On 24 October 2005 the case was transferred back to the Regional Court, as all the judges from the District Court had requested to be disqualified from dealing with the case.

  50. On an unspecified date the case was referred to the Opatów District Court.

  51. By letter of 14 December 2005 the applicants specified that their claim for damages concerned the length of both sets of civil proceedings - the proceedings for division of inheritance and the proceedings for delivery of property.

  52. By a decision of 28 December 2005 the Opatów District Court exempted the applicants from payment of the court fees.

  53. On 1 February 2006 the President of the Staszów District Court lodged his reply to the applicants' statement of claim.

  54. On 17 February 2006 a hearing was held. It was adjourned in order to appoint a legal aid lawyer.

  55. On 28 April 2006 the court stayed the proceedings as the second applicant had died. On 15 May 2006 the proceedings were resumed with the participation of the second applicant's heirs.

  56. On 13 June 2006 and 3 August 2006 the court held further hearings.

  57. On 31 August 2006 the value of the statement of claim was further extended and a claim for non-pecuniary damage was introduced. The applicants thereafter claimed damages in respect of the first set of civil proceedings only.

  58. At the hearing held on 17 October 2006 the Opatów District Court found that it no longer had competence to deal with the case, as the value of the claim had been increased. The case was referred to the Kielce Regional Court.

  59. On 13 December 2006 a hearing was...

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