CourtChamber (European Court of Human Rights)
Date13 May 1980
Application Number6694/74
Respondent StateItalia
Official Gazette PublicationA37
Applied Rules35;35-1;35-3;6;6-3-c;6-1;41
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(Application no. 6694/74)



13 May 1980

In the Artico case,

The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") and the relevant provisions of the Rules of Court, as a Chamber composed of the following judges:

Mr. G. WIARDA, President,







and also Mr. M.-A. EISSEN, Registrar, and Mr. H. PETZOLD, Deputy Registrar,

Having deliberated in privated on 1 February and 30 April 1980,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:


1. The Artico case was referred to the Court by the European Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission"). The case originated in an application against the Republic of Italy lodged with the Commission on 26 April 1974 under Article 25 (art. 25) of the Convention by an Italian national, Mr. Ettore Artico.

2. The Commission’s request, to which was attached the report provided for under Article 31 (art. 31) of the Convention, was lodged with the registry on 11 May 1979, within the period of three months laid down by Articles 32 par. 1 and 47 (art. 32-1, art. 47). The request referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration made by the Republic of Italy recognising the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46). The purpose of the Commission’s request is to obtain a decision from the Court as to whether or not the facts of the case disclose a breach by the respondent State of its obligations under Article 6 par. 3 (c) (art. 6-3-c).

3. The Chamber of seven judges to be constituted included, as ex officio members, Mr. G. Balladore Pallieri, the elected judge of Italian nationality (Article 43 of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr. G. Wiarda, the Vice-President of the Court (Rule 21 par. 3 (b) of the Rules of Court). On 17 May 1979, the Vice-President drew by lot, at the request of the President and in the presence of the Deputy Registrar, the names of the five other members, namely Mr. M. Zekia, Mrs. D. Bindschedler-Robert, Mr. L. Liesch, Mr. F. Gölcüklü and Mr. J. Pinheiro Farinha (Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21 par. 4) (art. 43).

4. Mr. Wiarda assumed the office of President of the Chamber (Rule 21 par. 5). He ascertained, through the Deputy Registrar, the views of the Agent of the Government of Italy ("the Government") and the Delegates of the Commission regarding the procedure to be followed. On 6 June 1979, he decided that the Agent should have until 7 November 1979 to file a memorial and that the Delegates should be entitled to file a memorial in reply within two months from the date of the transmission of the Government’s memorial to them by the Registrar.

The official French text of the Government’s memorial was not received at the registry until 11 December 1979. On 17 December, the Secretary to the Commission advised the Registrar that the Delegates would present their observations at the hearings.

5. After consulting, through the Registrar, the Agent of the Government and the Delegates of the Commission, the President directed on 18 December that the oral hearings should open on 31 January 1980.

6. The oral hearings were held in public at the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 31 January. Immediately before their opening, the Chamber had held a short preparatory meeting; it had authorised the representative of the Government and the person assisting the Commission’s Delegates to use the Italian language (Rule 27 par. 2 and 3).

There appeared before the Court:

- for the Government:

Mr. M. IMPONENTE, State Counsel

(avvocato dello Stato), Agent’s Delegate;

- for the Commission:

Mr. S. TRECHSEL, Principal Delegate,

Mr. M. MELCHIOR, Delegate,

Mr. P. SOLINAS, the applicant’s lawyer

before the Commission, assisting the Delegates under

Rule 29 par. 1, second sentence, of the Rules of Court.

The Court heard addresses by those appearing and their replies to its questions. It requested them to produce several documents; the majority of these, and some other documents, were supplied on 31 January by the Commission and on 20 March by the Government.

7. On 11 February 1980, the Registrar, acting on the Court’s instructions, made a written request to the Commission for a further item of information. The Secretary to the Commission replied thereto on 12 March.


1. Particular facts of the case

(a) The applicant’s convictions and appeals

8. Mr. Ettore Artico, an Italian citizen born in 1917, is an accountant by profession.

On 27 January 1965, Mr. Artico was sentenced by the Verona District Judge (pretore) to eighteen months’ imprisonment and a fine for simple fraud (truffa semplice). A further sentence of eleven months’ imprisonment and a fine for repeated fraud (truffa con recidiva), impersonation (sostituzione di persona) and uttering worthless cheques was imposed on him by that Judge on 6 October 1970. These various offences had been committed in May/June 1964. Appeals lodged by the applicant on 28 January 1965 and 11 December 1970 were rejected on 16 December 1969 and 17 April 1971, respectively, by the Verona Criminal Court; it dealt with both cases in Mr. Artico’s absence.

On 11 October and 13 November 1971, the pretore issued committal warrants to enforce the two prison sentences. The warrants were served on the applicant on 22 December 1971; he had, in fact, been arrested on 8 December in connection with other offences.

9. On 25/26 December 1971, Mr. Artico, who was then in Brindisi prison, appealed once more to the Criminal Court against both of the decisions of the pretore. He claimed to be unaware of the Criminal Court’s judgments and accordingly filed with the appeals applications to quash (ricorsi per cassazione), inter alia, "any decision given on appeal" ("la eventuale sentenza di secondo grado"). The fact that the cases had been dealt with in Mr. Artico’s absence was the basic target of these applications: they challenged in particular the regularity of both the procedure followed as regards the service of various documents and declarations to the effect that the applicant was untraceable (decreto di irreperibilità; Article 170 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

By two Orders of 6 March 1972, the Criminal Court declared the appeals inadmissible on the ground that they were directed against decisions that had already been the subject of appeals. At the same time, the Criminal Court, for reasons of jurisdiction, transmitted the applications to quash to the Court of Cassation.

10. On 10 and 14/15 March, Mr. Artico, who was then in Venice prison, filed declarations with the latter Court setting out his further arguments. Although this was not mentioned amongst the principal grounds invoked, the declarations concluded with a new request: the offences covered by the decisions of the pretore should be declared to have been extinguished as a result of statutory limitation (prescrizione; Articles 157 et seq. of the Criminal Code) in November/December 1971, since by that date the statutory period of seven years and six months had elapsed.

In pleadings dated 3 and 10 July 1973, which dealt only with the alleged procedural irregularity and not with the issue of statutory limitation, the public prosecutor (pubblico ministero) submitted that Mr. Artico’s applications were manifestly ill-founded.

By two Orders (ordinanze) of 12 November 1973, the Court of Cassation, sitting in chambers, declared the applications inadmissible on the ground that there had been no procedural irregularity; it dit not, however, advert to the question of statutory limitation.

11. During 1975, Mr. Artico, relying once more on the issue of statutory limitation, filed with the Court of Cassation an appeal (istanza di revisione) against the decisions of 27 January 1965 and 6 October 1970 which had been confirmed by the Criminal Court on 16 December 1969 and 17 April 1971. By judgment of 5 August 1975, the Court of Cassation held that the offences of simple fraud, impersonation and uttering worthless cheques had been extinguished by statutory limitation. Accordingly, the Verona Criminal Court’s judgments were quashed but not, in the case of that of 1971, as regards the offence of repeated fraud.

At the same time, the Court declared a request by the applicant for provisional release to be inadmissible on the ground that it had not been established that his detention stemmed from the decisions that were under appeal.

12. Mr. Artico was, however, released on 23 August 1975 pursuant to a directive (provvedimento) issued on the same date by the Milan public prosecutor’s department (procura della Repubblica). The directive, after referring to the 1975 judgment of the Court of Cassation, re-calculated at two years and eight months the total period of imprisonment due to be served in respect of the offence of repeated fraud and various other offences; as the applicant had been in prison since 8 December 1971, the period had already expired on 7...

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