Case of European Court of Human Rights, January 12, 2006 (case Mizzi v. Malta)

Resolution Date:January 12, 2006

Preliminary objection dismissed (estoppel) Violation of Art. 6-1 Violation of Art. 8 Violation of Art. 14+6-1 and 14+8 Non-pecuniary damage - financial award Costs and expenses partial award - Convention proceedings


Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 82

January 2006

Mizzi v. Malta - 26111/02

Judgment 12.1.2006 [Section I]

Article 8

Article 8-1

Respect for private life

Impossibility to challenge in court the legal presumption of paternity: violation

Article 6

Civil proceedings

Article 6-1

Access to court

Impossibility of introducing an action for disavowal of paternity: violation

Facts: In 1966, the applicant’s wife X became pregnant. The following year, the applicant and X separated and stopped living together and, X gave birth to a daughter, Y. The applicant was automatically considered to be Y’s father under Maltese law and was registered as her natural father. Following a DNA test which, according to the applicant, established that he was not Y’s father, the applicant tried unsuccessfully to bring civil proceedings to repudiate his paternity of Y. According to the Maltese Civil Code, a husband could challenge the paternity of a child conceived in wedlock if he could prove both the adultery of his wife and that the birth had been concealed from him. This latter condition was dropped when the law was amended in 1993 and a time-limit of six months from the day of the child’s birth was set as the cut off point for introducing such proceedings. In 1997 the Civil Court accepted the applicant’s request for a declaration that, notwithstanding the provisions of the Civil Code, he had a right to proceed with a paternity action and found that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That judgment was subsequently revoked by the Constitutional Court.

Law: Article 6 (right to a court) – The applicant’s allegations that he was not the biological father of Y were not manifestly devoid of substance. It could therefore be considered that the right to deny paternity claimed by the applicant was arguable and that the dispute he wished to bring was genuine and serious. Thus, Article 6 was applicable to the case. At the time of Y’s birth, any action which the applicant could have brought in order to deny paternity would have had little prospects of success as he would have been unable to prove any of the elements required by the Civil Code in force at the time. After the 1993 amendments, a time-limit precluded a possible action before the courts by the applicant. While the applicant could still file an application before the Civil Court, a degree of access to a court limited to the right to ask a preliminary question...

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