Постановление Европейского суда по правам человека от 15.07.2010 «Дело Саликова (salikova) против России» [англ.]

Город принятия

(Application No. 25270/06)
(Strasbourg, 15.VII.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 Salikova v. Russia,

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

Christos Rozakis, President,

Nina {Vajic}*,

*Здесь и далее по тексту слова на национальном языке набраны латинским шрифтом и выделены фигурными скобками.

Anatoly Kovler,

Elisabeth Steiner,

Khanlar Hajiyev,

Dean Spielmann,

Sverre Erik Jebens, judges,

and {Soren} Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 24 June 2010,

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

1. The case originated in an application (No. 25270/06) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by a Russian national, Ms Tatyana Yevgenyevna Salikova ("the applicant"), on 22 May 2006.

2. The applicant was represented by Mr V. Stepanov, a lawyer practising in Orenburg. The Russian Government ("the Government") were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

3. On 9 March 2009 the President of the First Section decided to give notice of the application to the Government. It was also decided to examine the merits of the application at the same time as its admissibility (Article 29 § 1).

The circumstances of the case
4. The applicant was born in 1931 and lives in Orenburg.

5. On 3 October 2000 the applicant filed a suit with the justice of peace of judicial circuit No. 7 of the Leninskiy District of Orenburg against a municipal enterprise. She alleged that certain actions of the respondent had led to grave damage to her privately owned house and claimed that the respondent should repair it or provide equivalent monetary compensation, fix construction flaws and pay her compensation for non-pecuniary damage.

6. On 5 October 2000 the justice of peace left the claim without consideration for lack of competence.

7. On 10 October 2000 the justice of peace of the judicial circuit No. 6 also left the claim without consideration for the same reason.

A. First examination of the case
8. On 31 October 2000 the claim was admitted by the justice of peace of the judicial circuit No. 1 of the Tsentralnyy District of Orenburg.

9. On 20 December 2000 the hearing was adjourned due to the respondent's representative's failure to appear.

10. On 18 January 2001 the court granted the applicant's motion to identify a co-respondent and adjourned the hearing.

11. On 19 July 2001 the court ordered a technical examination, which lasted until 25 March 2002. Two questions were put to the experts.

12. On 19 April 2002 the case was transferred to the Tsentralnyy District Court of Orenburg ("the District Court") as falling within the latter's competence.

13. On an unspecified date the applicant altered her claims.

14. On 10 June 2002 the hearing was adjourned to 26 June 2002 as the applicant's counsel failed to appear.

15. On 22 August 2002 the District Court disallowed the applicant's claims. The judgment was overturned on appeal by a decision of the Orenburg Regional Court ("the Regional Court") on 10 October 2002, for erroneous application of the substantive law. The case was remitted to the first instance for fresh examination.

B. Second examination of the case
16. On 2 December 2002 the hearing was adjourned at both parties' requests.

17. Two following hearings were adjourned at the applicant's request due to her counsel's failure to appear and to enable her to secure additional evidence.

18. On 20 January 2003 the District Court ordered a technical examination. Eleven questions were put to the experts.

19. On 10 February 2003 head of the State forensic examinations bureau informed the court that the examination would start in April once the snow melted.

20. On 9 July 2003 the same official informed the court that the examination was delayed because it was necessary to carry out an additional survey and to invite another expert.

21. On 20 October 2003 the District Court requested information on the date of completion of the examination. In their reply the forensic examinations bureau referred to a heavy workload.

22. The technical examination was completed on 9 December 2003, and on 30 January 2004 the District Court resumed the proceedings.

23. Two following hearings were adjourned at the applicant's request to enable her to secure additional evidence and specify her claims.

24. On 2 March 2004 the court granted the applicant's motion for a new technical examination, which lasted until 20 March 2004. The experts had to answer one question.

25. On 5 April 2004 the District Court resumed the proceedings. The court adjourned two following hearings to enable the applicant to specify her claims and for a new respondent to familiarise themselves with the claims.

26. On 11 June 2004 the District Court granted the applicant's claims in part. However, the judgment was set aside by the Regional Court on 21 September 2004 for erroneous application of the substantive law. The case was ordered for re-examination.

C. Third examination of the case
27. On 12 November 2004 the District Court accepted alterations to the applicant's claims and, four days later, ordered a technical examination. Thirty-six questions were put to the experts. The decision to order the new examination was upheld by the Regional Court on 22 March 2005 on the applicant's appeal.

28. On 18 April 2005 the case was sent to the experts, followed by a contract for execution of services on 13 July 2005 and by payment arrangements on 12 October 2005.

29. On 13 January, 1 March and 31 May 2006 the District Court inquired with the forensic examinations bureau about the results of the examination. It is unclear whether it received any reply.

30. On 8 August 2006 the applicant complained to the president of the District Court of unreasonably long consideration of the case. The parties did not submit any information regarding a reply to this complaint.

31. On 21 August 2006 the District Court received the examination results and resumed the proceedings.

32. Between 30 August 2006 and 14 March 2007 nine hearings were adjourned at the applicant's request for various reasons, mainly to summon witnesses and secure additional evidence, as well as to enable the respondents to familiarise themselves with the amended claims.

33. On 19 March 2007 the District Court disallowed the claim. On 6 June 2007 the Regional Court overturned the judgment on appeal for erroneous application of the substantive law and required a new hearing.

D. Fourth examination of the case
34. On 8 August 2007 the District Court granted the applicant's motion for a new technical examination and a forensic medical examination.

35. On 23 October 2007 at the applicant's request the District Court commissioned the medical examination to a different agency.

36. On 22 November 2007 the District Court granted the applicant's claims in part ordering the town administration to build a drainage system in the vicinity of the applicant's house, and dismissed the other claims. The judgment was upheld on appeal by the Regional Court on 6 February 2008.

37. On 27 May 2008 the bailiff service initiated the enforcement proceedings. Four months later they were terminated as the court judgment had been deemed executed.

E. Supervisory review and fifth examination of the case
38. On 21 October 2008 the Supreme Court of Russia, acting upon the applicant's request for supervisory review, quashed the judgment of 22 November 2007 and the decision of 6 February 2008 in the part concerning dismissal of the applicant's claim for compensation of pecuniary damage. The case was remitted in the relevant part to the first instance for fresh consideration.

39. On 18 December 2008 the District Court stayed the proceedings until the applicant's recovery from illness.

40. On 19 December 2008 head of the regional bailiff office quashed the decision to terminate the enforcement proceedings after establishing that the court judgment had not been properly enforced. The enforcement proceedings were resumed.

41. On 11 January 2009 the District Court clarified its judgment of 22 November 2007 at the bailiff's request.

42. On 2 February 2009 the court proceedings were resumed.

43. On 12 March 2009 the District Court ordered a new technical examination at the applicant's request.

44. On 5, 7 and 14 May 2009 the District Court reminded the applicant to allow the experts access to the examined objects. However, the applicant failed to do so.

45. On 18 May 2009 the court dismissed the applicant's request for extension of the time-limit for appeal of the decision to order the new technical examination. It is not clear from the parties' submissions when this examination was completed.

46. On 13 November 2009 the District Court granted the applicant's claim for pecuniary compensation in part, awarding her 67,555 roubles to be paid by the town administration. In particular, the court repeatedly referred to expert conclusions from different years which established that the condition of the applicant's house was "unacceptable" and "dangerous for human habitation".

47. On 16 December 2009 the Regional Court upheld the judgment on appeal.

48. The judgment of 22 November 2007 has not been enforced to date.

I. Alleged violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
on account of excessively long proceedings
49. The applicant complained that the proceedings in her case had been excessively long, breaching the "reasonable time" requirement of Article 6 § 1. The relevant part of the provision 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..."
50. The Court observes that the proceedings in the applicant's case commenced on 3 October 2000, when the applicant lodged her claim, and ended on 16 December 2009. During this time the domestic courts reviewed the case five times at two levels of jurisdiction. However, the period from 6 February to 21 October 2008 has to be excluded from the overall length, as the case was being examined on application for supervisory review and not pending. Accordingly, the period to be taken into consideration amounted approximately to eight years and six months.

A. Admissibility
51. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.

B. Merits
52. The applicant submitted that her case had not been complex and had not warranted such a long examination by the domestic courts.

53. The Government disagreed. They stated that the applicant's case had been technically complex requiring a number of expert examinations which overall lasted for a reasonable time. They further submitted that the majority of the unnecessary delays had been caused by the applicant's lodging multiple motions, altering her claims and requesting adjournments. She also did not object to the other party's motions delaying the proceedings. Finally, the hearings were scheduled regularly and motions were examined promptly.

54. 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 applicant and the relevant authorities and what was at stake for the applicant in the dispute (see, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], No. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII). In addition, only delays attributable to the State may justify a finding of a failure to comply with the "reasonable time" requirement (see, among other authorities, Zimmermann and Steiner v. Switzerland, 13 July 1983, p. 11, § 24, Series A No. 66; see also {Pilissier} and Sassi v. France [GC], No. 25444/94, § 67, ECHR 1999-II).

55. The Court finds that the proceedings at issue were of some complexity as they required the taking of an expert opinion and involved several respondents. The applicant amended and supplemented her claims on at least three occasions. The Court considers that the task of the courts was rendered more difficult by these factors, although it cannot accept that the complexity of the case, taken on its own, was such as to justify the overall length of the proceedings (see, among others, Antonov v. Russia (dec.), No. 38020/03, 3 November 2005).

56. Insofar as the applicant's behaviour is concerned, the Court accepts that indeed she delayed the proceedings to some extent by requesting adjournments and, in one particular instance, failing to comply with the court's requests to provide access to the experts (see para. 44 above). As to the applicant's amending and supplementing her claims, it has been the Court's constant approach that an applicant cannot be blamed for taking full advantage of he resources afforded by the national law in defence of his interests (see, mutatis mutandis, {Yagci} and {Sargin} v. Turkey, 8 June 1995, § 66, Series A No. 319-A). Accordingly, the Court finds that the overall delay imputable to the applicant did not exceed eleven months.

57. Turning to the conduct of the authorities, the Court recalls that the domestic courts examined the case in five rounds of proceedings. It accepts the Government's argument that the courts did not display any procrastination in scheduling the hearings and resolving the parties' motions. However, the Court observes three major deficiencies that occurred in the course of the proceedings.

58. Firstly, it notes that the authorities had failed to establish the court competent to deal with the applicant's claims for eighteen months. The Court reiterates that the authorities are responsible for the delays stemming from the courts' mistakes concerning jurisdiction (see Gheorghe v. Romania, No. 19215/04, § 58, ECHR 2007-III (extracts)). It was incumbent upon the domestic authorities