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European Court of Human Right (Third Section) – Judgment 19 December 2017 – Milanovic v. Serbia – Overall duration of the proceedings of twenty-five years considered excessive and such as to fail to meet the “reasonable time” requirement – violation of Article 6

On 19 December 2017 the ECtHR (Third Section) issued a decision in the case of Milovanović v. Serbia on application n. 19222/16.

Facts of the case

On 2.8.2002 the plaintiffs instituted civil proceedings against their employer seeking payment of salary arrears and other employment-related benefits. On 8.2.2013, after two remittals the First Instance Court in Novi Sad ruled partly in favour of the plaintiffs, ordering their employer to pay each of them specified sums in respect of salary arrears. The remainder of their claims was rejected. On 15.4.2013 the Court of Appeal in Novi Sad reversed a part of the above judgment, while upholding the remainder. On 29.1.2014 the Supreme Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal on points of law as the value of their respective claims was below the statutory threshold allowing for this remedy.

National remedy

On 9.4.2013 the plaintiffs lodged the constitutional appeal, complaining of a violation of the right to a hearing within a reasonable time in the impugned proceedings. By its decision of 9.12.2015, the Constitutional Court found a violation of their right to a hearing within a reasonable time and awarded each of them EUR 800 in respect of the non‑pecuniary damage suffered.

Judgment of the ECtHR – Art. 34: admissibility – Art. 6: excessive duration of the proceedings

A. Relevant rules

The Court declared that an applicant’s status as a “victim” within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention depends on whether the domestic authorities have acknowledged, either expressly or in substance, the alleged infringement of the Convention and have, if necessary, provided appropriate redress. It is only when those conditions have been satisfied that does the subsidiary nature of the protective mechanism of the Convention precludes examination of an application.

The Court also declared that the applicant’s victim status depends on whether the redress afforded was adequate and sufficient, having regard to just satisfaction as provided for under Article 41 of the Convention. One of the characteristics of sufficient redress which may remove a litigant’s victim status relates to the amount awarded. This amount depends, in particular, on the characteristics and effectiveness of the remedy.

B. Facts of the case

In the case at stake, the Court noted that the compensation granted to the applicant was significantly lower than that awarded for similar delays in the Court’s case-law. Whether the amount awarded may be regarded as reasonable, however, falls to be assessed in the light of all the circumstances of the case. They include not only the duration of the proceedings in the specific case, but also the value of the award viewed in the light of the standard of living in the State concerned, and the fact that under national systems compensation will in general be awarded and paid more promptly than if the matter fell to be decided by the Court under Article 41 of the Convention.

C. Conclusion

The Court thus concluded that the applicant did not lose his status as a victim within the meaning of Article 34 of the Convention. The Government’s objection in this regard had been rejected.

In view of the above, the Court concluded that the length of the proceedings at issue was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement. There had accordingly been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

Full text decision

Updated: January 8, 2018 — 6:51 pm

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