The European Court of Human Rights has today delivered at a public hearing its Grand Chamber judgments in the cases of:
Scordino v. Italy (no. 1) (application no. 36813/97)
Riccardi Pizzati v. Italy (no. 62361/01)
Musci v. Italy (no. 64699/01)
Giuseppe Mostacciuolo v. Italy (no. 1) (no. 64705/01)
Giuseppe Mostacciuolo v. Italy (no. 2) (no. 65102/01)
Cocchiarella v. Italy (no. 64886/01)
Apicella v. Italy (no. 64890/01)
Ernestina Zullo v. Italy (no. 64897/01)
Giuseppina and Orestina Procaccini v. Italy (no. 65075/01)
The cases all concerned the effectiveness of Law no. 89 of 24 March 2001, known as the “Pinto Act”, which introduced the possibility of lodging a complaint with the Italian courts in respect of excessively long proceedings. Scordino v. Italy (no. 1) also concerned the right to receive expropriation compensation.
In all nine cases:
· the Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial within a reasonable time) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the excessive length of the proceedings;
· under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments), the Court observed with regard to the excessive length of the proceedings, that hundreds of cases were currently pending before it in respect of awards made by the courts of appeal in “Pinto” proceedings. Italy was invited to take all measures necessary to ensure that the domestic decisions were not only in conformity with the Court’s case-law but also executed within six months of being deposited with the Court.
In Scordino, the Court also
· held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) on account of the inadequate amount of compensation for expropriation;
· held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) on account of the application of Law no. 359/1992 establishing criteria for calculating compensation for expropriation;
· found that the violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 that had occurred on account of the inability to obtain expropriation compensation “reasonably related to the value of the property” was the result of a systemic problem. The Court, to which several dozen similar cases had already been referred, could in future receive many well-founded applications since the situation concerned a large number of people;
· in order to satisfy its obligations under Article 46, the Court held that Italy should, above all, remove every obstacle to the award of compensation reasonably related to the value of the expropriated property, and thus guarantee by appropriate statutory, administrative and budgetary measures that the right in question be guaranteed effectively and rapidly in respect of other claimants affected by expropriated property.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the Court awarded the applicants:
· in the Scordino case: 580,000 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damage, EUR 12,400 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 50,000 for costs and expenses;
· in the other eight cases: a global sum of EUR 57,200 in respect of non-pecuniary damage: EUR 12,800 to Mr Pizzati; EUR 4,100 to Mr Musci; EUR 15,600 to Mr Mostacciuolo; EUR 6,300 to Mr Cocchiarella; EUR 7,700 to Mrs Apicella; EUR 5,000 to the son of Mrs Zullo, and EUR 5,700 to Ms Guiseppina Procaccini and Ms Orestina Procaccini. The Court also awarded for costs and expenses the global sum of EUR 33,550: EUR 3,000 to Mr Pizzati; EUR 5,000 to Mr Musci; EUR 9,300 to Mr Mostacciuolo; EUR 5,000 to Mr Cocchiarella; EUR 4,500 each to Mrs Apicella and the son of Mrs Zullo, and EUR 2,250 to Ms Guiseppina Procaccini and Ms Orestina Procaccini.
(The judgments are available in English and French.)
1. Principal facts
Scordino v. Italy
Giovanni, Elena, Maria and Giuliana Scordino are Italian nationals who were born in 1959, 1949, 1951 and 1953 respectively and live in Reggio di Calabria (Italy). In 1992 the applicants inherited, among other things, a plot of land of 1,786 sq. m in Reggio di Calabria which had been expropriated in March 1983 with a view to the construction of housing.
In 1992 the applicants declared their intention to pursue the proceedings that had been instituted on 25 March 1990 by the person from whom they had inherited the land and sought to dispute, in particular, the amount of expropriation compensation that had been set.
After Law no. 359/1992 came into force the Reggio di Calabria Court of Appeal asked an expert to determine the expropriation compensation in accordance with the criteria introduced by the new Act. The expert considered that the market value of the land at the date of expropriation was ITL 165,755 per square metre and that, in accordance with the criteria introduced by the 1992 Act, the compensation payable was ITL 82,890 per square metre. Accordingly, in a judgment of 17 July 1996 the Court of Appeal awarded the applicants expropriation compensation of ITL 82,890 per square metre, that is, a total sum of ITL 148,041,540. In a judgment deposited with the registry on 7 December 1998, the Court of Cassation upheld the Court of Appeal’s judgment on that point.
The applicants applied to the Court of Appeal under the “Pinto Act”, seeking compensation for the length of proceedings to which they had been parties. On 1 July 2002 the Court of Appeal found that the length of the proceedings had been excessive and awarded the applicants a total sum of EUR 2,450 for non-pecuniary damage alone and apportioned the legal costs.
Eight other cases v. Italy
In the following eight cases, the applicants, who are all Italian nationals, lodged applications with the Italian courts complaining of the excessive length of the proceedings to which they had been parties, seeking compensation for the loss sustained as a result of the slowness of the proceedings.
In each case the Italian courts concluded that the proceedings had exceeded a reasonable time and awarded the applicants money in compensation for the loss suffered. The sums ranged from EUR 1,000 to EUR 5,000.
Apicella v. Italy – Angelina Apicella was born in 1962 and lives in Pesco Sannita. In 1992 she brought proceedings seeking acknowledgement of her right to be reregistered on the lists of farmers
Cocchiarella v. Italy – Giovanni Cocchiarella was born in 1942 and lives in Benevento. In 1994 his mother brought proceedings seeking acknowledgment of her right to an invalidity pension and an attendance allowance.
Ernestina Zullo v. Italy – Ernestina Zullo was born in 1933 and lives in Paduli. She died in 1999, but the Court gave her son leave to continue the proceedings before it. In 1994 she had brought proceedings seeking acknowledgment of her right to an invalidity pension and an attendance allowance.
Giuseppina and Orestina Procaccini v. Italy – Giuseppina and Orestina Procaccini were born in 1932 and 1938 respectively and live in Benevento. In 1989 their father brought proceedings against a company to have a contract for the installation of windows in his flat set aside and sought compensation for the damage incurred.
Giuseppe Mostacciuolo v. Italy (no. 1) and (no. 2) – Giuseppe Mostacciuolo was born in 1938 and lives in Benevento. In 1987 and 1988 proceedings were brought against him on two occasions for an order for payment in performance of a contract for professional services.
Musci v. Italy – Francesco Musci was born in 1923 and lives in Catanzaro. In 1986 proceedings were brought against him for recognition of the existence of a right of way.
Riccardi Pizzati v. Italy – Gina Riccardi Pizzati was born in 1924 and lives in Pianello Val Tidone. In 1974 she sued a neighbour for the loss she had sustained as a result of works he had carried out on his property.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The Scordino application was lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights on 21 July 1993 and transmitted to the Court on 1 November 1998. It was declared admissible on 27 March 2003.
In a judgment of 29 July 2004, the Court found in the Scordino case that there had been a breach of Article 6 ‘ 1 on account of the length and unfairness of the proceedings, and of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
The applications Musci v. Italy, Giuseppe Mostacciuolo v. Italy (nos. 1 and 2), Cocchiarella v. Italy, Apicella v. Italy, Ernestina Zullo v. Italy and Guiseppina and Orestina Procaccini v. Italy were lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights between 1997 and 1998.
On 20 November 2003, the Court declared the case of Cocchiarella v. Italy admissible. The other applications were declared admissible on 22 January 2004.
In Chamber judgments of 10 November 2004 the Court held unanimously in each of these eight cases that there had been a breach of Article 6 § 1.
These nine cases were referred to the Grand Chamber at the request of the Italian Government. A Grand Chamber hearing was held in public in Strasbourg on 29 June 2005.
The Polish, Czech and Slovak Governments submitted third-party observations in writing.
The judgments were given by the Grand Chamber of 17 judges, composed as follows:
Luzius Wildhaber (Swiss), President,
Christos Rozakis (Greek),
Jean-Paul Costa (French),
Nicolas Bratza (British),
Botjan M. Zupancic (Slovenian),
Lucius Caflisch (Swiss),
Corneliu Bnrsan (Romanian)
Karel Jungwiert (Czech),
Matti Pellonpdd (Finnish),
Margarita Tsatsa-Nikolovska (citizen of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”),
Rait Maruste (Estonian),
Stanislav Pavlovschi (Moldovan),
Lech Garlicki (Polish),
Alvina Gyulumyan (Armenian),
Egbert Myjer (Netherlands),
Sverre Erik Jebens (Norwegian), judges,
Mariavaleria Del Tufo (Italian), ad hoc judge in the Scordino affaire,
Luigi Ferrari Bravo (Italian), ad hoc judge in the eight other affaires, and also Lawrence Early, Deputy Grand Chamber Registrar.
3. Summary of the judgments
Relying on Article 6 § 1, the applicants complained of the excessive length of the proceedings to which they had been parties and of the derisory amount of damages awarded them by the Italian courts. In the Scordino case the applicants also complained of the unfairness of the compensation proceedings following expropriation of their land. They further complained, under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, of interference with their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions as a result of the amount of expropriation compensation paid, and of the retrospective application of Law no. 359/1992.
Decision of the Court
Complaints common to the nine cases
Article 6 § 1 (length)
The Italian Government raised, among other things, a preliminary objection relating to the victim status of the applicants. In their submission, by awarding the applicants compensation the Italian courts had not only acknowledged the violation of the right to a hearing within a reasonable time but had also made good the loss sustained.
The Court was required to verify that there had been an acknowledgement, at least in substance, by the authorities of a violation of a right protected by the Convention and whether the redress could be considered appropriate and sufficient.
It was not disputed that there had been a finding of a violation of the Convention on account of the excessive length of the proceedings. With regard to the characteristics of the redress, the Court reiterated that excessive delays in an action for compensation could render the remedy inadequate. The four-month period prescribed by the Pinto Act complied with the requirement of speediness necessary for a remedy to be effective. However, a risk remained regarding appeals to the Court of Cassation since no maximum period for giving a ruling had been fixed.
The Court held in the nine cases that, even if the statutory period for giving a ruling had sometimes been exceeded, the length of the proceedings had nonetheless been reasonable. However, it found it unacceptable that – apart from in the Scordino case – the applicants had had to wait months, and sometimes even bring enforcement proceedings, before receiving the compensation awarded them.
The Court stressed the fact that, in order to be effective, a compensatory remedy had to be accompanied by adequate budgetary provision so that effect could be given within six months of their being deposited with the Court to decisions of the courts of appeal awarding compensation, which, in accordance with the Pinto Act, were immediately enforceable. Similarly, as regards procedural costs, certain fixed expenses (such as the fee for registering the judicial decision) could significantly hamper the efforts made by the applicants to obtain compensation. The Court drew the Government’s attention to these various points with a view to eradicating at the source problems that could give rise to further applications.
With regard to the assessment of the amount of compensation awarded by the Italian courts, the Court had regard to what it would have awarded in the same situation. It noted that in the nine cases the sums awarded by the Italian courts were at the lowest 8% and at the highest 27%, according to the case, of what it generally awarded in similar Italian cases.
In conclusion, the Court found that various requirements had not been satisfied and that the redress was therefore insufficient. Accordingly, it considered that the applicants could still claim to be “victims” of a breach of the “reasonable-time” requirement and dismissed the preliminary objection raised by the Government.
Compliance with Article 6 § 1
The Court wished to reaffirm the importance of administering justice without delays which might jeopardise its effectiveness and credibility. Italy’s position in that respect had not changed sufficiently to call into question the conclusion that the accumulation of breaches constituted a practice that was incompatible with the Convention.
The Court noted that in the nine cases the Italian courts had found that a reasonable time had been exceeded. However, the fact that the “Pinto” proceedings, examined as a whole, and particularly the execution stage, had not caused the applicants to lose their “victim” status constituted an aggravating circumstance regarding a breach of Article 6 § 1 for exceeding the reasonable time.
Accordingly, the Court found, in the nine cases, that the length of the proceedings in question was excessive and failed to satisfy the “reasonable-time” requirement. It therefore held in each case that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1.
Complaints raised in Scordino v. Italy
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
The Court held that the interference with the applicants’ right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions had been in accordance with the law and had pursued an aim in the public interest. Regarding the proportionality of the interference, the Court found that the compensation awarded to the applicants was far lower than the market value of the property in question and not justified by any public-interest consideration. Accordingly, the applicants had had to bear a disproportionate and excessive burden which could not be justified by a legitimate aim in the public interest pursued by the authorities.
Accordingly, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
Article 6 § 1 (fairness)
The Court recalled that, before the 1992 Act came into force, the law applicable to Scordino v. Italy had provided for a right to compensation to the full market value of the property. Thus, as result of the application of the 1992 Act, the applicants had been deprived of a substantial part of their compensation.
The Government had not shown that the considerations to which they referred, namely, budgetary considerations and the legislature’s intention to implement a political programme, amounted to an “obvious and compelling general interest” required to justify the retrospective effect that the Court had acknowledged in certain cases.
Accordingly, the Court held that there had been a breach of Article 6 § 1 in that respect.
Complaints raised in the other eight cases
Article 13, 17 and 34
These complaints had been raised for the first time before the Grand Chamber in 2005 and were therefore outside the scope of the Court’s examination.
(estratto dal sito della Corte europea dei diritti dell’uomo)