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Application no. 31266/02
by Igor Mikhaylovich IVANOV
against Russia

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting on 5 October 2006 as a Chamber composed of:

Mr C.L. Rozakis, President,
Mr L. Loucaides,
Mrs F. Tulkens,
Mrs N. Vajić,
Mr A. Kovler,
Mr D. Spielmann,
Mr S.E. Jebens, judges,
and Mr S. Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 24 July 2002,

Having regard to the decision to apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the case together.

Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:


The applicant, Mr Igor Mikhaylovich Ivanov, is a Russian national who was born in 1938 and lives in St. Petersburg. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr P. Laptev, the Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

On 30 March 1993 the applicant initiated proceedings before the Kolpinskiy District Court of St. Petersburg against his former employer, a private company, for reinstatement and payment of salary for the period of unemployment.

By judgment of 29 April 1997 the Kolpinskiy District Court reinstated the applicant and ordered that the employer should pay him arrears. By final judgment of 7 August 1997 the St. Petersburg City Court increased the amount of arrears to be paid to the applicant and upheld the remainder of the judgment.

On 17 December 1997 the Presidium of the St. Petersburg City Court, by way of supervisory review, quashed the judgments of 29 April and 7 August 1997 in the part concerning payment of arrears. This issue was accordingly to be examined anew.

The District Court received the case-file in January 1998 and fixed the first hearing for 7 April 1998 during which the applicant amended his claims. The following hearing, listed for 15 July 1998, was adjourned because the parties defaulted and the following hearing was thus scheduled for 10 September 1998, taking into consideration the summer vacation period. In September 1998 the applicant again amended his claims, now also seeking compensation for non-pecuniary damage.

On 30 September 1998 the Kolpinskiy District Court, upon the applicant’s request, adjourned the proceedings and ordered an expert opinion. The proceedings were resumed in December 1998.

Six hearings were fixed between 1 December 1998 and 5 April 1999. Of those one hearing was adjourned because the respondent defaulted and four hearings were adjourned in order to obtain additional evidence and an expert opinion. During hearings in May and June 1999 the applicant amended his claims.

By judgment of 7 June 1999 the Kolpinskiy District Court dismissed the applicant’s claims. The judgment was quashed on appeal on 27 July 1999 and the case concerning the payment of arrears and non-pecuniary damage returned to the District Court for re-examination. The first hearing was fixed for 27 September 1999.

The following three hearings listed between 27 September 1999 and 4 February 2000 were adjourned, two of them due to the respondent’s absence and one because the applicant was ill.

On 7 February 2000 another presiding judge was assigned to the case. The following hearing, listed for 16 May 2000, was adjourned because the new judge participated in other unrelated proceedings.

In June 2000 the District Court, upon the applicant’s request, stayed the proceedings and ordered an additional expert opinion. On 4 October 2000 the expert notified the court that the opinion had not been prepared because the fees for preparing such an opinion had not been paid. The District Court informed the applicant that he should bear the expenses of the expert work. In December 2000 the expert returned the case-file to the court as the applicant had not paid the fees.

In January 2001 the applicant successfully asked the District Court to resume the proceedings. A hearing was fixed for 2 March 2001.

By judgment of 23 March 2001 the Kolpinskiy District Court dismissed the applicant’s claims once again. On 31 May 2001 the St. Petersburg City Court quashed that judgment in the part concerning the compensation for non-pecuniary damage, remitted this matter for a fresh examination and upheld the remainder of the judgment.

In June 2001 the case-file was returned to the District Court and a new presiding judge was assigned to the case. A hearing was fixed for 14 August 2001, however, it was adjourned due to the respondent’s absence. The hearing was thereafter scheduled for 2 November 2001.

By judgment of 2 November 2001 the Kolpinskiy District Court of St. Petersburg awarded the applicant 500 Russian roubles as compensation for non-pecuniary damage. That judgment was upheld on appeal on 29 January 2002.


The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention that the proceedings were excessively long.


The applicant complained about an excessive length of the proceedings. The Court considers that this complaint falls to be examined under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention which provides as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal established by law.”

The Government argued that the applicant had caused delays in the proceedings by amending his claims, petitioning for expert studies and appealing against the first-instance judgments. The applicant and the respondent had failed to attend several hearings. The case had been complex, as it had required taking of expert opinions. The single delay caused by the domestic authorities (from 7 February to 8 June 2000) had not affected the proceedings.

The applicant claimed that the case had not been particularly complex. The domestic authorities had been responsible for delays. They had not acted diligently despite the fact that his case had concerned reinstatement and payment of outstanding salary.

The Court observes that the period to be taken into consideration began on 5 May 1998, when the Convention came into force in respect of Russia. The period in question came to an end on 29 January 2002 when the final judgment was taken. Therefore, approximately three years and nine months are in the Court’s competence ratione temporis.

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 criteria established by its case-law, particularly the complexity of the case, the conduct of the applicant and of 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).

The Court observes that the proceedings at issue were of some complexity as they required the taking of several expert opinions, assessment of the complex factual background of the case and studying of the applicant’s former employer’s staff regulations. The applicant changed, amended and supplemented his claims on several 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.

Insofar as the behaviour of the applicant is concerned, the Court notes the Government’s argument that the applicant attributed to the delay in the proceedings by defaulting and petitioning for adjournment of hearings in order to obtain additional evidence. The aggregated delay incurred therefrom amounted to approximately four months. The Court also observes that from June 2000 to January 2001 the proceedings were stayed upon the applicant’s request with the view to taking an expert opinion. However, the applicant failed to pay the expert fees and the case-file was returned to the District Court without an expert study being performed. Thus, the delay of approximately six months is also attributable to the applicant.

As regards the conduct of the authorities, the Court considers that the overall period less the period attributable to the applicant’s conduct leaves the authorities accountable for approximately three years which fall in the Court’s competence ratione temporis. In this respect the Court recalls that only delays attributable to the State may justify a finding of failure to comply with the “reasonable time” requirement (see Des Fours Walderode v. the Chech Republic (dec.), no. 40057/98, 4 March 2003).

The Court observes no substantial periods of the courts’ inactivity, save for one, from 7 February to June 2000, when no hearings were held due to the change of the presiding judge and his involvement in other unrelated proceedings. Apart from that period, the hearings were scheduled at regular intervals and the parties’ requests were examined in the same or in the following hearing. The Court also does not lose sight of the fact that the courts of three levels of jurisdiction were involved in the applicant’s case.

The Court further reiterates that employment disputes generally require particular diligence on the part of the domestic courts (Ruotolo v. Italy, judgment of 27 February 1992, Series A no. 230-D, p. 39, § 17). However, the Court notes that an issue related to the applicant’s dismissal was determined on 7 August 1997, when the applicant was reinstated by the final judgment of the St. Petersburg City Court. The subsequent proceedings only concerned payment of arrears and compensation for non-pecuniary damage and did not call for particularly diligent actions on behalf of the domestic courts.

Regard being had to all the circumstances of the case, the complexity of the facts and the legal issues involved, the delays attributable to the applicant, the Court considers that the “reasonable time” requirement has been complied with.

It follows that the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Decides to discontinue the application of Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and declares the application inadmissible.

Søren Nielsen Christos Rozakis
Registrar President