Humen v. Poland

App. No. 26614/95, 31 Eur.H.R. Rep. 53 (2001).
Download Judgment: English Polish
Country: Poland
Region: Europe
Year: 1995
Court: European Court of Human Rights
Health Topics: Health care and health services, Prisons
Human Rights: Right to due process/fair trial
Tags: Custody, Detention, Imprisonment, Incarceration, Inmate

The applicant, a Polish national, was convicted in the Gdańsk Regional Court for participating in an illegal assembly. Subsequently, the applicant requested an unspecified amount of damages for injuries he allegedly sustained during his detainment resulting from a separate criminal proceeding. The Gdańsk Regional Court asked him to specify the amount of damages and produce documentation related to his health during imprisonment. The applicant provided the documentation after some delays. He then complained to the Ombudsman, the Minister of Justice and the Gdańsk Court of Appeal about the unreasonable length of the proceedings.

Meanwhile, the applicant filed in the Gdańsk Regional Court a new pleading, in which he increased his request for damages to include compensation for loss of opportunities while imprisoned. The court adjourned the trial sine die to obtain evidence that it considered necessary for analyzing the causal link between applicant’s health and his detention. The applicant then delayed the medical experts’ report because he refused to undergo a brain tomography examination. Later, the court pronounced a decision granting the applicant’s claims in part; however the Gdańsk Court of Appeal quashed the decision and remitted the case to the Regional Court, which ordered a new neurological examination. The applicant continued to refuse to submit to brain tomography examinations and failed to return after a 24 hours’ leave from prison. After more adjournments, the Court pronounced a decision and compensated the applicant. He then filed an action with the European Commission of Human Rights, claiming that the Gdańsk Regional Court violated his right to a hearing within a reasonable period of time under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention). Among his complaints, the applicant claimed that the length of the proceedings regarding his compensation for his original detention under martial law had been unreasonably long and that the Polish courts had convicted him on insufficient evidence in his separate criminal proceedings.

"66. The Court firstly reiterates that only delays attributable to the State may justify a finding of failure to comply with the "reasonable time" requirement (see, among other authorities, the Proszak v. Poland judgment of 16 December 1997, Reports 1997-VIII, p. 2774, § 40). Secondly, it notes that although the applicant's conduct in the initial stages of the case, especially prior to the first hearing held on 17 June 1994, cannot be regarded as hindering the progress of the proceedings, his subsequent behaviour was scarcely consistent with the diligence which should normally be shown by a claimant. His failure to submit himself to a brain tomography examination - which in the view of the experts was necessary to determine properly what injuries had been sustained by him - or, at least, to inform the court without undue delay of his decision not to undergo that examination undoubtedly delayed the proceedings, as did his inaccurate account of certain facts relating to his employment (see paragraphs 31-35 above)."

"66. The Court firstly reiterates that only delays attributable to the State may justify a finding of failure to comply with the "reasonable time" requirement (see, among other authorities, the Proszak v. Poland judgment of 16 December 1997, Reports 1997-VIII, p. 2774, § 40). Secondly, it notes that although the applicant's conduct in the initial stages of the case, especially prior to the first hearing held on 17 June 1994, cannot be regarded as hindering the progress of the proceedings, his subsequent behaviour was scarcely consistent with the diligence which should normally be shown by a claimant. His failure to submit himself to a brain tomography examination - which in the view of the experts was necessary to determine properly what injuries had been sustained by him - or, at least, to inform the court without undue delay of his decision not to undergo that examination undoubtedly delayed the proceedings, as did his inaccurate account of certain facts relating to his employment (see paragraphs 31-35 above)."

The Court held there had been no breach of Article 6 of the Convention because it found that the lengths of the proceedings were not unreasonable. Although the total length of the proceedings was a month short of three years, the Court considered that certain features of the case, such as establishing the causal link between the applicant’s health and his detention, were complex and required additional time. Moreover, the applicant’s own conduct had contributed to delays in the proceedings while courts had acted with all due diligence in the conduct of the applicant’s case.
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