Article 6 paragraph 1 of the ECHR provides that “everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” The requirement that (judicial) proceedings be conducted/completed within a reasonable time is one of the components of the right to a fair trial. Excessively lengthy proceedings and delays in the issuance or execution of judgments infringe on the individual’s right to speedy administration of justice and may undermine respect for the rule of law and impede access to justice. Especially in the context of criminal proceedings, the right to a trial within a reasonable time is also intended to ensure that the accused do not remain for an excessively long period of time in a state of uncertainty as to the outcome of the criminal charges brought against them. According to ECtHR jurisprudence, the “reasonable” duration of the procedure is judged according to the facts of each case and with the help of the following criteria: a) the complexity of the case, b) the behavior of the applicants, c) the behavior of the competent authorities and d) the stakes of the case for the stakeholders.
In 2017, 2 decisions were issued by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in which it was recognized that Greece had violated the provisions of the ECHR due to the excessive length of criminal proceedings.
1. October 2017, Dastamani and others v. Greece (appeal no. 36420/10, 3957/11, 35230/11, 21469/12, 2385/13, 75140/13).
The case consisted of six appeals heard together by the ECtHR.
The applicants complained about: a) the excessive length of their criminal proceedings and b) the lack of a real recourse under national law allowing them to complain about this.
The duration of the proceedings ranged from 4 years and more than 7 months for one degree of jurisdiction up to 9 years and approximately 1 month for 3 degrees of jurisdiction.
The ECtHR found no reason to deviate from its previous jurisprudence and found that the duration of the disputed proceedings was excessive, did not meet the requirements of the reasonable time period and therefore violated Article 6 paragraph 1 of the ECHR. At the time there was no recourse in national law to allow the interested parties to claim the validation of their right to have their case examined within a reasonable time and therefore Article 13 of the ECHR was also violated.
2. November 2017, Firat v. Greece (app. no. 46005/11).
In this case, the applicant complained about the excessive length of the criminal proceedings brought against them and about the absence of a real remedy allowing one to complain about the excessive length of these proceedings.
The ECtHR noted that the contested procedure lasted a little more than 4 years for two degrees of jurisdiction and did not find any specific reason to deviate from previous jurisprudence on this issue. Greece was therefore found to have violated Article 6, paragraph 1 of the ECHR due to the excessive duration of the trial, and Article 13 of the ECHR as the applicant did not have recourse to a genuine remedy that would allow him to have his case heard within a reasonable time.
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