Mr Adolfas Šleževičius applied to the European Court of Human Rights against the Republic of Lithuania under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention (trial within a reasonable time).
In January 1996 two members of the Seimas (Parliament) wrote letters to the Prosecutor General, requesting the initiation of criminal proceedings against Mr Šleževičius in connection with allegations of financial impropriety amounting to abuse of office. On 24 January 1996 proceedings began. On 10 October 1996 a prosecutor from the Office of the Prosecutor General charged the applicant with two counts of abuse of office.
The courts refused to examine the merits of the case on three occasions in 1997, 1998 and 1999, finding that the charges against the applicant had been vague and speculative. Furthermore, a substantial part of the time was spent on the procedural disputes involving the courts of ordinary and constitutional jurisdiction, regarding the prosecutors’ appeals against judicial findings of inadequate investigations and the inability to proceed to trial.
On 26 May 2000 Mr Šleževičius appealed to the Office of the Prosecutor General, claiming that the proceedings had not been definitively discontinued. On 31 August 2000 a prosecutor from the Office of the Prosecutor General dismissed the appeal, holding that the case had been discontinued in accordance with the relevant domestic requirements. Mr Šleževičius was also informed that he could apply to a court to challenge the decision of 18 April 2000.
Issue: Mr Šleževičius complained concerning the excessive length of the civil proceedings. He invoked Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
Decision of the Court on the alleged violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
Holdings: Yes, there was a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. The Court found that the length of the proceedings was excessive and did not satisfy the “reasonable time” requirement.
Court’s Rationale: The Court found that in criminal matters, the “reasonable time” referred to in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention began to run as soon as a person was “charged”. The Court noted that all the proceedings lasted for four years, two months, and 25 days at one level of substantive jurisdiction. According to the Court’s case-law, the reasonableness of the length of proceedings must be assessed in light of the particular circumstances of the case and having regard to the criteria laid down in the Court’s case-law, in particular the complexity of the case and the conduct of the applicant and of the authorities dealing with the case.
Costs and expenses: The Court held that Lithuania was to pay Mr Šleževičius 30,000 Lithuanian litai in respect of non‑pecuniary damages, 70,000 (seventy thousand) Lithuanian litai in respect of costs and expenses, plus any value-added tax that may be chargeable.