15 November 2016
-Violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
The applicants, Jurgis Misiukonis, Birutė Misiukonienė, and Jurgita Visockienė, are Lithuanian nationals. Mr Misiukonis and Ms Misiukonienė are married. Ms Visockienė is their daughter, and lives in France. The case concerned payments made for certain property rights.
On 26 January 2001, with the help of a local authority employee E.K., the applicants and their
son/brother V.M. purchased from G.O an entitlement to receive 0.728 hectares of land from the State. In June 2001, the local authority awarded each of them a plot of 0.182 hectares. Two months later, the applicants and V.M. sold their plots of 0.182 hectares to third parties, for 25,000 Lithuanian litai (LTL) each. In January 2002, the district prosecutor brought proceedings challenging the decisions which had led to the applicants and V.M. obtaining the plots. In February 2006 the Vilnius City First District Court held that G.O. had been entitled to receive land and had lawfully sold this entitlement; however, he had only been entitled to receive one plot of up to 0.2 hectares, whereas the remaining land had to be compensated to him in cash. To regularise the situation, the court ordered the applicants and V.M. to pay the State the market value of the four plots that they had received and sold, amounting to LTL 216,000 for each plot, while they remained entitled to receive one new plot of up to 0.2 hectares. The applicants lodged two appeals against the decision, but these were dismissed. In 2007, the district prosecutor concluded that some local authority employees had acted unlawfully in registering the land rights, but the investigation was discontinued as time-barred. The applicants brought a claim against the State for damages. They complained that, though each of them had received LTL 25,000 for selling the land, they had each been ordered to pay the State LTL 216,000 – leading to a loss of LTL 191,000 each. However, the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court dismissed the claim, finding that the applicants should have known that they had received the land unlawfully.
The Court noted that the case falls under the first sentence of the first paragraph of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, the right to the peaceful enjoyment of property. The court examined the lawfulness, legitimate aim and the proportionality of the state’s interference. It didn’t find reasons do doubt the lawfulness and the legitimate aim of the interference. However, as regard to proportionality, the Court found that by requiring the applicants to pay to the State more money than they had actually received from selling their land to third parties the authorities placed an individual and excessive burden on the applicants and failed to strike a fair balance between the general interest of the community and the protection of the applicants’ fundamental rights.
The Court rejected the applicants’ claims for pecuniary damages. Nonetheless, the Court underlined that, in order for the State to comply with the present judgment, at the domestic level the applicants should not be required to pay more money than they had obtained from the sale of their land. The Court did not award the applicant with a benefit for non-pecuniary damage.