Case No. 24427/02
Judgment date: 11 February 2010
This case concerns the excessive length of proceedings brought by the applicant to claim compensation for medical negligence by the State authorities. He had been drafted into the army despite suffering from a serious brain illness.
The applicant, a Russian national, was first examined by the military medical commission on 12 February 1997 and found “temporarily unfit” for military service. He was re-examined in October 1998 and April 1999 and found fit to serve; the applicant did not complain. The applicant’s military service began on 3 June 1999. Five months later he deserted and attended a psycho-neurology institute alleging health problems caused by ill-treatment in the army. He was diagnosed with a serious brain illness. In December 1999 the applicant was declared no longer fit to serve. Subsequent examinations concluded that the brain illness had developed prior to the applicant’s conscription however did not have clear physical symptoms.
On 19 January 2000 the applicant brought an action against the District Drafting Military Commission and the Priozersk District and Leningrad Regional Military Boards, seeking compensation for damage. He also asked the Town Court to set aside the decision of 3 June 1999 of the Priozersk District Military Board as unlawful, claiming that he should not have been drafted into the army as he had been seriously ill. During the subsequent years the hearing was postponed or adjourned for various reasons. On 18 March 2004, at the hearing, the applicant refused to undergo a medical examination, and on the same day the Town Court dismissed the action.
In consideration of the length of the proceedings, the Court reiterated that the reasonableness must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of the case and with reference to the following criteria: the complexity of the case, the conduct of the applicant and the relevant authorities and what was at stake for the applicants in the dispute. It observed that it took the District Court several months to fix hearings. Furthermore, the defendants failed to appear on at least five occasions, which resulted in a delay of approximately seven months. Lastly, it took note of the period of four years and four months for the case consideration before two levels of jurisdiction and found a violation of Article 6 on excessive length of tort proceedings.
The applicant had also alleged that his conscription, his subsequent ill-treatment and the authorities’ failure to investigate it adequately violated Article 3. The Court however considered that the applicant did not complain about his health during the medical examinations, and since normal examination could not have detected the applicant’s illness, the Russian authorities did not have substantial grounds to believe that, owing to the applicant’s health, he would face a real risk of treatment prohibited by Article 3 if drafted into the army. Furthermore, the Court also found that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the applicant was subjected to ill-treatment in the army and that the domestic investigation of ill-treatment was effective. Therefore, no breach of Article 3 was found.