I have put online a little article on ‘The length of proceedings in the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights’.
In summary: Pursuant to article 6 para 1 ECHR, everybody is entitled to a trial within reasonable time. The European Court of Human Rights assesses whether the duration of proceedings has been reasonable considering all circumstances of the case.
When making this assessment, it undertakes two steps:
- First, it establishes the period to be considered by ascertaining the starting point and the closing point of the proceedings in question. The starting point is not necessarily the moment when the procedure is considered as initiated under the domestic law in the respondent state, because the Court assesses this autonomously for the purposes of the Convention. The same holds true for the point of time when the procedure is considered finalized.
- Once the ECtHR has established the time period to be taken into account, it assesses whether it is reasonable.
To this end, it applies four criteria:
- The complexity of the case
- The conduct of the applicant
- The conduct of the respondent state
- What is at stake for the applicant
The complexity of the case is determined by factors such as the number of documents to be reviewed, the numbers of witnesses, the numbAer of experts to be examined, the difficulty of the legal questions to be decided.
When scrutinizing the conduct of the applicant, the Court has regard to whether the applicant caused delays by asking for postponements of sessions or extensions of deadlines, whether he delivered necessary documents and followed summonses.
With regard to the conduct of the respondent state, the Court examines if the state has met its obligation to facilitate a speedy trial. Particular attention is paid to phases in which the proceedings effectively rested and no action was undertaken. Each signatory state to the ECHR is obliged to organize it judicial system in a way which ensures that proceedings can be conducted within reasonable time.
Finally, the Court considers what is at stake for the applicant. It has held that there are matters which call for expedition, such as disputes regarding child custody, pension rights or labor disputes.