Article 47 - Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Key facts of the case:
1) The case originated in an application (no. 63235/00) against the Republic of Finland lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on 19 October 2000 by eight Finnish nationals (“the applicants”): Senior Constable Vilho Eskelinen; Senior Constable Arto Huttunen; Sergeant Markku Komulainen; Office Assistant Lea Ihatsu; Mr Toivo Pallonen (a police officer who retired on 1 January 1993); and Mrs Päivi Lappalainen, Mr Janne Lappalainen and Mr Jyrki Lappalainen, who are the heirs of Mr Hannu Matti Lappalainen (a police officer who died on 22 August 1995).
3) The applicants alleged, in particular, that they were denied an oral hearing in the proceedings concerning their salaries and that the proceedings were excessive in length.
10) The first five applicants and the late Mr Hannu Matti Lappalainen worked in the Sonkajärvi Police District. Under a collective agreement concluded in 1986, they were entitled to a remote-area allowance, which was added to their salaries as a bonus for working in a remote part of the country. The amounts of the allowance were calculated on the basis of a given area’s remoteness. By a collective agreement concluded on 15 March 1988, the remote-area allowance was abolished. This would have resulted in a reduction of the salary payable to civil servants whose duty station was Sonkajärvi. In order to prevent such a reduction, the collective agreement granted them monthly individual wage supplements from 1 March 1988.
11) On 1 November 1990 the Sonkajärvi Police District was incorporated into the Iisalmi Police District by a decision of the Ministry of the Interior (sisäasiainministeriö, inrikesministeriet). Following the incorporation, the applicants’ duty station changed. They also lost their individual wage supplements and the length of their commute allegedly increased by up to 50 km per day as they had to travel from Sonkajärvi to Iisalmi.
12) According to the applicants, following their request of 17 October 1990 to that effect, the Kuopio Provincial Police Command (läänin poliisijohto, länspolisledningen) promised that their loss would be compensated.
13) On 25 March 1991 the Police Department of the Ministry of the Interior, at the request of the Provincial Police Command, submitted a request for authorisation for the payment of monthly individual wage supplements, amounting to between 500 and 700 Finnish marks (FIM) (84‑118 euros) per person, to those police officers and other personnel whose duty station had been changed from Sonkajärvi to Iisalmi. The request referred to an allegedly analogous case (the Mäntyharju case) in which the Ministry of Finance (valtiovarainministeriö, finansministeriet) had granted a request for individual wage supplements on 29 December 1989. On 3 July 1991 the Ministry of Finance replied that it could not grant such authorisation. It gave no reasons for its refusal.
Outcome of the case:
For these reasons, the Court
1. Holds by twelve votes to five that Article 6 § 1 of the Convention is applicable in the present case;
2. Holds by fourteen votes to three that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention as regards the length of the proceedings;
3. Holds unanimously that there has been no violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention as regards the lack of an oral hearing;
4. Holds by fifteen votes to two that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention;
5. Holds unanimously that there has been no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 taken alone or in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention;
6. Holds by thirteen votes to four:
(a) that the respondent State is to pay, within three months, the following amounts:
(i) EUR 2,500 (two thousand five hundred euros) to each applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 9,622.11 (nine thousand six hundred and twenty-two euros and eleven cents) to the applicants jointly in respect of costs and expenses;
(iii) any tax that may be chargeable on the above amounts;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points; 7. Dismisses unanimously the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
60. Looking to European law generally, which provides useful guidance (see Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 28957/95, §§ 43‑45, 92 and 100, ECHR 2002‑VI; Posti and Rahko v. Finland, no. 27824/95, § 54, ECHR 2002‑VII; and Meftah and Others v. France [GC], nos. 32911/96, 35237/97 and 34595/97, § 45, ECHR 2002‑VII), the Court notes that Pellegrin sought support in the categories of activities and posts listed by the European Commission and by the Court of Justice of the European Communities in connection with the exception to the freedom of movement (see Pellegrin, cited above, § 66). However, the Court would observe that the Luxembourg Court itself applies a wider approach in favour of judicial control, as shown by its landmark judgment in Marguerite Johnston v. Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (222/84, § 18,  ECR 1651) brought by a female police officer on the basis of the Directive on non-discrimination. The Luxembourg Court reasoned:
“The requirement of judicial control stipulated [in Article 6 of Council Directive no. 76/207] reflects a general principle of law which underlies the constitutional traditions common to the Member States. That principle is also laid down in Articles 6 and 13 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950. As the European Parliament, Council and Commission recognised in their Joint Declaration of 5 April 1977 ... and as the Court has recognised in its decisions, the principles on which that Convention is based must be taken into consideration in Community law.”
This and other case-law in areas having a connection with Community law indicate that the scope of applicability of judicial control in European Union law is wide. If an individual can rely on a material right guaranteed by Community law, his or her status as a holder of public power does not render the requirements of judicial control inapplicable. Moreover, the broad scope of the effective judicial control has been emphasised by the Luxembourg Court’s reference to both Articles 6 and 13 of the Convention (see the Marguerite Johnston case, cited above, and the of Panayotova and Others v. Minister voor Vreemdelingenzaken en Integratie, C‑327/02,  ECR I-11055, § 27), as well as by the Charter on Fundamental Rights (see above, §§ 29-30).