Helle v. Finland  (157/1996/776/977) 19 December 1997: applicant’s right to an oral hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal; failure to state reasons

Finland – consequences of respondent State’s reservation on applicant’s right to an oral hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal and whether the domestic proceedings were unfair on account of domestic courts’ alleged failure to state reasons for their decisions and/or to respect equality of arms principle

I. ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION

B. Compliance

1. Absence of oral hearing before independent and impartial tribunal

Supreme Administrative Court was an independent and impartial tribunal with full appellate jurisdiction to review decisions of Cathedral Chapter and had discretion to organise an oral procedure - that Cathedral Chapter’s decisions were subject to control of a court satisfying requirements of Article 6 § 1 is sufficient for the purposes of compliance with that provision.

Admittedly Finland’s reservation had excluded a right to an oral hearing before Supreme Administrative Court – nevertheless, that reservation complied with substantive and procedural requirements of Article 64 of Convention - that applicant did not obtain an oral hearing at any stage of domestic proceedings must be seen as a consequence of the operation of a valid reservation - result not therefore incompatible with the Convention.

Conclusion: no violation (unanimously).

2. Alleged unfairness of domestic proceedings

Applicant cannot maintain that there was a breach of "equality of arms" - he availed himself of possibility to comment on opinions submitted by Cathedral Chapter to Supreme Administrative Court in both appeal proceedings.

Whether succinctness of reasons given by Supreme Administrative Court for rejecting applicant’s two appeals complied with Article 6 § 1 requirements to be determined in light of all circumstances of case - Supreme Administrative Court incorporated in its two decisions reasons given by Cathedral Chapter and appended latter’s decisions to its own rulings - Cathedral Chapter had given due consideration to applicant’s arguments on (1) his employment status and (2) level of compensation to which entitled - by incorporating reasons of Cathedral Chapter to reject applicant’s arguments, Supreme Administrative Court indicated that it had no reasons of its own to depart from decisions of Cathedral Chapter and that applicant had not adduced any new arguments - Supreme Administrative Court had addressed essence of applicant’s arguments and did not merely rubber-stamp decisions of Cathedral Chapter.

Conclusion: no violation (unanimously).

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