Dobbertin v France (Series A, No 256-D; Application No 13089/87) EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS (1993) 16 EHRR 558, 25 FEBRUARY 1993

Length of criminal proceedings


The applicant was a German national working in France. He was arrested in 1979 for communicating with agents of the German Democratic Republic. His trial did not start until 1989, meanwhile he spent the time between 1983 and 1098 on bail. He was later convicted and sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment on 15 June 1990. On appeal, his case was remanded for another trial where he was acquitted of all charges. The proceedings, which lasted 12 years and 10 months and were delayed due to various appeals to court irregularities as well as the reorganization of French courts during that period. The applicant filled this suit alleging that his right to a hearing within a reasonable time under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human rights had been violated.

1. Criminal Proceedings: Reasonable time. (Art 6(1)).

- Although the final steps of the proceedings (namely the trial which was conducted in under two years), the total length of the period of the proceedings should be taken into account. Thus the relevant period began with the date of the applicant's arrest, 19 January 1979, and ended when the statute of limitations ran out, i.e. it covered a period a little over 12 years

- The complex and sensitive nature of the proceedings may have contributed to the delays. However, even for national security proceedings such complexities do not justify the length of these proceedings.

- A detainee is not obliged to cooperate with the authorities in order to facilitate a speedy trial.

- Article 6(1) requires Contracting States to met the requirements of the article even if that means reorganizing their judicial systems. Through the period the authorities did not take any measures that would allow this case to end swiftly.

The following cases are referred to in the judgment:

1. CORIGLIANO v ITALY (A/57): (1983) 5 EHRR 334.
3. B v AUSTRIA (A/175): (1990) 13 EHRR 20.
4. DEUMELAND v GERMANY (A/120): (1986) 8 EHRR 448.
5. LECHNER AND HESS v AUSTRIA (A/118): (1987) 9 EHRR 490.
6. PUGLIESE v ITALY, Series A, No 206-A.

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