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Jahn and others v Germany, (46720/99) [2004] ECHR 36 , 22 January 2004)

Facts: the five applicants, living in Germany, inherited land that had been allocated to their ascendants, subject to certain restrictions on disposal, following the land reform in 1945. After German reunification, some heirs – including the applicants – of persons who had acquired land under the land reform were compelled to reassign their property to the tax authorities of their respective land without compensation in accordance with the second Property Rights Amendment Act passed in 1992.

Complaint: the obligation on the applicants to reassign their land without compensation had infringed their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions guaranteed by Article 1 of the European Convention and the applicants had been the victims of discrimination contrary to Article 14. 

Holding: The ECHR found no violation of Article 1 (protection of property) and no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Article 1 of the Convention.

Reasoning: The question for the Court was whether a “fair balance” had been struck between the demands of the general interest of the community and the requirements of the protection of the individual’s property rights. The Court concluded that in the unique context of German reunification, the lack of any compensation did not upset the “fair balance” which had to be struck between the protection of property and the requirements of the general interest. Furthermore, as the provisions of the Law of 1992 had been based on an objective and reasonable justification, the Court concluded that there had not been a breach of Article 14 taken together with Article 1.

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