European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Italy: Court ruling in Rome property rights dispute

Human rights law was breached by Italian authorities “complete and prolonged failure” to evict 150 housing rights activists from a 8000 square metre building in Rome.

In its 13 December  Chamber judgment in the case of Casa di Cura Valle Fiorita S.r.l. v. Italy (application no. 67944/13), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right of access to a court) of the European Convention on Human Rights,

and a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention.

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the court held that Italy was to pay the applicant company 20,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

The case concerned the applicant company being unable to recover possession of a building in Rome that had been occupied since 2012, without any legal title, by a group of housing activists (movimento lotta per la casa).

A final and enforceable judicial decision was given on 9 August 2013 ordering the eviction of the occupants. It remains unenforced to this day owing to social considerations (a failure to find alternative accommodation for the occupants because of a lack of resources) and fears of public-order disturbances.

The court acknowledged that social considerations and fears of public-order disturbances could justify difficulties with enforcement and a delay in evacuating the premises.

Nevertheless, it saw no justification for the Italian authorities’ complete and prolonged failure to take action, reiterating that a lack of resources could not in itself constitute an acceptable reason for failing to enforce a judicial decision.

It therefore found that the national authorities, in failing to take any steps to comply with the decision of 9 August 2013, had deprived the provisions of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention of all useful effect and had breached the principle of a law-based State, founded on the rule of law and the principle of legal certainty.

The court also found that the authorities, given the individual interests of the applicant company and after a reasonable period of time had been spent in attempting to find a satisfactory solution, should have taken the necessary measures to comply with the judge’s decision of 9 August 2013.

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