20 nov. 2012

ECtHR Grand Chamber sets aside Chamber judgment for errors in appraisal of proportionality in compensation for expropriation, Vistiņš et al v Latvia, 71243/01

Mr. Jānis Vistiņš had a land with a value of € 900 000 that was expropriated for € 850, and Mr Genādijs Perepjolkins had a land valued at € 5 million expropriated for € 13 500 (§§ 116-117) for purposes of the Riga Port expansion. The Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found this proportional, since the expropriation price should correspond to that of the year 1940 (§ 70), but the Grand Chamber annulled this judgment on appeal and supported the applicants.

The Chamber considered that, since the applicants got this land from the heirs of the people who owned this land in 1940 (Latvia lost independence in 1940 and got it back in 1990), the increase in price of the land that took place from 1940 to 1997 (date of expropriation) was independent of any contribution of the applicants. The Grand Chamber agreed that the price may be lower than the market one, but argued that the Court cannot equate individuals who had not yet recovered their property with those who were already in possession of a valid title deed.

The Chamber thought that the price of 1940 was proportional, since the applicants owned the land only for 3 years before the expropriation, and got the title as a donation. The Grand Chamber corrected in showing that according to the contracts they got the land for certain services, which is not free of charge (§ 121).

Mr. Vistiņš received from the Riga Port € 85 000 as rent arrears for the period before expropriation, and Mr. Perepjolkins got € 593 150. This makes the expropriation price proportional according to the Chamber. According to the Grand Chamber, this is exactly what shows disproportion of the expropriation price. The rent arrears were not calculated as if they were in 1940 (§ 128).

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