Euroopa Inimõiguste Kohus
02.10.2012

Facts

The applicant, Mr. Mitkus, alleged that he had been infected with HIV and hepatitis C while serving a prison sentence and initiated civil proceedings against the prison administration for that. The court of first instance rejected his claim. Mr. Mitkus submitted an appeal against the judgment and requested that his presence at the hearing be ensured. Mr. Mitkus was invited to the hearing, but was not escorted to it from the prison. In the hearing the appeal court dismissed the appeal without the presence of Mr. Mitkus. In the meantime Mr. Mitkus had initiated civil proceedings against a newspaper which had posted pictures of Mr. Mitkus as well as information about the civil lawsuit and his previous convictions. He was not escorted to a hearing of the appeal court also in these proceedings. 

Complaint

Mr. Mitkus among other things complained that he had been deprived of a fair hearing when he was not transported to appeal court hearings.

Court's ruling

The Court reiterated that the right to a fair trial presumes the observance of the principle of equality of arms - both parties must have reasonable opportunity to present their case to the court under conditions that do not place them at a substantial disadvantage vis-à-vis their opponent. It also emphasized that there is no absolute right to personal presence before a civil court. What is decisive is whether both parties have had a substantially comparable opportunity to present their case to the court. In the particular case the Court found that Mr. Mitkus was placed at a significant disadvantage regarding the respondents in both civil cases as he was not present at the hearings, but the respondents were. In addition he was also not informed that he would not be transported to the hearings therefore he could not appoint a representative to appear in his stead. Therefore the Court ruled that there has been a violation of right to fair trial guaranteed in Article 6(1) of the Convention.