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ECtHR judgments in case Potomska and Potomski v. Poland still waits to be enforced

Three years ago the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a lack of procedure allowing for the effective pursuit of compensation in a situation where a person is unable to use their property for its intended purpose constitutes a breach of property rights. The case involves Mr and Mrs Potomski who purchased a plot of land owned by the State Land Fund. After a couple of years they learned that their land could not be developed because the Provincial Inspector of Historic Monuments decided to enter it into the register of historic monuments.

The property is located in the area of a Jewish 19th century cemetery. For years, proceedings were commenced before various bodies to resolve the problem.

The judgment of the Strasbourg Court was issued in 2011. Nevertheless, Poland has not yet taken any steps to implement it into Polish law. “The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has brought up this issue with the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers showing that Poland has been failing to perform its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights”, says Irmina Pacho, HFHR lawyer.

In the opinion of the Government, the ECtHR did not state in its judgment issued in the Potomska and Potomski case that Poland had to change the laws to enable owners of the property listed on the register of historic monuments to seek compensation. This statement is clear from the response which the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage gave in 2012 to the parliamentary question on the need to amend the Historic Monuments Protection and Preservation Act. The question was asked in the aftermath of the judgment in the case of the Potomski couple.

The HFHR, on the other hand, believes that without legislative changes courts cannot award any compensation to the owners of the property listed on the register of historic monuments.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers supervises the proper execution of the ECtHR’s judgments. The Polish Government has not yet presented any plan on how to enforce the judgment in the case of Potomska and Potomski v. Poland in order to avoid similar problems in the future.

The Foundation’s address with the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers was drafted together with Clifford Chance.

To view the address, use this link.


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