(CN) – Greece must compensate four citizens after it confiscated their mansion and surrounding park in the suburbs of Athens for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games then largely ignored their grievances, the European Court of Human Rights ruled.
Four members of the Fix family, ranging in age from 54 to 84, sued the Greek government before the Strasbourg-based court, citing three violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Fixes said their complaints were ignored for nearly six years after the government christened their property as a “historical monument for preservation” in 2002.
Beginning in 1983, the government ordered the Fixes to produce title documents to the mansion and park. Then, in 1985, Greece recognized them as owners of less than half of the 91,000 square-foot total rural spread.
Greek ministers of Environment, Town and Country Planning and Public Works, Culture and Economy ultimately used the property as arts center additions and historic exposures for the 2004 Olympics – the first games Greece had hosted since 1896.
The government desired the property because “the imposing character of the house with its surrounding park ‘had contributed to the aspect of the district’ and constituted ‘a point of reference to remember its inhabitants,'” according to the supranational court’s judgment, which is not available with an official English translation.
Three additional buildings located in the park were not of “architectural and morphological interest,” and left to the Fixes, the ruling states.
The Fixes called the accelerated expropriation of their property an “abuse of power” and added that the government intended “to deprive them of the use of this property without any allowance,” a violation of Article 1 of the Convention, they argued.
Agreeing that Greece failed to give the Fixes a fair hearing or effective recourse from the seizure of their property, the court said six years of complaint deferrals were “not compatible with the requirements of the ‘reasonable delay.'”
“The Court reaffirms that it falls on the contracting States to organize their legal system so that their jurisdictions can guarantee to each one the right to obtain a definite decision on the disputes relative to its rights and obligations of civil nature within a reasonable delay,” according to the ruling, which recognizes 47 member states of the Council of Europe,
The Fixes sought $63,100 for legal expenses and costs, and “various sums” for material loss and moral wrong, but failed to detail an expense claim, the court ruled. Greece called the Fixes’ cost estimate “excessive and unnecessary,” the ruling states.
Ultimately the court decided to award the Fixes $39,600 for nonpecuniary, “moral wrong” damages and $1,400 for costs and expenses. The plaintiffs are Karolos Fix, Georgios Fix, Yakinthi Fix and Kasandra-Mosha Fix.