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Aktuelle Rechtsprechung

Rechtswidrige Enteignungen der
Bundesrepublik Deutschland

 Der europäische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte entschied am 22. Januar 2004, dass die Enteignung von Grundstücken ehemaliger DDR-Bürger nach der Wiedervereinigung ohne eine Entschädigungszahlung gegen die europäische Menschenrechtskonvention verstoße.

Betroffen von diesen rechtswidrigen Enteignungen sind ca. 70.000 Bürger. Diese hatten das Land nach der Bodenreform anno 1945 erhalten oder später geerbt und mussten dieses - soweit sie nicht selbst in der Land-, Forst- oder Nahrungsmittelwirtschaft arbeiteten - anno 1992 an die neuen Bundesländer entschädigungslos abtreten.

Betroffenen werden wir bei der Durchsetzung ihrer Rechte behilflich sein.

Die Entscheidung im Detail:
 

CHAMBER JUDGMENT IN THE CASE OF
JAHN AND OTHERS v. GERMANY

The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing a judgment 1)  in the case of Jahn and Others v. Germany (application nos. 46720/99, 72203/01 and 72552/01). (The judgment is available in French and in English.)

The Court held:

  • unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) of the European Convention on Human Rights;

  • unanimously, that it was not necessary to examine the applicants’ complaint under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;

  • by six votes to one, that the question of the application of Article 41 (just satisfaction) was not ready for decision.

1.  Principal facts

The five applicants are all German nationals living in Germany: Heidi Jahn and Albert Thurm, who are sister and brother, born in 1947 and living in Sangerhausen; Erika Rissmann and Ilse Höller, who are sisters, born in 1942 and 1944 and living in Erfstadt and Stotzheim respectively; and, Edith Loth, born in 1940 and living in Frankfurt an der Oder. 

The applicants all inherited plots of land which had been allocated to their families - subject to certain restrictions regarding the transfer of title to the land  - following the 1945 agrarian reform (Bodenreform-grundstücke) in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Such landowners were known at the time as the new farmers (Neubauern).

On 16 March 1990 the Modrow Law (Gesetz über die Rechte der Eigentümer von Grundstücken aus der Bodenreform) entered into force, lifting the restrictions regarding the transfer of title and giving those concerned full ownership rights.

After German reunification, however, certain individuals who had inherited land allocated following the agrarian reform, including the applicants, were required to transfer this land to the tax authorities of their local Länder without compensation, under the Federal Republic of Germany’s second Pecuniary Rights Amendment Act (zweites Vermögensrechtsänderungsgesetz) of 14 July 1992. This law stipulated that those inheriting  land acquired following the agrarian reform who had not worked in the agriculture, forestry or food-production sectors either on 15 March 1990 or during the previous 10 years, or been members of an agricultural cooperative (Landwirtschaftliche Produktions-genossenschaft) in the GDR, transfer the land to the tax authorities.

2.  Procedure and composition of the Court

The first application was lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights on 2 September 1996 and transmitted to the Court on 1 November 1998. It was declared admissible on 25 April 2002. The second and third applications were lodged on 19 March and 23 April 2001 and were declared partly admissible on 15 May 2003.  

A public hearing took place in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg on 18 September 2003.

Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portuguese), President,
Georg Ress (German),
Lucius Caflisch (Swiss),
Pranas Küris (Lithuanian),
John Hedigan (Irish),
Margarita Tsatsa-Nikolovska (Macedonian),
Kristaq Traja (Albanian), judges,

and also Vincent Berger, Section Registrar.

3.  Summary of the judgment  2)

Complaints

The applicants complained that, in being required to reassign their property without compensation, they were deprived of their property, in violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. They also complained, under Article 14, that the tax authorities’ right to assignment of the land amounted to discrimination against them compared to other owners of land distributed under the land reform.

Decision of the Court

Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
The European Court of Human Rights found that the applicants were owners of the land in question. Whatever their position before the Modrow Law entered into force, they had legally acquired full ownership of the land under that law, which was passed by the GDR’s parliament and became an integral part of German domestic law following the reunification of Germany. After reunification the applicants had all been registered as owners in the land register and had, initially, been able to dispose of their property as they wished. Ordering the applicants to reassign their property to the tax authorities therefore deprived them of their property within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

The Court also recognised that this transfer of title had a legal basis and that it was in the public interest; in that it was a question of correcting the results - which the German authorities considered to be unjust - of the Modrow Law.

However, a fair balance had to be struck between the demands of the general interest of the community and the requirements of the protection of the individual’s fundamental rights. The Court reiterated that the taking of property without paying compensation related to its value would normally constitute a disproportionate interference; a total lack of compensation could only be considered justifiable under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 in exceptional circumstances.

The Court noted that the Modrow Law was passed by the first freely-elected parliament in the GDR in 1990 in negotiations between the two German States during the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implementation of German reunification. The aim of the law was to open up the GDR to a market economy, by lifting all the restrictions on land acquired under the land reform.

If the German legislature’s intention was to correct the - in its opinion unjust - effects of the Modrow Law by passing a new law two years later, this did not pose a problem in itself. The problem was the content of the new law. In the Court’s view, in order to comply with the principle of proportionality, the German legislature could not deprive the applicants of their property for the benefit of the State without making provision for them to be adequately compensated. However, the applicants did not receive any compensation.

The Court accepted that the second Property Rights Amendment Act did not only benefit the State, but also in some cases provided for the redistribution of land for the benefit of farmers and to the detriment of heirs to the land who had not themselves farmed it. However, the Court was required to deal only with the cases actually brought before it. The applicants, as the heirs of owners of land that had been acquired under the land reform, had had to reassign their land to the tax authorities without any compensation whatsoever.

The Court concluded that, even if the circumstances surrounding German reunification had to be regarded as exceptional, the lack of any compensation for the State’s taking of the applicants’ property upset, to the applicants’ detriment, the fair balance which had to be struck between the protection of property and the requirements of the general interest. There had therefore been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

Article 14
Noting its finding above, the Court did not find it necessary to examine the alleged violation of Article 14 taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

Judge Cabral Barreto expressed a partly concurring and partly dissenting opinion, which is annexed to the judgment.

***

Registry of the European Court of Human Rights
F - 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
 

The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1 November 1998 it has sat as a full-time Court composed of an equal number of judges to that of the States party to the Convention. The Court examines the admissibility and merits of applications submitted to it. It sits in Chambers of 7 judges or, in exceptional cases, as a Grand Chamber of 17 judges. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe supervises the execution of the Court’s judgments.

 

1) Article 43 of the European Convention on Human Rights, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17‑member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.

2)  This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.