Translated with Google Translate. Original article in Spanish on El Pais here.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned Spain on Tuesday for illegalizing and ordering the demolition of a summer apartment of two retirees without having warned them. Those affected, two septuagenarians from Madrid who bought a flat in Sanxenxo (Pontevedra) in 2001, did not learn that they were going to be without their home on the Galician coast until 2009, when they were informed of a firm decision to demolish the building. They took their indignation to Strasbourg and won the battle.
The court orders Spain to pay 1,000 euros to each of the two retirees for moral damages and reimburses them 33,446.66 euros in payment of taxes and fees. European judges consider that the two complainants have been found to have violated their right to a fair trial, as enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
No one, neither the court nor the City Council of Sanxenxo, notified the two affected that only a year after buying the apartment in Marbella Gallega a neighbor had initiated an anti-construction proceeding because it was allegedly illegal. Given the administrative silence of the local corporation, the complainant filed a lawsuit in court and obtained that in 2004 the administrative court number 3 of Pontevedra annulled the building permission of the building. From this resolution only the developer of the property was informed. The retired people of Madrid continued to enjoy the apartment, unaware of the problem that lurked them from the courts.
In resolving the remedies against that first sentence, the High Court of Xustiza de Galicia went further and in 2007 decreed the demolition of the building. And it was two years after that firm and irremediable decision, in 2009, when the City of Sanxenxo communicated to the owners of Madrid the bad news.
Outraged, the two owners of the apartment asked the Galician high court for the nullity of the process for not being informed. The High Court, however, rejected its claim, claiming that it had not been possible to prove that the Pontevedra court in which the proceedings were initiated knew the “existence” of the two septuagenarians. And as the Constitutional Court did not accept its claims, those affected did not hesitate to reach Strasbourg.
European judges do consider that “the identity of the complainants was accessible and there was enough information in the file to allow the Administration and the courts to identify the interested parties” and inform them of what was on them. Now the demolition of the building is paralyzed by a change in Sanxenxo’s urban planning legislation but the European court considers that these circumstances are not enough either “to make good the real damage caused by the lack of participation of the plaintiffs in the process.”