GvW Graf von Westphalen succeeds before European Court of Human Rights

The law firm GvW Graf von Westphalen has achieved a major success for its client before the European Court of Human Rights: The ECHR not only admitted the complaint filed in early 2013, but has now affirmed a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights as well and adjudicated compensation to the complainant represented by GvW (Bajić v. North Macedonia – Application No. 2833/13, judgment of 10 June 2021).

The complainant is a Serbian national and former ship inspector of the world's leading ship classification society and GvW’s longtime client DNV (previously Germanischer Lloyd – GL). He was convicted in criminal proceedings in connection with a naval accident in what is now North Macedonia. In 2009, a vessel capsized on Lake Ohrid, leaving 15 people dead - the complainant as the certifier of the vessel was one of those accused of criminal liability.

He filed a complaint with the ECHR in Strasbourg regarding his prison sentence that was decided upon in absentia by the criminal courts of North Macedonia and claimed, among other things, a violation of the right to a fair trial and thus a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. After approximately 8.5 years of proceedings, the Strasbourg judges upheld the complaint in the judgment published today. The right to a fair trial was violated because the complainant had not been informed about all allegations of the prosecution against him and therefore the principle of equality of arms had been violated. Today's Strasbourg judgment is rare since only a very small proportion of the complaints filed with the ECHR are successful.

GvW successfully represented the complainant in Strasbourg led by Hamburg partners Dr Gerd Schwendinger (Representation before European Courts/European Law) and Prof. Dr Christian Winterhoff (Constitutional Law and ECHR/Human Rights) and their interdisciplinary team consisting of Dr Michael Kleiber (Senior Associate), Dr Annika Bleier and Renata Rehle (both Associates). The firm's lawyers regularly appear not only before the ECHR but also particularly before the European Court of Justice and the Court of the European Union in Luxembourg. In particular, representation before European courts is one of the special areas of the EU state aid and subsidies law and foreign trade and customs law team of which Dr Gerd Schwendinger is a part.