The European Court of Human Rights has communicated the case of Peter v Germany. The case concerns a complaint about the length of legal proceedings required to obtain access to a survivor's pension.
The complaint is brought by Mr. Peter who entered into a civil partnership, under the Civil Partnership Act 2001 (Gesetz über die eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft), in 2001. His partner died in 2002.
Following the death of his partner, Mr. Peter was denied access to a survivor's pension on the basis that, as the surviving partner of a same-sex couple, he did not meet the criteria to be classified as a 'widow or widower'. In 2005 Mr. Peter, as the result of changes to domestic legislation, gained access to a survivor's pension but it was not back-dated to the point of his claim in 2002.
In January 2006, Mr. Peter's lodged a complain with the Federal Constitutional Court. In June 2010 a three-judge panel of the Federal Constitutional Court decided not to review the applicant’s constitutional complaint. In its reasoning the panel explained that the complaint did not raise a pressing constitutional question as the pertinent legal provision of the social security law had meanwhile been amended.
Mr. Peter made a complaint about the length of proceedings taken by the Federal Constitutional Court using new legislation designed to remedy this. In October 2012 the complaints panel of the Federal Constitutional Court dismissed the applicant’s complaint, noting that the actual duration of the proceedings – 4.5 years – was unusually long, but not excessive.
The complaint to the European Court of Human Rights
The applicant complains under Article 6 §1 of the Convention about the length of proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court. After having made use of the new domestic remedy in this regard, he sustains his complaints under Article 13 of the Convention in particular that the new domestic remedy was not effective and the proceedings before the complaints panel were not fair within the meaning of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. He points out that the complaints panel admitted that the length of the proceedings was unduly long and that no real attention was given to his constitutional complaint for at least the first 3.5 years after he had lodged it. However, the panel did not come to the necessary conclusions.