The applicant company, Sociedad Anónima del Ucieza, is a limited company founded in 1978 under Spanish law, based in Ribas de Campos (Palencia). The case concerned the company’s ownership claim over religious buildings on a plot of land which had formerly belonged to the Catholic Church and which the company purchased at a public auction.
In July 1978 the company purchased land at Ribas de Campos. The entry in the land register mentioned that a church, a house, a number of norias, a poultry yard and a mill formed an enclave within the plot of land. The land had belonged to the former Premonstratensian monastery of Santa Cruz de la Zarza, which had been part of the Santa Cruz Priory, founded in the 12th century.
In December 1994, the Diocese of Palencia entered in the land register, in its own name, a plot of land comprising a Cistercian-style church, a sacristy and a capitular chamber which had once formed part of the old Premonstratensian monastery of Santa Cruz, and which were located on the land owned, according to the land register, by the applicant company. Even though its name appeared in the register as the owner of the land in question, the applicant company was neither informed of nor asked about this new entry in the register. Having been informed after the event, it submitted complaints to the Diocese, which replied that the property in question had always belonged de facto to the Diocese of Palencia under the Law on the dismantling of church property of 2 September 1841, which excluded churches and cathedrals and their annexes from the dismantling process. The applicant company brought an action against the Diocese of Palencia to declare void the entry made in the land register by the Diocese in 1994 concerning the church and its annexes. The company’s action was dismissed, as was its subsequent appeal. On 14 June 2005 the Supreme Court declared inadmissible an appeal on points of law by the company. The company then lodged an amparo appeal with the Constitutional Court, which on 26 February 2008 declared the appeal inadmissible as lacking any constitutional basis.
Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing), the applicant company submitted that it had been deprived on unduly formalistic grounds of its right of access to an appeal on points of law before the Supreme Court. Relying on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), it complained that it had been deprived of part of its property in the absence of any public interest and without any compensation on the basis of a law predating the Constitution.
In the judgment on the merits delivered on 4 November 2014 the Court held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) of the Convention and, by a majority, that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention. It held that the question of the application of Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention was not ready for decision and reserved it for decision at a later date. The Court will deal with this question in its judgment of 20 December 2016.
Press release ECHR 407 (2016) 16/12/2016