Papamichalopoulos v Greece (Series A, No 260-B; Application No 14556/89) European Court of Human Rights (1993) 16 EHRR 440 24 JUNE 1993

De facto expropriation of land


The applicants, who were all Greek nationals, were deprived of the use of their land by virtue of a Greek law passed after the dictatorship was established in 1967 which transferred the land to the Navy Fund. The applicants applied unsuccessfully to the Greek courts for restoration of their land. After democracy had been restored the authorities recognized the applicants as having title and ordered exchange of the land for other land of equal value. None of the land chosen by the authorities was able to be used for the proposed exchange and by the date of the Court's judgment no compensation had been awarded to the applicants. The applicants complained of a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No 1 to the Convention.

1. Possessions and Property

The Greek authorities had treated the applicants as the owners of the land and therefore they are the de facto owners of the land. Although the land of the applicants was not ‘expropriated’ per se, they nevertheless were not able to enjoy their land or deal with as they saw fit. In addition, all their attempts to remedy the situation within the Greek judicial system failed. The consequences were sufficiently serious to amount to a de facto expropriation within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol No 1.

On the other hand, although the interference by the government was purposeful (establishing a naval base and a holiday resort for officers and their families), it was not for the purpose of controlling the use of property within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 1 of Protocol No 1. Hence, the second paragraph does not apply.

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