Widow wins fight for husband’s property confiscated by the police

Rummi v. Estonia  | 2015

Widow wins fight for husband’s property confiscated by the police

… the Court is bound to conclude that the confiscation of the gold and silver items and diamonds was an arbitrary measure …

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, January 2015


Karol Rummi’s husband was a geologist. He had a valuable collection of precious metals. When he died, the rights to his property passed to Mrs Rummi and her two sons. However, the precious metals were confiscated by the police.

Mrs Rummi tried to get them back, but she was not allowed to make her case in court. She was told that the precious metals now belonged to the state and she would never see them again.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court ruled that the authorities had violated Mrs Rummi’s right to property by confiscating the precious metals without a properly-justified reason. By refusing to let her make her case in front of a judge, they had also breached her right to access a court.

The Court reiterates that an oral, and public, hearing constitutes a fundamental principle enshrined in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, January 2015


Mrs Rummi and her sons were given compensation equivalent to the value of the precious metals taken from Mrs Rummi’s late husband. 

The Estonian parliament drafted legislation to make sure that similar problems would not happen again. It ensures that people are able to access a court in similar circumstances, to prove the property belongs to them and to recover it.

Related examples

Reforms after bank refused to pay out pensioner’s savings

Ruža Jeličić was a citizen of the former Yugoslavia. She worked in Germany in the 1970s and 80s and kept savings of German marks in a bank in the former Yugoslavia. However, along with thousands of others with foreign currency savings, she was banned from withdrawing the money after moving back home. After Mrs Jeličić stopped working and her husband died, she had no money to live on.

Read more

New compensation rules after villagers forced from their homes to live in extreme poverty

The government evicted the inhabitants of a small village for counter-terrorism purposes. They were not allowed to return for over 10 years. In the meantime, they were given no alternative housing or money, and they lived in extreme poverty. The Strasbourg court ruled that their rights had been violated. A new law introduced compensation for damages suffered during anti-terrorist activities.

Read more

Reforms introduced after failure to pay compensation to Chernobyl rescue worker

Anatoliy Burdov was exposed to radiation whilst working on the emergency response to the Chernobyl disaster. He was entitled to certain social benefits, but the authorities refused to pay - even when ordered to do so by Russian courts. The Strasbourg court said that this violated Mr Burdov’s rights. As a result, reforms were introduced to improve the enforcement of judgments.

Read more

Changes to fair compensation laws after families were forced to give up their land

Two families owned some land in Thessaloniki. The authorities took away part of the land to carry out public works - but the families were paid only a fraction of the land’s true value. The Strasbourg court found that this violated their right to property. Greek case-law was subsequently changed, requiring courts to properly compensate people when their property is expropriated.

Read more

Woman forced to allow hunting on her land against her beliefs

Catherine Schneider was ethically opposed to hunting, but she was forced to allow it on her land under an old law. The Strasbourg court ruled that forcing her to be part of a hunting syndicate breached her basic rights. The law was changed to allow people to follow their conscience on hunting.

Read more