The Slovenia Times

Neurosurgeon wins damages in Strasbourg over Israeli case

Health & Medicine
Neurosurgeon Vinko Dolenc pictured in 2015 when he received a state decoration. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Slovenia to pay neurosurgeon Vinko Dolenc €390,000 in pecuniary damages plus costs and expenses because Slovenian courts had recognised Israeli court judgements where Dolenc was found liable for damage caused to his Israeli patient.

The decision, issued on 22 February, comes after the Strasbourg court had already found in 2022 that Dolenc's right to a fair hearing had been violated owing to the failure by the Slovenian courts to duly satisfy themselves that the trial in Israel had been fair.

The EHCR already ordered Slovenia back then to pay Dolenc €9,600 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and €6,000 for costs and expenses, while the parties were to inform the court within six months within the judgement becoming final of potential agreement on pecuniary damages.

Surgery, trial and enforcement

The case concerns a surgery case dating back to 1992 when Dolenc, an internationally-renowned neurosurgeon, removed a tumour from an Israeli citizen's brain at the UKC Ljubljana hospital. Complications started soon after the surgery, leaving the patient permanently paralysed.

The Israeli took Dolenc to court in Israel, where he was awarded more than €2 million in 2006, which has by now exceeded €11 million along with accrued interest as established in a July 2023 decision by the Ljubljana Local Court. In Slovenia several sets of enforcements proceedings were imposed against Dolenc's assets.

The surgeon argued that the case should have gone to trial in Slovenia where the surgery was performed and declined to take the stand in Israel. He had been fighting against Slovenian courts recognising the Israeli judgements at all legal instances in Slovenia before turning to the Strasbourg court.

First judgement in Dolenc's favour

In 2022, the ECHR found that, before recognising the Israeli judgements, the Slovenian courts had failed to duly satisfy themselves that the trial in Israel had been fair. There had in particular been issues concerning evidence-gathering. The court in Israel did not hear such crucial witnesses as the hospital staff and a Slovenian law expert, and excluded their statements from the case file.

After that judgement, Dolenc asked the Ljubljana District Court to reopen proceedings for the recognition of Israeli judgements, but the court asked the Constitutional Court to look into sections of the law that his request was based on so the case was suspended as was a decision on pecuniary damage. Enforcement against his assets was later also suspended.

New appeal

Dolenc again turned to the Strasbourg court, which has now awarded him €390,000 plus any tax that may be chargeable in respect to pecuniary damage, and €3,100 for costs and expenses. The former sum corresponds to what Dolenc had already paid to the Israeli claimant by way of enforcement.

The state will have to pay the damages within three months from when the judgement becomes final. If it does not settle the sums by then it will also have to pay interest.

The state must also ensure that his property is not subject to further enforcement of the claim arising from the Israeli district court's judgements recognised in the proceedings before the Slovenian court which did not comply with the relevant article in the European Convention on Human Rights.

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