• August 11, 2011
  • 235

For Polish boards the Poles to jail?

Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

Jurgis Jurkevičius, a government representative in Vilnius district, thinks that if the local government does not remove the boards with Polish inscriptions, the bailiff should take care of that.

Supreme Administrative Court in Lithuania decided that the street boards in Vilnius district written in both, Lithuanian and Polish, should be replaced with the ones written only in Lithuanian. The decision is finale and cannot be appealed.

The civil service of Vilnius district had a time to carry out the ruling till last Monday.

The head of civil service claims that it is not a matter of dislike.

We are not able to force people to remove those boards of their houses, explains Lucyna Kotłowska, the head of civil service in Vilnius district.

As we have previously said, the authorities of the region obliged Public Order Department to remove the boards. However, the boards remained only in private properties, where the owners refuse to follow the order. Tadeusz Bujko, the head of the local policing service, said that forcing the citizens to remove the boards falls outside his jurisdiction.

We visited houses where those boards are hung. The owners of the houses were informed about the order. None of them agreed to remove the boards, said Tadeusz Bujko on Tuesday. He also added that visiting houses was the only thing he could legally do.

There is no legal possibility to force the people to remove the boards. We have repeated it many times in court. We have asked for information how to execute the order but we weren’t given any precise tips, says Lucyna Kotłowska.

As the head of local authorities, she might be punished by 1,000 Lithuanian litas fine for not following the court’s decision.

If the local authorities do not meet the bailiff’s demands, he will request the court to punish the insubordinated person, in this case it will be Kotłowska, explains Jurgis Jurkevičius. He adds that if, after paying the fine, the local authorities do not force people to remove the boards, the bailiff will ask court to punish Kotłowska once again. However, he thinks that the situation will not be repeated endlessly.

As the Criminal Code says, a person notoriously ignoring court’s decisions may be prosecuted and imprisoned, the governor explains. He also adds that in this case it will be the prosecutor who will have to establish all the circumstances and decide about the guilt.

Jurgis Jurkevičius believes that local authorities have all the necessary means to force the residents to follow the court’s decision, although the residents, as individuals, were not a party in this case. In Jurkevičius’ opinion, the court specified that even if the residents refuse to remove the boards, local authorities should follow the court’s decision.

It’s the matter of  legal means. The local authorities do have them. It has nothing to do with the lack of citizens’ willingness. The names of the streets depend on the government; the inhabitants must obey the law. Insubordination against local government’s demands is a crime, Jurkevičius says. He isn’t convinced by the fact that the boards are private properties and that they belong to owners of particular houses.

What does the inviolability of private property have to do if the names of streets are within the competence of the government? The responsibility belongs to local governments, not to citizens. The citizens have to obey the law. The law has to be followed by everyone, no matter what is their nationality or whether they like it or not, explains the government’s representative.

Lucyna Kotłowska reminds that, while the government’s representative is fighting with Polish names of streets on the boards, a government work group is preparing a bill allowing for bilingual street names.

The situation is awkward. It seems that the proverbial left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, says the head of civil service in Vilnius district.


Translated by Katarzyna Gorgol within the framework of a traineeship program of the European Foundation of Human Rights,www.efhr.eu Przetłumaczyła Katarzyna Gorgol w ramach program praktyk prowadzonego przez Europejską Fundacje Praw Człowieka.

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