- July 26, 2013
Judicial decisions of European Court of Human Rights versus Lithuania. Government: We are doing pretty well, ECHR: this is not good
In 1993 Lithuania was officially admitted to the European Council, and two years later it ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, thereby making it possible for the citizens to start legal proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (henceforth, the ECHR).
“It is the right means to refine the state’s legal system, improve the conditions of executing sentences, and boost efficiency in terms of respecting human rights,” say representatives of the European Foundation of Human Rights.
Elvyra Baltutytė, a representative of the Lithuanian government in the ECHR, emphasizes that, in the context of the Court’s judicial decisions, Lithuania turns out favourably enough.
“Lithuania does not stand out and, what is more, compared with other countries, it turns out even better. (…) We do not stand out either in terms of violations or the number of petitions.”
“However, according to the European Foundation of Human Rights, Lithuanian state institutions treat legal decisions of the European Court of Human Rights with reserve. Moreover, they do not always implement the decisions to the state’s legal system. This is visible, as claim experts from the EFHR, in the number of cases of the ECHR that are still being adjusted to the Lithuanian law. According to official statistics provided by Lithuania’s Ministry of Justice, there are 31 cases of this kind. The EFHR is concerned that in some cases the ECHR has made a ruling in 2007, but the problem still has not been solved.
As regards the number of complaints filed at the European Court of Human Rights, Lithuania is one of “leading” countries which joined the European Union in 2004. 6,05 complaints for every 10,000 inhabitants (the total number of complaints is 1,798) are filed there. Lithuania is preceded only by Latvia, in which 7,14 complaints are filed for every 10,000 inhabitants.
According to the data of Lithuania’s Ministry of Justice from 2011, 0,94 complaints are filed for every 10,000 inhabitants of Lithuania. Considering countries from Western Europe, the number of complaints is very high. For comparison, in 2011 France lodged 0,25 complaints for every 10,000 inhabitants, Great Britain – 0,25, and Germany – 0,21 at the ECHR.
“This is a signal that Lithuania is not adjusting the state legal system to the rulings of the ECHR, does not draw any conclusions from them, and the subjects of motions repeat themselves, say experts from the European Foundation of Human Rights, explaining that this stems from the fact that Lithuanian judges have a poor knowledge of the international law.
“This is caused by neglecting the issue of the international law or by low number of training courses for judges and other public officers in Lithuania. The Ministry of Justice has announced that only 27 training courses in human rights were held in 2004-2012.
According to the representatives of the EFHR, the circumstances contribute to an increase in the number of complaints filed at the ECHR: “This is not without an influence on the number of complaints filed at the European Court of Human Rights as judges are not able to objectively and fairly settle a case based on the conditions of the international law,” they add.
As observes the EFHR, Lithuanian judges are not well-versed in the principles of the international law. What is more, they consider the Lithuanian law to have precedence over international regulations.
“Having acquainted ourselves with the rulings of the Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court, which in most cases do not refer to the international law, we can state that Lithuanian judges are not knowledgeable about the international law and therefore do not find themselves faced with the necessity to implement it. They also think that the Lithuanian law takes precedence over the international law. In most cases, these judges do not refer to the arguments from the area of the international law presented by the parties of a trail,” say lawyers of the EFHR.
The representatives of the European Foundation of Human Rights take the position that Lithuanian courts unwillingly consult the Court of Justice of the European Union (henceforth, the CJEU).
“Considering cooperation between national courts and the CJEU, one should notice the fact that Lithuania lags behind countries from Western Europe. On the basis of the report of the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2012, we can see that Lithuanian courts very rarely ask the CJEU for advice. This advice is called a ‘preliminary ruling.’ There were only 13 requests for a preliminary ruling. This is the fifth to the last result in the European Union. By comparison, in Luxembourg, a state that numbers 500,000 inhabitants, 83 requests for a preliminary ruling were made,” stresses the EFHR.
According to experts from the European Foundation of Human Rights, as regards the judiciary, Lithuania is lags behind the commonly observed European standards.
“The reluctance to cooperate with European institutions, incompetence of judges as regards the application of the international law, and slow implementation of legal decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights are the main causes of Lithuania’s legal problems – problems with which should be handled as soon as possible,” they add.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is a court of law of the European Convention on Human Rights. It hears applications from the cases concerning human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the additional protocols. Contrary to popular misconception, the ECHR is not an organ of the European Council. It is exclusively an organ of the European Convention on Human Rights. It means that it was created by virtue of the Convention and that the Convention and its protocols specify its jurisdiction, operation, and procedures.
The European Foundation Human Rights, based in Vilnius, Lithuania, was set up in 2010.
Tłumaczenie by Elwira Łykus w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Elwira Łykus within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.