Right to Free Elections

I. Interference with the Passive Electoral Right

In 2004, the Constitutional Court ruled that a person who had committed a gross violation of the Constitution or breached his oath, or committed a crime by which he grossly violated the Constitution or breached his oath, and as a result was dismissed from office following impeachment proceedings should be permanently disqualified from holding an office for which it is necessary to take an oath in accordance with the Constitution.[1]  

This proposal wholly distorts the message of the ECtHR and Committee decisions, since neither of them established any new circumstances regarding the impeachment or otherwise questioned the legitimacy of the proceedings. Since the facts as established in the conclusion of the Constitutional Court on 31 March 2004 still persist, it would be unlawful to annul the impeachment.

In the same year, following impeachment proceedings initiated by the Parliament for violating the Constitution and breaking his oath, Rolandas Paksas was removed from office as President.[2] In accordance with the aforementioned Constitutional Court ruling, he was permanently disqualified from standing for election to the office of President or to the Parliament. 

In 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that, by permanently and absolutely disqualifying Rolandas Paksas from standing for election to the Parliament, Lithuania violated his right to free elections.[3] 

Since the ECtHR did not take the time to consider the prohibition to be elected to other offices, not just becoming a member of the Parliament, Rolandas Paskas submitted an application to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. On 25 April 2014 the Committee found that an absolute and permanent disqualification on being a candidate in presidential elections, or on being a Prime Minister or minister, "lacked the necessary foreseeability and objectivity" and thus violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[4] 

Even though both the ECtHR and the Committee recommended that Lithuania revise its legal regulations and set a more proportional period for the restriction of the passive electoral right, this was not achieved in 2013-2014. Quite the opposite – certain proposals in this context resemble attempts to bypass the Constitution and change certain facts established during the impeachment proceedings. 

For example, in May 2014 the interim investigation commission of the Parliament "On the Restoration of Rolandas Paksas's Civil and Political Rights"[5] proposed that, in order to implement the decisions of the ECtHR and the Committee, the impeachment of Rolandas Paksas should be annulled by a vote in the Parliament.[6] Although this is currently not provided for in the Statute of the Parliament, the commission proposed to amend it accordingly.[7] The Parliament has yet to consider the commission's findings.[8] 

This proposal wholly distorts the message of the ECtHR and Committee decisions, since neither of them established any new circumstances regarding the impeachment or otherwise questioned the legitimacy of the proceedings. Since the facts as established in the conclusion of the Constitutional Court on 31 March 2004 still persist,[9] it would be unlawful to annul the impeachment. It should be noted that decisions are implemented not solely for the relief of the victim – their implementation is meant to prevent future violations of the Convention and the Covenant as well.[10] The Constitutional Court has stated several times that the only lawful way to ensure this is to amend the Constitution accordingly.[11]

Findings and Recommendations 

  • The decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the twin cases of Paksas v Lithuania were not implemented in 2014.
  • With reference to the reasoning of the Constitutional Court and the recommendations of the above international courts, it is recommended that a political debate be launched on amending the Constitution to introduce a time limit to the prohibition to run for office requiring an oath to the state and/or a procedure to assess whether a person is ready to swear the oath.  

[1] 25 May 2004 decision of the Constitutional Court in case No. 24/04, http://lrkt.freshmedia.lt/lt/teismo-aktai/paieska/135/ta265/content

[2] "President R. Paksas Removed From Office", published in delfi.lt on 6 April 2004, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/prezidentas-rpaksas-yra-nusalintas-nuo-pareigu.d?id=4072061

[3] 6 January 2011 ECtHR judgment in the case of Paksas v Lithuania, application No. 34932/04, http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-102617.

[4] The Committee found that Lithuania violated Article 25(b) and (c). 25 March 2014 judgment of the UN Human Rights Committee in the case of Paksas v Lithuania, application No. 2155/2012, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/undocs/2155-2012.html

[5] Resolution No. 2014-05485 of the Parliament "On the Establishment of an Interim Investigation Commission On the Restoration of President Rolandas Paksas's Civil and Political Rights", dated 13 May 2010, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=364093&p_query=&p_tr2=  

[6] Liepa Žalnienė, “The Commission for the Restoration of Rolandas Paksas's Rights Proposes Rewriting History and Annulling the Impeachment", published in 15min.lt on 24 September 2014, http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/lietuva/rolando-pakso-politiniu-teisiu-atstatymo-komisija-apkalta-buvo-lauzta-is-pirsto-ja-reikia-atsaukti-56-455325

[7] Liepa Žalnienė, “The Commission for the Restoration of Rolandas Paksas's Rights Proposes Rewriting History and Annulling the Impeachment", published in 15min.lt on 24 September 2014, http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/lietuva/rolando-pakso-politiniu-teisiu-atstatymo-komisija-apkalta-buvo-lauzta-is-pirsto-ja-reikia-atsaukti-56-455325

[8] Telephone conversation with the head of the Office of the Commissions of the Parliament, dated 19 February 2015

[9] Conclusion No. 14/04 of the Constitutional Court, dated 31 March 2004, http://lrkt.freshmedia.lt/lt/teismo-aktai/paieska/135/ta259/content

[10] Human Rights Monitoring Institute, "Opinion on the Implementation of the ECtHR Judgment in the Case of Paksas v Lithuania (2011) and the UN Human Rights Committee Judgment in the Case of Paksas v Lithuania (2014)", 30 June 2014, http://www.hrmi.lt/uploaded/Documents/2014-06-30%20(IS-IX-11-2)%20Isvada%20del%20sprendimu%20bylose%20Paksas%20pries%20Lietuva%20igyvendinimo.pdf

[11] 10 January 2011 declaration of the Constitutional Court "On the Implementation of the 6 January 2011 Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights", http://www.lrkt.lt/Pranesimai/txt_2011/L20110110c.htm; decision No. 8/2012 of the Constitutional Court, dated 5 September 2012, http://lrkt.freshmedia.lt/lt/teismo-aktai/paieska/135/ta125/content