Facts: The applicant, Egidijus Žičkus, is a Lithuanian national. He received various state awards in the 1990s in recognition of his contribution to the independence of Lithuania and the Lithuanian army. The case concerned his complaint that, publicly denounced as a former secret KGB collaborator, he lost his job and is now prevented from working in the private sector.
In September 2000, a special governmental commission, responsible under a domestic law introduced in January 2000 for assessing the activities of those who had collaborated with the KGB, found that Mr Žičkus had helped the KGB during the Communist era. That information was published in the “Official Gazette” in July 2001. As a result, that same month, he was dismissed from his Human Resources post at the Ministry of the Interior, the reason given being the published information in respect of his past activities. He brought proceedings before the administrative courts seeking to have the conclusions of the governmental commission as regards his KGB involvement annulled, but his claim was dismissed. Following those domestic court decisions, Mr Žičkus also alleges that he was disbarred from practicing as a barrister.
Issue: The case was brought to the Court to decide whether there is a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention.
Holdings: Yes, there had been a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 8 of the Convention.
Court’s Rationale: The Court recalled that the requirement of loyalty to the State was an inherent condition of being employed as a civil servant by the State and emphasised that State-imposed restrictions on one’s opportunities to find employment in the private sector, because of lack of loyalty to the State, could not be justified under the Convention in the same manner as restrictions in the public service.
In particular, the domestic law applied in Mr Žičkus’s case had exhibited a number of drawbacks: it had not differentiated between different levels of former involvement with the KGB and had come into force at least a decade after he had ceased collaborating with the KGB. In addition, there had been nothing in the case file to indicate that Mr Žičkus would have posed an on-going danger to national security had he been employed in some areas of the private sector after 2000. Finally, the Lithuanian authorities had themselves recognized Mr Žičkus’s loyalty to the country by bestowing State awards upon him. The Court concluded that there had, therefore, been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken together with Article 8 as a result of Mr Žičkus having effectively been banned from seeking employment in various branches of the private sector.
Just satisfaction: The Court held, by four votes to three, that the finding of a violation constituted in itself sufficient compensation for any non-pecuniary damages. Mr Žičkus was awarded 3,432 Euros for costs and expenses.
Dissenting Opinion (1): The finding of a violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken together with Article 8 does not, in the dissenting opinion, afford sufficient redress and the applicant should have received compensation for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages incurred.
Dissenting Opinion (2): The dissent observed that the private-sector employment ban was not unconditional. Pursuant to Article 6 § 1 of the Law, the “former secret collaborators” had a time-limit of six months in which to admit to their collaboration to the State authorities. Furthermore, only if a person failed to admit to such collaboration within the prescribed time-limit were the fact of collaboration to be published in the “Official Gazette” and, consequently, that individual would then be prevented from pursuing certain types of professional activities in the private sector. In the present case the applicant had failed to admit to his collaboration. This resulted in the fact of his collaboration with the special services of the former USSR being published in the “Official Gazette”.
The dissent noted that the applicant had not presented any arguments which would explain and/or justify his failure to admit to his past collaboration, or his attempt to circumvent a legitimate requirement imposed on him by the Law. Furthermore, the admission of past collaboration in itself would not have led to any penalties. On the contrary, had the applicant admitted to his collaboration, that fact would have remained secret and he would not have faced any employment-related restrictions.
Accordingly, having regard to the legitimacy of the aims pursued by the State and an overall assessment of the proportionality of the measures provided for in the Law, and especially, the possibility of a discharge in respect of past behaviour, the dissent cannot find that the restrictions placed on the applicant’s employment because of his failure to comply with the requirements of the Law were disproportionate and thus discriminatory. The State cannot be held responsible for the failure of the applicant to comply with the Law.