The case originated in an application against the Republic of Lithuania lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by a Lithuanian national, Mr Alvydas Albrechtas, on 19 December 2005. The applicant alleged a breach of Article 5 of the Convention, arguing that, in court proceedings for his detention on remand, he had not had access to the criminal investigation file.
Issue: Complaint concerning the proceedings of 26 May 2005 in the Vilnius City Second District Court. The applicant argued that this process had not been adversarial because he and his lawyer had been denied access to information concerning the grounds for placing him in pre-trial detention. He invoked Article 5 of the Convention.
The Court considered that the applicant’s complaint fell to be examined under Article 5 § 4 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“4. Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.”
The Court’s assessment:
The Court considers that the crux of the applicant’s complaint is his plea that during the aforementioned court hearing no “equality of arms” ‒ as laid down under Article 5 § 4 of the Convention ‒ was guaranteed on account of the fact that, during the proceedings concerning the applicant’s detention, the court had the opportunity to examine the applicant’s criminal case file, as presented by the prosecutor, but those documents were not disclosed to the applicant or his lawyer. The Court further observes that the applicant raised this particular aspect in his appeal of 13 June 2005, albeit unsuccessfully (see paragraph 28 above), thereby having made full use of the remedy provided by the criminal-law procedure. The applicant even reiterated this argument in the criminal proceedings, when the merits of his case were being decided.
The Court has held that, in the event of there being a number of domestic remedies which an individual can pursue, that person is entitled to choose a remedy which addresses his or her essential grievance. In other words, when a certain remedy has already been pursued, use of a different remedy which has essentially the same objective is not required (see Jasinskis v. Latvia, no. 45744/08, § 50, 21 December 2010). In the particular circumstances of this case, the Court also considers that the Lithuanian courts’ case-law relied on by the Government focuses more on the length or the lawfulness of detention than on the specific aspect of ‘equality of arms’ within the criminal proceedings concerning the applicant’s detention, which lies at the heart of the applicant’s claim in this case. The Court thus fails to see how the civil law remedy would add any vital elements that were unavailable through the use of the criminal law remedy. Accordingly, the Government’s objection regarding the need to exhaust the civil law remedy must be dismissed. 63. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
Decision of the court:
Decision of the court on the alleged violation of Article 5 § 4 of the Convention.
Holdings: The Court unanimously holds that there has been a violation of Article 5 § 4 of the Convention. In addition, the Court holds that the finding of a violation constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicant.
Costs and expenses: The applicant claimed 2,855 Lithuanian litai ((LTL), approximately EUR 826 for the costs and expenses of the proceedings before the Court. This sum included LTL 2,360 (EUR 683) for the costs of legal representation when lodging this application with the Court, and LTL 495 (EUR 143) for translation costs. The Government disputed the claim. However, the Court awards the applicant’s claim in full.
The applicant claimed 200,000 (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. The Government disputed this claim as unreasonable and excessive. The Court considers that it is impossible to determine and thus it cannot speculate whether or not the applicant’s detention on remand would have been authorised by the Vilnius Second District Court if there had been no violation of Article 5 § 4. As to the alleged frustration suffered by the applicant on account of the absence of adequate procedural guarantees for his detention, the Court finds that, in the particular circumstances of the instant case, the finding of a violation is sufficient and dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.