Waneta Banel v. Lithuania
On June 18th 2013 the European Court of Human Rights revealed its decision, according to which petitioner Waneta Banel won the case against Lithuania. The case was about circumstances of the death of Edgar — son of Ms W. Banel — the cause of which was negligence of the self-government of the city of Vilnius and a self-government’s company “Naujamiesčio būstas”.
The tragedy occurred on June 5th 2005. Edgar, Ms Waneta Banel’s son, was playing with other children just next to the flat in which he lived. During the play in an abandoned house, three of the children went out to the balcony which was too weak to hold three people and it fell down. Thirteen years old boy died in the place of the accident because of many serious injuries (including broken spine) and his two friends, V.J and A.B were taken to hospital. The police began an investigation on the same day.
In the course of the proceedings, the petitioner brought a charge against the self-government for 3 mln litas for the moral damage and for cost of the judicial proceedings.
W.B. used the arguments that her son died because the self-government did not take proper care of the abandoned house. The obligation arises from article 42 of the act on building. In 2007 the General Prosecutor’s Office in Vilnius issued a decision on the basis of which it discontinued the preparatory proceedings. The decision was motivated by “crucial” changes in the organisation of the self-government and the self-government’s company, “Naujamiesčio būstas” that took place between 1999 and 2005, which made it impossible to point out the guilty agent. Additionally, basing on article 20, paragraph 5 of the Penal Code, the General Prosecutor’s Office has decided that a legal person – in this case the self-government and the company which is under its control – cannot be a subject of a crime. The decision was sued. In 2009 the First District Court in Vilnius has produced a statement in which it did not indicate a guilty agent due to insufficient proofs delivered by the public prosecutor.
After using up all judicial options in the country, Waneta Banel has applied to the European Court of Human Rights. After considering the case, the circumstances that appeared and the decisions taken by Lithuanian courts, the European Court of Human Rights has decided that the municipal authorities have violated particular national laws (article 42 paragraph 3 act 1 on building) as well as article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Court, among other arguments, used the decision of the Supreme Court (3K-7-365/2005) and the District Court in Klaipeda (21-421-253/2010) in which municipal authorities were found guilty of neglecting their responsibilities.
The European Court has pointed out the fact that according to article 229 of the Penal Code and article 6.250 of the Civil Code Lithuania has to pay damages for the petitioner to the sum of 28.135 EUR for the moral damage and the cost of legal proceedings.
Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.