Handcuffs put on human rights organisations
The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania adopted another decision, which confirms conclusions of national and international reports on the subject of human rights violations in Lithuania. This time, the Court’s victims in the area of administrative issues are human rights watch organisations in Lithuania. Consequently, The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania put handcuffs on all such organisations, preventing them from fighting for human rights in the courts.
On the 17th of September 2012, the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) lodged a complaint to Służby Kontrolera ds. Równego Traktowania (SKRT) about the discriminatory announcement of a company ‘Rojus group,’ which was published on 19th of August 2012 on the website www.darbo.lt. The note said that “girls able to work and willing to earn” are needed. In Art. 8 of an act on equal treatment of women and men, it is highlighted that in “job advertisements, in civil duty and in order to fulfil educational needs, it is forbidden to give conditions of employment regarding sex.”
Despite the obvious violation of the law by the authors of the advertisement, the EFHR received a message about the decision that on the 12th of November the SKRT dismissed the case pointing to the lack of objective evidence of a violation and accused the EFHR for not having a lawful interests in this case, because it does not represent a natural person, whose rights would be violated.
The next step that the EFHR, represented by the lawyer’s assistant Ewelina Baliko, took was to file a complaint to the Regional Administrative Court of Vilnius with a request to nullify SKRT’s decision and to investigate the case of the discriminatory advertisement. On the 6th of May, 2013, the Regional Administrative Court ruled that the SKRT did not indicate what fact or evidence prove or disprove of acts’ violations and admitted that both legal and natural persons have the right to file a complaint to SKRT in cases of equal treatment.
On the 7th of November 2013, the Supreme Administrative Court of the Republic of Lithuania ruled a final decision. It nullified the Regional Administrative Court’s decision from the 6th of May 2013, dismissing the EFHR’s complaint. The Supreme Court stated that because the EFHR is not a natural person, it cannot be an entity which could file complains about SKRT’s decisions to the court. The decision concludes that only those persons, whose rights have been violated, can only appeal against SKRT’s decisions. The Supreme Court stated that there is no legal act, which would allow the EFHR to represent public interest, even in cases of apparent discrimination. Such situation in Lithuania impedes the functioning not only of the EFHR but also other organisations in Lithuania and clearly shows that in Lithuania, there are serious legal obstructions when it comes to the fight for human rights. Thus, the Supreme Court did not resolve the dispute essentially, but only procedurally, by which it gave a sign to all government bodies that they do not have to explain human rights issues in Lithuania.
A history of this case explicitly shows that there is a real need for legal changes in Lithuania. We cannot allow for complaints of human rights organisations to be dismissed by the court only because of the absence of the injured party, a natural person in this case. It will be one of the HFHR’s aims in the future.