Article 2.20 part 1 of the Civil Code of Lithuania establishes that every person has the right to a name. It includes the right to have a surname, first name(s), and a pseudonym. However, as has been already established several times before, the existing legal framework is not sufficient to meet the rights and needs of the individuals. This conclusion has been reached once again by the Vilnius City District Court on 26th February 2020. This time, the Court decided that the Applicant, identified by the Lithuanian state as Viktorija, should be able to have her first name spelled in all official documents in her preferred form as ‘Viktoria’.
The Applicant is a Lithuanian citizen, currently residing in France. In both her private and professional life, she uses the name she identifies with, i.e. without the letter ‘j’. The form ‘Viktoria’ appears, for example, in her employment contract, business cards, social media profiles, etc. In order to match her official documents with the name she actually uses, the Applicant requested her first name to be changed. However, on 11th September 2019, her application was rejected by the responsible authorities. This unjustified and unlawful interruption has caused the Applicant and her family continual inconvenience, e.g. by having to consistently explain why her name doesn’t match the one in her identity documents.
The Applicant sued the decision of the Vilnius City Municipal Administration with the help of EFHR solicitor Evelina Dobrovolska. In previous years, EFHR has successfully fought for the annulment of decisions preventing original spelling of applicants’ names on several occasions. While working on the case, EFHR discovered that there are respectively 108 and 195 persons in Lithuania with their first names spelled as ‘Viktoria’ and ‘Victoria’. Therefore, there is a clear precedence for the approval of the Applicant’s request. The desired name change could not possibly constitute a threat to the state language of Lithuania as similar names are already in use.
In its examination, the Court additionally relied on the proceedings of the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the case of Leonids Raihmans, who requested a change of his name and surname to its original form of ‘Leonid Raihman’. An infringement was recognized in the Raihman vs Latvia case (Notice No 1621/2007), as according to Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights forceful name change is an unlawful interference with the privacy of a person and a violation of human rights. Even a change of one letter against the will of an individual shall be considered as a change of personal name.