Litigation concerning the pushback policy of migrants and the restrictions of their liberty implemented in the Republic of Lithuania

March 12, 2024

The Siena Group has requested the Prosecutor General to open a pre-trial investigation into the abuse (under Article 229 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania) and serious injury to health (Article 135(1) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania) of Lithuanian and Latvian officials and/or other articles of the Criminal Code. According to the circumstances, when the alien first attempted to cross the border of the Republic of Lithuania, he was ordered to go back to Belarus, was turned around 4 times by Latvian officials, and finally entered the territory of the Republic of Lithuania barefoot, with frostbitten feet, which were subsequently amputated. Other signs of violence have also been recorded. The Lithuanian Special Investigation Service, which was entrusted with the procedural decision, terminated the pre-trial investigation on the grounds that, in the light of the legal regulations, no pre-trial investigation could be opened in the Republic of Lithuania in respect of the abuse and serious bodily injury allegedly committed by border guards of the Republic of Latvia on the territory of Latvia, whereas the Lithuanian officers were found not to have used any physical violence and their actions were in compliance with the applicable legal regulations. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights obliges governments to take all necessary measures to investigate threats to human life and to take all measures to prevent such threats. Under Articles 2 and 3 of the ECHR, every state has obligations: 1) to prevent violations of relevant human rights, 2. identify the perpetrators of the offences if they have not been prevented, 3) Punish offenders, 4) to impose penalties that do not degrade the dignity of the offender.

In another case, the applicant C. P. U. D. has lodged a complaint with the Regional Administrative Court for compensation for non-material damage on the grounds of danger to life and serious injury to health (frostbite of the limbs) caused by the unlawful actions of the officials, as well as for unlawful restriction of liberty. Upon his arrival on the territory of Lithuania, the foreigner was not given the opportunity to submit an asylum application, he was pushed out of the territory of Lithuania knowing that Belarusian officials would not allow him to enter the territory of Belarus and would push him back into the territory of Lithuania, the asylum seeker was turned back to the territory of Belarus many times in the freezing temperatures, which lasted for 10 days. The applicant’s liberty was restricted without a court and without any administrative decision. According to the applicant, these actions of the officials violated the guarantees for asylum seekers laid down in the legislation of the Republic of Lithuania, the procedural rules for the return of foreigners to a foreign country, the EU legal norms regulating access to asylum procedures and the legal norms regulating the return of foreigners, the right to liberty and security, including the imperative principle of non-refoulement enshrined in international refugee law and human rights instruments, according to which persons may not be returned to a country where they would be at risk of persecution, or to a third country, without being assured of non-refoulement to the country of origin.

In the third case, the applicant, a Somali national, brought an action before the Court alleging that the month-long restriction of his freedom of movement following his asylum application, without an individual assessment, without an arbitrary assessment of the necessity of the restriction of his liberty, without an opportunity to appeal, violated fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, in international instruments and in EU law, notably the right to liberty of movement and security of the person concerned, and the fundamental principles of the rule of law.

The applicant has been diagnosed as a vulnerable person with frostbite of the ankle and foot with tissue necrosis, frostbite of the hip and thigh with tissue necrosis, and superficial frostbite of the wrist and hand. The applicant claims compensation for non-material damage caused by the unlawful deprivation of liberty.

Photo: Unsplash I Julie Ricard