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Discussion with Róbert Spanó, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, at the Constitutional Court

29-04-2022

During their visit to Lithuania, the President of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as the ECtHR), Róbert Spanó, as well as the accompanying Judge of this Court, Egidijus Kūris (former justice and President of the Constitutional Court) and the Deputy Registrar of the ECtHR, Abel Campos, visited the Constitutional Court.

The justices of the Constitutional Court, as well as the former justices of the Constitutional Court, Vytas Milius and Egidijus Bieliūnas, lawyers and other employees of the Court participated in the meeting.

The President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, presented the principles of the activity of the Constitutional Court to the guests, emphasised the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter also referred to as the Convention) for the development of the official constitutional doctrine, introduced the latest examples of the constitutional jurisprudence that were significantly influenced by the interpretation of the provisions of the Convention developed by the ECtHR, and discussed the introduction of individual constitutional complaints in Lithuania and the related challenges. President Danutė Jočienė said that it is the establishment of this institution in the Lithuanian legal system that brings closer the Constitutional Court and the ECtHR in the protection of human rights and freedoms.

The President of the European Court of Human Rights, Róbert Spanó, emphasised that the cooperation with constitutional courts is of crucial importance to the ECtHR.

“The constitutional jurisdictions of the Member States of the Council of Europe are and are becoming ever more a crucial part of the way in which the dynamics between the ECtHR case law and the Convention is permeated and becomes part of the national constitutional heritage. This is not a self-evident normative interaction, this is something that takes time and has been now developing for many years. The Court has over 60 years created the body of case law, which has given, we think, almost all the tools necessary for the national courts to do the independent job of interpreting and applying the Convention. It is clear that the fundamental principles developed on the basis of the interpretation of the articles of the Convention linked to right of access to a court, among others, the principles of the impartiality and independence of courts and judges, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the protection of property rights, etc., providing guidance on how national courts should apply the provisions of the Convention in national law, will not take dramatic changes in the years to come. However, we also have to take up novel issues like climate change, bioethics, internet security, which we can tackle together. Although the States integrate the Convention into their own legal heritage in the manner and at the pace which is suited to their own national historical cultural traditions, I would like to emphasise a few aspects, the importance of which, in the Council of Europe, cannot be questioned or discussed: the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law, particularly relevant in the context of the war in Ukraine”, Róbert Spanó said.

The Deputy Registrar of the ECtHR, Abel Campos, presented, to the participants of the meeting, the activities of the ECtHR, the principles governing the organisation of the Court’s work, the challenges related to the growing number of petitions, and the procedural aspects of the consideration of cases at the ECtHR. The guests answered the questions of the justices and lawyers of the Constitutional Court.

The visit of the President of the ECtHR, Róbert Spanó, to Lithuania was organised by the Constitutional Court, the Judicial Council, and the Ministry of Justice.

On Thursday, the President of the ECtHR and the accompanying delegation met with the President of the Republic, Gitanas Nausėda, the Speaker of the Seimas, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, and the Chair of the Seimas Committee on Human Rights, Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius. The President of the ECtHR made a speech at the plenary sitting of the Seimas, visited the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, participated in discussion with the members of the Judicial Council, the judges of the Supreme Court of Lithuania and the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, and visited the Ministry of Justice.

After the visit to the Constitutional Court on Friday, the round-table discussion “The European Convention on Human Rights as a tool for the legal education of the public in the context of the growing importance of the rule of law” was held at the Ministry of Justice, during which the President of the ECtHR, Róbert Spanó, Judge Egidijus Kūris, Deputy Registrar Abel Campos, the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, the Dean of the Faculty of Law of Mykolas Romeris University, Lyra Jakulevičienė, and the Dean of the Faculty of Law of Vilnius University, Tomas Davulis, spoke about the importance of the Convention for the development of the national legal system, the necessity to apply the provisions and principles of the Convention at the national level as a minimum standard for the protection of human rights and freedoms, discussed the unprecedented challenges to humanity and human rights posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the regional migrant crisis on the border with Belarus, the war in Ukraine and the threats they pose to the fundamental principle of a state under the rule of law, which is based on both the Convention and the national constitutional system.

Róbert Spanó has been the President of the ECtHR since May 2020. The Constitutional Court, paying particular attention to the protection of human rights as one of the imperatives enshrined in the Constitution, maintains close relations with the ECtHR. Such cooperation is very important, since, as the Constitutional Court has emphasised on more than one occasion, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950 or the European Convention on Human Rights as a source of the interpretation of law is also significant for the interpretation of Lithuanian law, and, thus, the interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has also noted that the Convention is a special source of international law, the purpose of which is to seek the universal and effective recognition of human rights, as well as their observance in the protection and further implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. With respect to its purpose, the Convention performs the same function as the constitutional guarantees of human rights.