On August 13th, 2015 the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL applied before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) under violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) regarding limitations of access to available effective remedies against homophobic hate speech in Lithuania. An official complaint states that the Lithuanian authorities have violated the Convention while disproportionately limiting the Applicants’ access to available effective remedies regarding hateful online comments posted under a same-sex kiss picture by two students, who are members of the local LGBT* community.
A number of judicial limitations have contributed to the LGL’s decision to address the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). On February 18th, 2015 the District Court of Klaipėda Region affirmed the order by the District Court of Klaipėda City to dismiss a formal complaint about hateful online comments regarding a same-sex kiss picture by the two male students. The initial complaint was filed by the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL. As stated by the national courts, a person who posts a same-sex kiss photograph on a public FaceBook profile is “intentionally trying to tease or to shock people, who have different views, or to encourage them to post negative comments”. The judgement was final and, thus, not subject to appeal.
The final court has also concluded that “a person who posts a same-sex kiss photo in a public FaceBook profile “has to anticipate that such an eccentric behaviour would clearly discourage the common understanding and tolerance amongst people in our society who have different views and opinions”.
On December 12th, 2014 LGL submitted a complaint to the Prosecutor General’s Office informing that the posting of the aforementioned photo was followed by public comments that incited hatred, mockery, humiliation, discrimination, as well as the use of physical violence on grounds of sexual orientation. In its complaint LGL emphasized that some comments included language that encouraged to discriminate and to physically assault gay people; therefore, it violated the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania.
The complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) claims that the failure by the public authorities to launch an effective pre-trial investigation regarding hateful comments posted on one of the Applicant’s social media profile violated their right to respect for private life under the Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Furthermore, in its appeal LGL stresses that under the Article 14 of the Convention, the refusal by the public authorities to start a pre-trial investigation was partially or entirely motivated by the homophobic animus based on the fact that their same-sex kiss picture was interpreted as “an attempt to intentionally tease or shock individuals with different views or encourage posting of negative comments” by the national authorities. The appeal also maintains that under the Article 13, the same failure by public authorities to investigate into the LGL’s complaints left the applicants without the possibility of legal redress regarding alleged violation of their rights.
According to the Executive Director of LGL Vladimir Simonko, this case raises questions of considerable public importance about the nature and scope of the positive obligation of Member States under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) to protect individuals from homophobic hate speech and incitement to violence: “All Member States of the Council of Europe, including Lithuania, have positive obligation to investigate hate speech cases effectively and secure the protection of the right to respect for private life. All European citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, should have an access to effective remedies upon violation of their rights,” – claims Mr. Simonko. The Association LGL is hopeful that the Strasbourg court will find the complaint admissible.