Global perspective Human stories

Lithuania urged to reverse lifelong political ban on former president

Credit: OHCHR
Credit: OHCHR

Lithuania urged to reverse lifelong political ban on former president

The United Nations expert body monitoring civil and political rights found today that Lithuania violated the rights of its ex-president, Rolandas Paksas, by introducing a rule banning impeached officials from holding high office – just weeks after he had been removed from his post for abuse of power.

The Geneva-based Committee, which monitors worldwide implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, considered a complaint brought by the former leader and found that Mr. Paksas could not have foreseen the ban, which was not in force when he was impeached.

Lithuania should overturn his lifelong disqualification from running for or holding high offices, including that of president, prime minister or minister – according to a news release issued by the Committee.

In April 2004, the Lithuanian Parliament removed Mr. Paksas from office, after its constitutional court found that he had unlawfully arranged Lithuanian citizenship for a Russian-born businessman.

In May that same year, the Parliament amended the electoral legislation to introduce the lifelong ban.

Mr. Paksas argued that the retroactively-applied amendment was introduced to target him. He called the lifelong ban unreasonable and disproportionate and adding that the Constitutional Court upholding the disqualification was biased.

The Lithuanian State said that the constitutional restrictions on Mr. Paksas were proportionate given the “gravity of the related breaches.”

The 18-member Committee concluded that when Parliament decided to remove the ex-president from office, “no legal provision expressly stated that he could be barred from standing for election as a result.”

“The lifelong disqualification to be a candidate in presidential elections, or to be prime minister or minister, were imposed on Mr. Paksas following a rule-making process highly linked in time and substance to the impeachment proceedings initiated against him,” the Committee said.

The Committee found that the lifelong disqualifications imposed on him could not have been foreseen and lacked objectivity – thereby amounting to an unreasonable restriction under article 25 (b) and (c) of the Covenant.

Article 25 states that: Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions (a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; and (b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.