Upon the invitation of the judge Ineta Ziemele of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a group of the Supreme Court judges and assistants to judges visited the ECHR at the beginning of November and gained useful information on the current ECHR rulings and topical problems in the cases brought against Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as separate problematic issues on the application of the fundamental rights in general.

The representatives of the Supreme Court of Latvia met with the ECHR President Jean-Paul Costa (France) and the Latvian representatives – the judge Ineta Ziemele and the lawyer Juris Rudevskis.

The ECHR President informed about the peculiarities of the law matters in the cases against Latvia, on the current cases against France, as well as about the topical issues of the ECHR in general. The President noted that regarding the cases against Latvia there is a high percentage of complicated cases. He indicated that the Supreme Courts on the national level serve as a filter which can correct the mistakes of the court proceedings already on the national level, thus decreasing the possible number of complaints filed with the ECHR. It is significant that the Supreme Courts more actively applies the standards of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, thus promoting the understanding of them in the country.

I. Ziemele spoke about the cases topical for Latvia in the ECHR, among them, the cases Zaicevs vs. Latvia, Petropavlovskis vs. Latvia, Estrihs vs. Latvia, as well as the cases of other countries which might be significant for Latvia from the aspect of the law. As it was noted by the judge, the ECHR pays great attention to the procedural violations allowed during the proceedings on the national level. Therefore, the Supreme Court when reviewing particular cases and facing law standards which do not comply with the Satversme (Constitution) or the international law standards, should suspend the proceedings in the case and make use of the possibility to file an application with the Satversmes (Constitutional) Court. It is also important that the decisions of the assignments sittings of the Senate under which it is rejected to initiate cassation proceedings, contain the grounds for the rejection. And the third aspect which the Supreme Court should pay attention to is whether the ne bis in idem (prohibition of double punishment) principle is observed in particular cases. To discuss the latest ECHR rulings more actively in future, which may be significant for Latvia, the judge proposed to organize a discussion regarding these topical matters in the Supreme Court in April 2009, when she would be in Latvia.

J. Rudevskis also explained in detail the ECHR cognitions in the recent cases against Latvia, among them the cases Adamsons vs. Latvia, Perijs vs. Latvia, Zaicevs vs. Latvia. The lawyer admitted that the cases against Latvia from the point of view of the law are rather interesting in comparison with other countries, they usually are not alike. J. Rudevskis expressed the wish to visit the Supreme Court, too, to tell about the current ECHR rulings and to discuss the law issues which are not so clear.

The Latvian group met also with the ECHR judges from the neighbouring countries – Rait Maruste from Estonia and Danute Jociene from Lithuania. There is a comparatively small number of cases against Estonia in the ECHR. In the civil cases the problem is the long-term court proceedings, but the ECHR evaluates several aspects – the level of complexity of the case, the actual circumstances, as well as the role of the complainant in prolongation of the proceedings. The ECHR pays special attention in the events when a cases in the court of one instance remains for more than two years. On the other hand, the cases against Lithuania lately have become more complicated and interesting in comparison with the years when the individuals from Lithuania just started to make use of the possibility to file complaints with the ECHR. As the judge noted, repeated complaints are filed against Lithuania, as well, due to the fact that Lithuania does not fulfill what is stated in the ECHR judgments, for example, after the suggestion of the ECHR, does not amend the legislation in those fields where the violations of human rights have been found.

The Supreme Court representatives as listeners participated in the hearing of the ECHR Grand Chamber in the case Enea vs. Italy. After the hearing there was a meeting with the ECHR lawyer from Italy Paolo Proli who gave a detailed explanation of the problematic issues of the case, as well as the system of penal institutions and the procedure of change of the regime of imprisonment in Italy, the possibilities to appeal decisions on the change of the regime of imprisonment in Italy, as well as the role of the court during this process.

Among the representatives of the group of the Supreme Court who visited the ECHR in France were the senators of the Department of Civil Cases of the Senate Edite Vernusa and Zigmants Gencs, the acting Chairman of the Chamber of Criminal Cases Ervins Kuskis, the assistant to the Chairman of the Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate Dace Lapinska, the assistant to the Head of the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate Konstantins Vaivods, and the assistant to the senator Kristine Aperane.


Information prepared by

Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court Rasma Zvejniece

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: 7020396, 28652211