EU Watch

ECtHR: Lithuania Discriminated Against Men Based on Their Sexual Orientation

Last month the ECtHR delivered its judgment in Pijus Beizaras and Mangirdas Levickas v. Lithuania. By refusing to investigate hate speech on social media, Lithuanian authorities discriminated against two men based on their sexual orientation.

by Human Rights Monitoring Institute

In 2014, two men shared a photo of a kiss on social media. The photo attracted homophobic comments that were designed to incite hatred. The men decided to talk to the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), which referred the case to the Prosecutor General's Office.

Article 170 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania prohibits incitement to hatred or discrimination based on sexual orientation. LGL alleged 31 criminal incidents on social networks in relation to the photograph.

Prosecutor General refuses to arraign

The Prosecutor General's Office did not launch a pre-trial investigation into the matter. The decision was appealed, but the court also ruled that no pre-trial investigation should be conducted. The Supreme Court of Lithuania later found that “the majority of Lithuanians treasure traditional family values. Article 38 of the Constitution provides that the family is the basis of society and the state; family, maternity, paternity and childhood are protected by the state; marriage can be entered into by a man and a woman of their free will, […] in this case, the person publicly posting the photo of two men kissing should have and must have known that such eccentric behavior most certainly does not advance the cause of helping members of society with different viewpoints understand and tolerate each other.”

LGL applies to the ECtHR on behalf of the two men

The application alleged that Lithuania's failure to act on discrimination of sexual orientation violated the applicants’ right to respect for private life as well as their right to effective legal remedy. LGL proposed examining the application in conjunction with the Convention’s general prohibition of all forms of discrimination. In 2017, the ECtHR decided to examine the case, which became known as Pijus Beizaras and Mangirdas Levickas v. Lithuania.

In January of 2020, the court ruled that Lithuania, by refusing to investigate the applicants’ complaints regarding hate speech on social media, had discriminated against them on the basis of their sexual orientation. The court ordered that Lithuania pay each applicant €5,000 in non-pecuniary damages, plus a further €5,000 to both applicants jointly to cover their litigation costs. The ECtHR ruled that simple interest be payable on these amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period, plus three percentage points.

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