The Constitutional Court of Lithuania has recognized that the provisions of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, related to long-term automatic restriction of liberty of migrants and asylum seekers at the Aliens Registration Centres during a state of emergency, contradict Article 20 of the Constitution.
Article 20 of the Constitution establishes the inviolability and protection of human freedom not only against arbitrary detention or arrest but also against any other unlawful restriction or deprivation of a person's freedom, which significantly restricts a person's freedom of movement, among other things, in a certain limited and closed territory.
Applied measures considered equivalent to detention
The Constitutional Court recognized that the measure applied to asylum seekers - temporary accommodation in specified places, without giving them the right to move freely in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania - should be considered one of the strictest measures of restriction of personal freedom, which can be equivalent to detention of a person.
The legislators, although they pursued legitimate aims and therefore could establish such a legal regulation restricting personal freedom, in this case, did not comply with the requirement arising from the Constitution not to restrict the rights of a person more than is necessary to achieve the legitimate aim, and when deciding on the application of a measure limiting the freedom of a person, to what extent it is possible to assess the individual situation of each person and to individualize the specific measures limiting their freedom to be applied to that person.
Restriction of liberty based on general grounds is not permissible
A person's liberty is not absolute and can be limited, if necessary, but it cannot be limited or constrained based on general grounds (based only on the fact that a state of emergency has been declared due to a threat to the constitutional order of the state or the seriousness of society) and without assessing the real threat posed by the person to the valuesprotected by the Constitution. In each case, prerequisites must be created for the institutions, as far as possible, to assess the individual situation of each person and to individualize the specific measures restricting liberty that are compatible with respect for human dignity.
In this case, the asylum seekers were not granted the guarantees applicable to detained persons - the right to apply to the court, to request an alternative measure to detention. According to the established regulations, measures restricting personal liberty applied to asylum seekers were adopted without a decision of a competent administrative authority, without ensuring the right to verify the validity and legality of this measure in court.
Read the decision of the court here.