Court dismisses case against trade union leaders

Leaders of three national trade union organisations were charged with administrative violations after a protest action organised by them on 16 January 2009 ended in riots and civil unrest. However, the trade union leaders denied such charges and requested the court to discontinue administrative proceedings against them. On 14 April, the Second District Court of the City of Vilnius ruled in favour of the trade union leaders and cleared them of all charges.

Protest ends in riots and civil unrest

On 16 January 2009, three national trade union organisations called for national protest action in front of parliament and government buildings in the city of Vilnius, located in the southeast of the country. The trade unions involved included the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation (Lietuvos profesinių sąjungų konfederacija, LPSK), the Lithuanian Labour Federation (Lietuvos darbo federacija, LDF) and the Lithuanian Trade Union ‘Solidarity’ (Lietuvos profesinė sąjunga ‘Solidarumas’, LPS ‘Solidarity’). According to different sources, the number of protesters varied from 5,000 to 7,000 people. Although the trade unions advised participants ‘to stay dignified, serious and quiet, respectful of the neighbourhood, not to violate each other’s rights and freedoms’, the anticipated peaceful protest action ended in riots and civil unrest (LT0901019I).

Police blames trade union leaders

In total, 151 protesters were detained by the police, 119 persons were issued protocols of administrative infringement of law and 32 persons were taken into custody for breaches of public order near the parliament building. Although the trade unions dissociated themselves from the rioters, the leaders of the three national trade unions – Artūras Černiauskas of LPSK, Vydas Puskepalis of LDF and Aldona Jašinskiene of LPS ‘Solidarumas’ – were nevertheless taken to court for organising a meeting which ended in a riot. The police officers from Vilnius Police Headquarters No. 3 issued the three leaders with protocols of infringement for breaking the Law on Meetings. According to the police, ‘the meeting lacked sufficient organisation and the meeting organisers personally did not take sufficient efforts to ensure proper control of the course of the meeting in accordance with the agreed scenario, the nature of the meeting and the requirements set in the Law on Meetings’. If the trade union leaders were found guilty, they could have faced fines of between LTL 500 (€145 as at 13 May 2009) and LTL 2,000 (€580) or administrative arrest for a term of up to 30 days.

Court rules in favour of trade union leaders

On 31 March 2009, the Second District Court of the City of Vilnius (Vilniaus miesto 2-asis apylinkės teismas) began hearing a case against the three trade union leaders.

The trade union leaders denied that the outcome of the meeting on 16 January was their fault, alleging that police officers were to blame for the riot during the meeting because they failed to react properly to the situation. On this basis, the union leaders requested that the court discontinue administrative proceedings against them for infringement of the Law on Meetings. According to Mr Černiauskas of LPSK, the institution of proceedings against the union leaders and the issue of the protocols of infringement aimed to intimidate trade unions and deter them from organising similar actions in future.

On 14 April, the court ruled in favour of the trade union leaders and administrative proceedings against them were discontinued. This ruling was subject to appeal by the police before the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (Lietuvos Vyriausiasis Administracinis Teismas) within 10 days. However, the police did not pursue this possibility.

Inga Blažienė, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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