VILNIUS - Lithuania violated the rights of its ex-President Rolandas Paksas by imposing a blanket ban on impeached politicians from seeking political office, a UN watchdog body said April 9, reports AFP.
Paksas, the first ever European head of state to be ousted by impeachment, has spent a decade battling the lifetime ban and filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee.
The committee ruled that Lithuania broke international civil liberty laws because, just weeks after Paksas was axed, it crafted special legislation to bar disgraced leaders from political life.
“The ex-leader could not have foreseen the ban, which was not in force when he was impeached,” the committee said. The UN said Lithuania should “therefore overturn his lifelong disqualification” on being a candidate in presidential elections or of becoming prime minister or minister.
The UN committee cannot force countries to fall into line, but its scrutiny places moral pressure on them to act.
Former stunt pilot-turned-politician Paksas was elected president in 2003, but was impeached a year later after being charged for granting Lithuanian citizenship to a Russian businessman in exchange for money.
Lithuania’s constitutional court barred him from holding any office requiring an oath, but Paksas filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, which shot down the ban. In 2012, the Lithuanian parliament passed a law allowing him to run in that year’s general election, but the country’s constitutional court overturned the legislation weeks before the polls.
Paksas repeatedly has argued that the blanket rules were devised to target him personally and were applied retroactively. He has remained an important figure in Lithuania’s right-wing populist Order and Justice Party.
The ban does not apply to seeking office in the European Parliament, to which Paksas was elected in 2009.