Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of Court (Grand Chamber), March 16, 2006 (case CASE OF ZDANOKA v. LATVIA)

Resolution Date:March 16, 2006
Issuing Organization:Court (Grand Chamber)

Preliminary objection dismissed (lack of victim status) No violation of P1-3 Not necessary to examine Arts. 10 and 11




(Application no. 58278/00)



16 March 2006

In the case of Ždanoka v. Latvia,

The European Court of Human Rights, sitting as a Grand Chamber composed of:

             Luzius Wildhaber, President,              Christos Rozakis,              Jean-Paul Costa,              Nicolas Bratza,              Boštjan M. Zupančič,              Loukis Loucaides,              Rıza Türmen,              Josep Casadevall,              András Baka,              Rait Maruste,              Javier Borrego Borrego,              Elisabet Fura-Sandström,              Alvina Gyulumyan,              Ljiljana Mijović,              Dean Spielmann,              Renate Jaeger, judges,              Jautrite Briede, ad hoc judge,and Lawrence Early, Deputy Grand Chamber Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 1 June 2005 and 15 February 2006,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:


  1. The case originated in an application (no. 58278/00) against the Republic of Latvia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Latvian national, Ms Tatjana Ždanoka (“the applicant”), on 20 January 2000.

  2. The applicant was represented by Mr W. Bowring, a lawyer practising in Colchester, United Kingdom. The Latvian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Ms I. Reine, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that her disqualification from standing for election to the Latvian parliament and to municipal elections infringed her rights as guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 and Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.

  4. The application was assigned to the Second Section of the Court (Rule 52 § 1 of the Rules of Court).

  5. On 1 November 2001 the Court changed the composition of its sections (Rule 25 § 1). This case was assigned to the newly composed First Section (Rule 52 § 1). Within that Section, the Chamber that would consider the case (Article 27 § 1 of the Convention) was constituted as provided in Rule 26 § 1.

  6. By a decision of 6 March 2003, the Chamber declared the application partly admissible.

  7. On 17 June 2004, following a hearing on the merits (Rule 59 § 3), a Chamber of the First Section, composed of Christos Rozakis, President, Peer Lorenzen, Giovanni Bonello, Françoise Tulkens, Egils Levits, Anatoly Kovler, Vladimiro Zagrebelsky, judges, and Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar, delivered a judgment in which it held, by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 11 of the Convention, and that it was not necessary to examine separately the applicant’s complaint under Article 10 of the Convention. The Chamber also decided, by five votes to two, to award compensation for pecuniary damage in the amount of 2,236.50 lati, non-pecuniary damage in the amount of 10,000 euros (EUR), and legal costs and expenses in the amount of EUR 10,000. The dissenting opinions of Judges Bonello and Levits were annexed to the judgment.

  8. On 17 September 2004 the Government requested, in accordance with Article 43 of the Convention, that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber. A panel of the Grand Chamber accepted this request on 10 November 2004.

  9. The composition of the Grand Chamber was determined according to the provisions of Article 27 §§ 2 and 3 of the Convention and Rule 24.

  10. A hearing took place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 1 June 2005 (Rule 59 § 3).

    There appeared before the Court:

    (a) for the GovernmentMs              I. Reine,              Agent,Mr              E. Plaksins,              Counsel;

    (b) for the applicantMr              W. Bowring,              Counsel.

    The Court heard addresses by Mr Bowring and Ms Reine.



  11. The applicant is a Latvian national who was born in 1950 and lives in Riga. She is currently a member of the European Parliament.

    1. The historical context and the background to the case

  12. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet period

  13. On 23 August 1939 the foreign ministers of Germany and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) signed a non-aggression treaty (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). The treaty included a secret additional protocol, approved on 23 August 1939 and amended on 28 September 1939, whereby Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to settle the map of their “spheres of influence” in the event of a future “territorial and political rearrangement” of the territories of the then independent countries of central and eastern Europe, including the three Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. After Germany’s invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 and the subsequent start of the Second World War, the Soviet Union began exerting considerable pressure on the governments of the Baltic States with a view to taking control of those countries pursuant to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its additional protocol.

  14. Following an ultimatum to allow an unlimited number of Soviet troops to be stationed in the Baltic countries, on 16-17 June 1940 the Soviet army invaded Latvia and the other two independent States. The government of Latvia was removed from office, and a new government was formed under the direction of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (“the CPSU”), the USSR’s only party. From 21 July to 3 August 1940 the Soviet Union completed the annexation of Latvia, which became part of the USSR under the name “Soviet Socialist Republic of Latvia” (“Latvian SSR”).

  15. The applicant was born in Riga into a Russian-speaking family. In 1971 she joined the Communist Party of Latvia (“the CPL”) while studying at the University of Latvia in Riga. The CPL was in fact a regional branch of the CPSU. From 1972 to 1990 the applicant worked as a lecturer at the University of Latvia. Throughout this period she was a member of the CPL.

  16. In the late 1980s there was considerable social pressure in Latvia, as in other east European countries, for the democratisation of political life. As a result of the newly introduced freedom of expression in the territory of the Soviet Union, mass political movements were formed in Latvia, as well as in the other Baltic States, condemning the annexation of the country, asserting the need to construct a new society based, inter alia, on Latvian identity and values, and emphasising the need to restore State independence.

  17. The first independent elections under the Soviet regime took place on Latvian territory in March 1990. The applicant was elected to the Supreme Council (Augstākā Padome) of the Latvian SSR as a representative for the Pļavnieki constituency in Riga. She subsequently joined the CPL’s local branch. In April 1990 this branch selected her to attend the CPL’s 25th Congress, where she was elected to the party’s Central Committee for Supervision and Audit. According to copies of that committee’s minutes, the applicant was a member of a sub-committee responsible for supervising the implementation of decisions and activities arising from the CPL programme.

  18. At the same congress, a group of delegates expressed their disagreement with the CPL’s general policy, which remained loyal to the Soviet Union and the CPSU. According to those delegates, the CPL was opposed to any democratisation of public life and sought to maintain the status quo of the Soviet rule. These delegates publicly announced their withdrawal from the CPL and established a new party, the “Independent Communist Party of Latvia”, which immediately declared its support for Latvian independence and for a multi-party political system. The applicant did not join the dissident delegates and remained with the CPL.

  19. Latvia’s Declaration of Independence

  20. On 4 May 1990 the Supreme Council adopted a Declaration on the Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia, which declared Latvia’s incorporation into the USSR unlawful and void and restored legal force to the fundamental provisions of the Latvian Constitution (Satversme) of 1922. However, paragraph 5 of the Declaration introduced a transition period, aimed at a gradual restoration of genuine State sovereignty as each institutional tie with the USSR was severed. During that transition period, various provisions of the Constitution of the Latvian SSR would remain in force. A special governmental commission was given responsibility for negotiating with the Soviet Union on the basis of the Russo-Latvian Peace Treaty of 11 August 1920.

    The above-mentioned Declaration was adopted by 139 out of a total of 201 Supreme Council members, with one abstention. Fifty-seven members of the Līdztiesība parliamentary bloc (“Equal Rights”, in fact the CPL group), including the applicant, did not vote. On the same day, 4 May 1990, the Central Committee of the CPL adopted a resolution strongly criticising the Declaration and calling on the President of the Soviet Union to intervene.

  21. On 7 May 1990 the Supreme Council approved the government of the independent Republic of Latvia.

  22. The events of January and March 1991

  23. On the evening of 12 January 1991 the Soviet army launched military operations against the neighbouring country of Lithuania, whose government had been formed in the same way as the Latvian government. Soviet troops entered the television tower of Vilnius and the headquarters of Lithuanian public television, and also tried to take the seats of the Lithuanian parliament and other authorities. Massive crowds, made up of Lithuanian citizens, came to the rescue of the institutions of the newly independent Lithuania. Thirteen Lithuanian civilians were killed and hundreds injured during the clash with the Soviet army.

  24. The parties disagree as to who was responsible for the deaths during the events in Vilnius on 12-13 January 1991. According to the respondent Government, the CPSU was directly...

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