The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Lithuanian politicians unduly interfered with a high-profile child custody case involving Lithuanian citizen Inga Rinau and her German husband Michael Rinau, and also concluded that law enforcement failed to ensure a fair process.
German father awarded EUR 123,000 over politicians' interference

A panel of seven judges from the Strasbourg court awarded Michael Rinau and his daughter 30,000 in non-pecuniary damages and also ordered Lithuania to cover legal costs of 93,230 euros.

"With the exception of the President of the, the Lithuanian authorities ‒ and this includes politicians, child care officials, and prosecutors ‒ failed to ensure fair decision-making in the applicants’ case," the ECHR ruling states.

The court mostly based its ruling on the support the then chairman of the Seimas Committee on Human Rights, Arminas Lyudeka, and Justice Minister Petras Baguska publicly voiced to the girl's mother.

The Strasbourg court paid attention to the bias demonstrated by the Gediminas Kirkilas government when it decided to cover the litigation costs of Inga Rinau. The ruling also mentions a number of other statements made by Lithuanian politicians.

The Strasbourg judges also paid attention to the fact that the girl's handover took longer due to the unilateral decision by Vytautas Greicius, the then president of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, to halt the execution of the court ruling after the then prosecutor general, Algimantas Valantinas, asked for a case review.

"The time it took for the Lithuanian courts to reach the final decision in the applicants’ case failed to respond to the urgency of their situation," the Strasbourg court ruled.

The dispute between the German husband and the Lithuanian wife five started in the summer of 2006 when the mother failed to send her daughter back to Germany following her vacation spent in Lithuania.

A German court soon awarded the father custody of the girl but the mother refused to hand the girl over. Litigation in Lithuanian courts took several years, and also involved a request for a clarification from the European Court of Justice

When the German father took his daughter to Germany after one of his visits to Lithuania in October, 2008, Lithuania's law enforcement launched a child kidnapping case and issued a warrant for his arrest but later dropped the investigation. The girl lives in Germany ever since.

"The applicants suffered distress as a result of the impossibility of enjoying each other’s company for a significant period of time which was caused by a particularly serious violation of their right to respect for their family life," the ECHR ruled.

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