Which organizations can initiate a procedure?
Which provisions provide for such possibility?
The basic right to initiate a procedure before a Lithuanian court (including administrative courts) is enshrined in Article 30, Part 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (the Constitution), which states: “Any person whose constitutional rights or freedoms are violated shall have the right to appeal to court.” However, Constitutional provisions do not elaborate the rights which are liable to judicial protection; they only establish an abstract possibility, leaving it up to the parliament do decide under which conditions and in which situations Article 30 may be applied.
According to Article 5, Part 1 of the Law on Administrative Proceedings of the Republic of Lithuania (Law on Administrative Proceedings), judicial protection of rights in administrative courts relates to both - objective rights (i.e., cases, concerning the legality of administrative acts), as well as breached or contested subjective administrative rights.
Article 5, Part 1 of the Law on Administrative Proceedings lays down the main principle for applying to an administrative court - every interested entity may apply to a court for the protection of his infringed or contested right or interest protected under law.
The national Law on Administrative Proceedings does not explicitely refer to organizations of private or legal persons and their rights to initiate administrative proceedings.
Neither the former Law on Public Organizations, nor the Law on Associations, which is presently in force, provide for a right of any association (including public organizations, alliances, confederations, unions, fellowships, etc.) to become a party to a case on behalf of an association member, whose interests are at sake.
The jurisprudence of the Supreme Adminitrative Court of Lithuania provides some aid in explaining the rights of associations in administrative proceedings, yet it bases its standpoint on international legal acts, rather than national laws. Only after taking into consideration the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania has concluded that the Law on Administrative Proceedings must be interpretted as allowing interested public organizations (associations), concerned with safeguarding the environment and acting in accordance with the national laws, to protect the public interest by applying to an administrative court in the sphere of environmental protection. However, such associations may refer to a court only when it is in conformity with their statutes and concerns the atmosphere, air, water, soil, earth, landscape, objects of nature, and biological variety (this partially answers the question about the interests that can be put forward by NGOs, as well).
In summary, the laws do not distinguish between private and legal persons in general and access to an administrative court is basically dependent on the existence of a legitimate interest. It is only possible to contest the breach of one’s own rights or interests, which are protected by law. There are some exceptions to this rule. One exception is applying to the court for the protection of public interest as well as the protection of the rights and interests of other persons, of the state and of the municipality, which could be examples of an indirect access to administrative courts.
What types of procedures can they initiate?
Organizations may not apply to an administrative court with an abstract petition for a review of conformity of a regulatory administrative act (or a part of it) with a law or regulation issued by the government (according to Article 110 of the Law on Administrative Proceedings, such a right is only vested in the members of the parliament, ombudsmen, officers of the supreme audit institution, regional governors, courts, prosecutors, and – in the case of a municipal act - government representatives supervising the activities of municipalities).
Article 121 of the above-mentioned law, which lays down the right to file a petition for reviewing the legality of an administrative act in connection to an individual case, regarding infringement of specific rights, does not distinguish NGOs or other organizations (associations) either. It simply cross-refers to Article 22 of the Law on Administrative Proceedings, which enumerates entities having a right to file a claim to an administrative court in general. Therefore, the answer to a question, whether organizations can challenge an individual administrative act, would be parallel to those above – associations of private or legal persons are not distinguished from other persons in such instances. The same applies when claiming compensation for moral wrong or suffered material loss.
What kind of criteria for standing is established?
How is it laid down?
No special criteria (except the existence of a legitimate interest) are laid down for NGOs for standing. As a general rule, if there were any, the criteria would be established by laws and further developed by statutes of the organizations.
No statistics about the number or percentage of actions being brought by NGOs in comparison to other types of cases or to the whole number of actions are available at the present.
The question of indirect access of organizations to administrative courts in Lithuania lacks clarity as well.
Article 5, Part 3, Section 2 of the Law on Administrative Proceedings states that administrative courts hear cases on petitions for the protection of the rights of other persons lodged by the institutions or agencies specified by laws.
One good example could be the national Law on Trade Unions, which provides for a possibility of a trade union to initiate a judicial procedure at an administrative court. It sets a possibility for its access to the court in the event when the employer fails to consider (during a set period of time) the demand of the trade union to annul a decision or refuses to satisfy the demand, relating to a breach of rights of its members. The case law of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania determined the exact status of such a professional union, declaring that it may not be considered as a claimant because it only represents its members in administrative courts without having a direct legitimate interest in the outcome of the case.
Article 56 of the Law on Administrative Proceedings of the Republic of Lithuania states that “the prosecutor, the entities of administration, State institutions, agencies, organisations, services, or natural persons may apply to the court with a petition for the protection of the public interest or protection of the rights of the state, municipality and persons as well as the interests protected by laws.” They may do this only when established by law. In such cases, the above-mentioned persons are granted with the procedural rights and duties of the party to the proceedings.