The Council of the Lithuanian Bar Association on 15 November 2023 unanimously agreed that refusal to grant access to asylum case files constitute a restriction of the lawyer’s practice. The Bar shall prepare an appeal to the Migration Department.
The decision is taken based on ReLex complaints regarding denied access to the case files. The refusal to grant the asylum seeker and his representative access to the asylum interviews, evidence and other materials of the case limits the right asylum seeker to an effective asylum procedure, and, consequently, denies the protection from persecution in the country of origin. It violates the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Art. 18, as well as the provisions of the Directive 2013/32/EU Art. 23.
The right of asylum seekers to receive information is guaranteed by Paragraph 192 of the Description of the Procedure for Granting and Withdrawing Asylum in the Republic of Lithuania transposing Article 23 of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection. Article 23(1) of the Directive provides that Member States shall ensure that a legal adviser or other counsellor admitted or permitted as such under national law, who assists or represents an applicant under the terms of national law, shall enjoy access to the information in the applicant’s case file upon the basis of which a decision is or will be made. Member States shall allow an applicant to bring to the personal interview a legal adviser or other counsellor admitted or permitted as such under national law (Article 23(3).
Article 44(1) of the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Bar establishes the right an attorney to obtain information and data, including special categories of personal data, documents, and copies thereof required for the provision of legal services and stored in or managed by state and municipal institutions, as well as registers and state information systems.
Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right to an effective remedy. ECtHR has noted that persons must be duly informed of the asylum procedure to be followed (Abdolkhani and Karimnia v. Turkey 1, 30471/0833). To that end, it is necessary to ensure that there is a reliable system of communication between the authorities and the asylum seekers. Furthermore, the applicants must have effective access to such a procedure. This in turn may require ensuring access to interpreters and access to legal aid. In assessing whether asylum seekers have access to an effective remedy, the Court normally examines the entire domestic legal framework. An effective remedy must be legally and practically available (M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece [GC], 30696/09).