ECtHR - L.B. v. Lithuania

The applicant is a permanent resident who was previously granted subsidiary protection after fleeing his country of origin. Lithuanian authorities refused to issue a travel document to the applicant on the grounds that the applicant could request such a document from the authorities of his country of origin. The Court held that there had been a violation under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 of the Convention. 

Case name (in original language)
ECtHR - L.B. v. Lithuania
Case status
Case number
Application no. 38121/20
European Court of Human Rights, L.B. v. Lithuania (application no. 38121/20), 14 June 2022
Date of decision
Court / UN Treaty Body
European Court of Human Rights
Language(s) the decision is available in
Applicant's country of residence
Relevant Legislative Provisions

European Convention of Human Rights Article 2 protocol No. 4



The applicant fled from the Chechen Republic in 2001, where he had fought alongside Chechen forces in the two Chechen wars, and arrived in Lithuania, where he subsequently applied for asylum. Lithuanian authorities refused to grant the applicant refugee status in 2003 and 2005 on the grounds that he failed to demonstrate that he had been persecuted in his country of origin. 

The applicant was, however, issued with a temporary residence permit on subsidiary protection grounds, which was granted yearly between 2003 and 2008. In 2008, the applicant obtained a permanent residence permit, valid for five years, on the grounds that he had been lawfully living in Lithuania for five years, which was further extended in 2013 and 2018.

In 2003, the applicant also applied for an alien's passport, which Lithuanian authorities granted. Between 2004 and 2013, the applicant applied for and was issued for a new passport when his expired. In 2018, the applicant lodged a new passport request, which Lithuanian authorities denied on the grounds that Russian nationals living abroad could obtain a passport at the embassy, so the applicant should be able to obtain a travel document from Russian authorities.

The applicant again requested a passport, reasoning that he was unable to contact Russian authorities without putting himself in an unsafe position. He further submitted that, although in Lithuania he was considered a Russian national, there were no documents confirming this, and he should be considered stateless. He supported the creation of an independent Chechen Republic, had no links to Russia, had never applied for Russian citizenship, and never held a Russian passport. 

Lithuanian authorities again refused, countering there were no grounds to consider the applicant stateless as he had been considered a Russian national since arriving in 2001 and had no documents to refute that. Lithuanian authorities further requested proof that he had applied for a travel document at the Russian embassy and had been refused. 

Decision & Reasoning

The Court found that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention as the Lithuanian government failed to demonstrate that the interference with the applicant's right to freedom of movement was necessary in a democratic society. 

Any measure by means of which an individual is denied the use of a document which, had he wished, would have permitted him to leave the country, amounts to an interference of the rights guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 of the Convention. Accordingly, the Court has no reason to doubt that the refusal by Lithuanian authorities to issue the applicant with an alien's passport constituted an interference with his freedom of movement.

An interference with a person's right to leave must be "in accordance with law" and pursue one or more of the legitimate aims set out in Article 2 § 3 of Protocol No. 4 and be "necessary in a democratic society" to achieve such an aim. This refusal could not be considered "necessary in a democratic society." 

The Court notes that the Lithuanian authorities acknowledged that the applicant could not safely return to his country of origin. It is not disputed that the applicant left his country of origin with the intention of seeking asylum abroad and was granted subsidiary protection in Lithuania on several occasions. At no point did the domestic authorities decide, taken after assessing the situation in the applicant’s country of origin and his individual circumstances, that he was no longer in need of subsidiary protection and could approach the Russian authorities without fear. Additionally, although the applicant argued that he was afraid to contact the Russian authorities, for the same reasons for which he had previously been granted subsidiary protection, those arguments were not adequately addressed in the domestic proceedings.

The refusal to issue the applicant with an alien’s passport was taken without ensuring that such a measure was justified and proportionate in his individual situation. The refusal was based on formalistic grounds without adequate examination of the situation in his country of origin, as well as on the purported possibility of obtaining a Russian passport, without any assessment of whether that possibility was accessible to him in practice in view of his particular circumstances.


The Court held that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 of the Convention.