Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas
Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas

With the public up in arms regarding the Rūta Vanagaitė's scandalous statements regarding the Lithuanian freedom fighter leader Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, the general's daughter has spoken of potentially defending the besmirched memory of her father by legal measures. Vilnius University (VU) Law Clinic consultant Lukas Radzevičius believes that R. Vanagaitė's presented data could actually be seen as untrue and damaging to the dignity and honour of not only the deceased, but also their family members, a press release states according to LRT.lt.

R. Vanagaitė has faced much criticism in recent days when based on KGB documents she declared that supposedly A. Ramanauskas-Vanagas was a KGB agent who glorified communism and the inhuman injuries he had to endure where simply the freedom fighter leader's attempt at suicide. According to historians, such claims by the public relations specialist are completely untrue.

"Article 25 of the Lithuanian Republic Constitution outlines that an individual has the right to their beliefs and their free expressions, they must not be obstructed in seeking, obtaining or distributing information and ideas. Nevertheless this freedom is not absolute. Freedom to express belief, to receive and distribute information can be limited by the law if, among other things, this is necessary to protect an individual's honour and dignity. The freedom to express belief and distribute information is incompatible with slander, disinformation and other criminal acts," VU Law Clinic consultant L. Radzevičius notes.

According to the jurist, the Lithuanian Supreme Court practice confirms that honour and dignity are protected under the Civil Code article 2.24 when factual veracity is established.

Firstly distribution of knowledge (facts or data) must be observed. In each such case the court has to find whether this information became available to third persons.

Secondly it must be established whether the knowledge is about the claimant. In this regard it is enough that based on the content and context of the disputed claims, other parties can recognise the individual as linked to the distributed information.

Thirdly, it is necessary to establish the untruth of the distributed knowledge, that the facts did not exist in reality, events proceeded otherwise than claimed, the individual's actions are interpreted inadequately compared to the factual situation, causal links between events are distorted or concealed and such.

Fourth, the fact must be established that the knowledge besmirches the individual's honour or dignity. This is established when the knowledge is discrediting to the individual's good name in the public, presupposes negative public views on such an individual as per legal, moral or traditional norms.

As such, in this specific case the court should find whether R. Vanagaitė's claims were revealed to other individuals, whether the claims are linked to the deceased or his family members, whether the presented information is distorted and inadequately evaluated and if the information presupposes negative views of A. Ramanauskas-Vanagas and his family members.

"It is said the dead cannot defend themselves. This is why legislation provides the right for the honour and dignity of the deceased to be defended by their relatives. Based on Civil Code article 2.24 part 1, the right goes to spouses, parents and children after an individual's death, if the information spread regarding the deceased besmirches their honour and dignity," the VU Law Clinic consultant outlines.

According to him this means that A. Ramanauskas-Vangas' descendant may take the case to court to defend the family's reputation. The daughter of the resistance leader can demand through the court for R. Vanagaitė to deny the claims which do not adhere to reality and besmirch the individual's honour and dignity, also to compensate the financial and non-financial harm done through the distribution of such data.

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