The Human Rights Monitoring Institute has concluded a study on the use of the European Arrest Warrant in Lithuania. The EAW is a simplified system for surrender of persons suspected or convicted of criminal offences between EU Member States, intended to prevent the EU’s open borders from being exploited by those seeking to evade justice.
Lithuania has been employing this measure for over a decade now. Some problems in the EAW’s practical application emerged at the outset of its use, first and foremost – unproportional use of EAWs to punish petty crime, while employing unjustified resources to accomplish this. Despite this, no significant research on the practical use of EAWs in Lithuania has been conducted. Therefore the Human Rights Monitoring Institute aims to fill this gap with this study, and look at the problems as well as the good practices in using the EAW.
The collected data show that currently higher standards of proportionality are adhered to, when issuing EAWs, when compared to those used initially, when the EAW system was adopted. Also, instances where surrendered persons are unjustifiably required to cover their transportation costs happen less frequently. However, cases of unproportional use of EAWS still happen: for small criminal offences, in insufficiently prepared cases or even cases clearly lacking evidence. This leads to persons spending up to several months in pre-trial detention, and then receiving no custodial sentence or being acquitted by the court.
Another serious issue is the detention conditions in Lithuania. 2 out of Lithuania’s 3 adult remand prisons, in which persons surrendered under EAWs are detained, are routinely found in violation of human rights. Several EU Member States have already refused surrendering people to Lithuania because of detention-related threat to human rights. To avoid this problem Lithuania has issued assurances in some cases, to hold detainees in Kaunas remand prison, which has the best conditions.
Despite this, there are examples of good practice: in one of the cases observed in the course of research, the defence and the prosecution came to an arrangement, and a person, previously surrendered under an EAW, was allowed to return to his life and work abroad, while dutifully returning for court hearings.
The full research findings are available in the report “Beyond Surrender: the practice of the European Arrest Warrant in Lithuania”.
Co-funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union.
Experiencing a crime can affect people in many ways. It can cause certain negative feelings, stress, anxiety and fear. There are certain rights that every victim of crime has, however, not everyone is aware of them. The main factors that can reduce stress caused by a crime is an understandable and accessible information on what to do next, how the investigation will be conducted, and what kind of assistance and help can be obtained.
Therefore, Human Rights Monitoring Institute presents informational website nukentejusiems.lt, which provides necessary and useful information for victims of crime.
The crimes can affect not only adults but also children, and this site is tailored to the younger users as well. Just one-click can create access to a special version for children and adolescents. This version provides information on what constitutes a crime, what kind of help can be acquired, how the crime investigation and trial are taking place, what rights they have and how can child participate in the process.
Website will be soon available in English, Polish and Russian languages.
Partners: Human Rights Monitoring Institute and Lithuanian Police School.More >
The right to a lawyer and the right to legal aid is increasingly seen as a vital component of a fair and accessible justice system, and necessary for redressing situations where rights are denied or violated. Fairness and accessibility of the justice system are especially important for the individuals subject to criminal proceedings. They justly expect to understand and the charges against them, and to effectively exercise their right to defence.
The access to judicial proceedings may be impeded if such persons are denied access to a qualified legal advice or such access is reserved exclusively to the ones who have enough funds to pay for it. In the recent years, the European Union made a number of steps to strengthen procedural rights for suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings, including by adopting a directive on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings.
This study aims to assess how the right of access to a lawyer and the right to legal aid in criminal proceedings, as provided for in the EU directives and recommendations, have been implemented in Lithuania. It is a part of a larger regional project, aimed at determining the impact of secondary EU laws in the EU member states and the quality of its implementation in the everyday life.More >
The number of complaints from prisoners about prison conditions has increased sevenfold in Lithuania since 2012.
According to a judge from the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, in 2016 this court alone awarded almost a million euros to prisoners in compensation for the harm suffered due to degrading, unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.
These complaints made up almost 30% of all cases the court examined that year.
Appeals are also reaching Strasbourg, with eight cases currently before the European Court of Human Rights regarding insufficient compensation awarded by national courts. More (in Lithuanian).More >
Human Rights Monitoring Institute is launching new online learning course “New European legal standards on criminal procedure”.
The course is aimed at criminal defence lawyers and associates, prosecutors, police officers and other professionals working in the field of criminal law.
The European Union laws and the most recent case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the rights of persons suspected and accused of a crime are being discussed throughout the duration of the course.
The course video lectures are delivered by experienced legal scholars and legal practitioners:
Jolanta Zajančkauskienė, director of Institute of Criminal Law and Procedure at Mykolas Romeris University
Rolandas Tilindis, criminal defence lawyer, national legal expert at Fair Trials International
Agnė Limantė, Ph. D., research fellow at the Law Institute of Lithuania
Prof. Raimundas Jurka criminal defence lawyer, professor at Mykolas Romeris University
Prof. Aurelijus Gutauskas, judge of the Supreme Court of Lithuania
Wide array of topics covered
The lecturers present the latest case law of the ECtHR along with the legal instruments adopted within the framework of the Stockholm Programme, including the Directive on the right of access to a lawyer, Directive on the right to legal aid, and Directive on the right to information. They also share their insights as to the effectiveness of the implementation of the EU standards in Lithuanian criminal proceedings and identify the areas of concern.
The objective of the course is to equip the professionals with up-to-date knowledge on developing European legal standards in criminal proceedings and thus guarantee a more effective protection of the rights of the persons in contact with the law.
The course is available in Lithuanian.
This e-learning course has been produced with the financial support of the Justice Programme of the European Union (project “the Stockholm Programme: the right to legal aid and right to a lawyer,” No. JUST/2015/JACC/AG/PROC). The contents of this course are the sole responsibility of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.More >
A few months ago, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Lithuania violated Article 3 (“no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The group of prisoners who won the case are pleased with the results – now, Lithuania will have to make changes to its legal system or face sanctions. However, it is open to debate whether Lithuania will take real action in the end.
Following the ECtHR judgment, life prisoners in Lithuania should expect their cases to be reviewed after 25 years in prison, with the possibility of parole being on the table.
Currently, no one save for the president may commute a sentence under Lithuanian law. Those seeking a presidential pardon may be set free, have their prison term reduced or sentence commuted.
To humanize the system of incarceration, the introduction of parole should be added to the political agenda.
Prisoners face stigma
Unfortunately, the public views former prisoners extremely unfavorably – according to data from 2015, almost 60 percent of Lithuanians would not want to live in proximity to former prisoners, and nearly 44 percent would not want to work in the same workplace.
Former prisoners often face the greatest social barriers in Lithuanian society – 66 percent of all residents claim that they view this group unfavorably or very unfavorably.
“We are a very unpopular segment of society, and it is very dangerous for any politician to talk about us positively, even in the sense of simply making some improvements. Revenge is still very often on people’s minds. They say that we need tougher conditions, more severe punishments – forget about improvements of any kind,” Audrius, a current prisoner, told news site Bernardinai.lt.
Current system is defective
According to the experts, in the 27 years Lithuania has been independent, there have been no changes to the prison system, and it still falls quite short of European standards.
“Lithuanian prisons are still home to a hierarchical prisoner system, a leftover from Soviet times. They haven’t even been able to make individual cells to get rid of it,” said the chairman of the Lithuanian Prisoner Protection Society.
Once people serve their sentence, it’s less like returning to society and more like going to crime school – when they’re isolated from society, it is unlikely that they will successfully adapt, especially when a significant portion of the population does not support them.
In many cases, people who leave prison simply have no place to return or any person to contact, and may return to crime out of sheer desperation.
“Although we have a very low incidence of parole, the rate of recidivism is also fairly small, so we seemingly should be more bold in allowing people to reintegrate into society – however, so far, if we look to the total number of prisoners, parole is only granted to 20-30 percent of convicts, which is way below the EU average,” said Karolis Liutkevičius, a lawyer from the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.
Tiptoeing towards change
Still, halfway houses began operating in four Lithuanian cities last year. They allow prisoners exhibiting exemplary behavior to develop social skills, learn cooperation, and find work with the help of social workers.
And while this opportunity is only available to a small percentage of those who have been released on parole, this is still a small step towards helping them fully return to social life.
We can only hope that the Lithuanian prison system will soon become better for convicts, with more people being given a real chance to reform.
Article written with reference to this source.More >
Experts rate the comprehensibility of the letter of rights presently given to suspects in Lithuania as average. The police officers and lawyers that the Human Rights Monitoring Institute spoke to claimed that while the right to a lawyer, the right to remain silent and other procedural rights are explained to the suspect, the explanation is rife with complicated legal language that is difficult to decipher without a legal background.
Letter of rights
Each suspect must be given a letter of rights prior to questioning. It’s a three-page document that describes the suspect’s procedural guarantees in long, complex sentences that may go on for no less than 5 lines. It is also employs fairly technical language, referring the reader to “procedures set out” in Code of Criminal Procedure or other legislation in more than a few places.
On average, suspects are given 15 minutes to get acquainted with their rights. They often don’t pay as much attention to the letter of rights as they should, reading it carelessly. Nearly half of interviewed police officers said that suspects rarely or never asked questions about their rights.
Police officers rarely take steps to ensure that suspects understand their rights. The vast majority of interviewed officers either never took steps to make sure that suspects understood their rights or did so very rarely.
Information must be easy to understand
“The right to information is an important part of our daily lives when it comes to dealing with the authorities. For people who are suspected of a crime, the right to information is paramount, since it allows them to exercise all of their other rights and ensure that their right to a fair trial is respected,” said Karolis Liutkevičius, the HRMI lawyer who conducted the study. “Therefore, information about rights should be provided in plain and easy to understand language.”
The HRMI seeks to ensure that the authorities provide understandable information that people can actually use. To that effect, the Institute, together with legal and communications experts, developed an alternative, easy-to-understand letter of rights, and will aim to have this new letter of rights become the standard in Lithuania.More >
Under the EU Directive on right to criminal proceedings adopted in 2012, each arrested suspect must be provided with a written letter indicating and detailing their rights in the criminal proceedings. This document may be essential in ensuring a fair investigation and trial for the suspect, as only through understanding their rights can they fully participate in the criminal proceedings.
Therefore the Human Rights Monitoring Institute has conducted research evaluating how the Directive has been transposed to Lithuanian law, and how the letter of rights functions in practice. Also, whether the letter of rights currently used in Lithuania should be revised, so as to ensure that it is easier to understand and thus better performs its function.
Research was conducted by a combination of in-depth desk review of legislation, and surveys with 2 groups of criminal justice practitioners – police officers and defence lawyers, 22 of each – who have extensive experience in criminal proceedings and engage suspects and accused on a daily basis.More >
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the existing ban on the commutation of life sentences in Lithuania violates the rights of the convicted.
In the case Matiošaitis and others v. Lithuania, eight life prisoners sought a ruling that Lithuania violated Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment).
Parole not allowed
The applicants, who were serving prison sentences for a variety of serious crimes, wanted to prove that the state does not really offer them a chance to be released early, even when their behavior improves and no longer poses a threat to the public.
The Code of the Enforcement of Punishments of the Republic of Lithuania does not allow life prisoners to be released on parole. The only way that these inmates can hope to have their sentence commuted under the current law is by receiving a presidential pardon.
Having assessed the application of the presidential pardon, the European Court of Human Rights found that, even though the procedure is clear and unambiguous, there is no need to give specific reasons when denying any inmate’s request.
Prisoners remain unclear as to how they should change to be pardoned. Furthermore, decisions on the presidential pardon cannot be challenged in court.
Pardon the exception, not the rule
The ECtHR also considered the fact that a presidential pardon is practically never granted to life prisoners.
Looking at statistics, out of 35 convicts that had applied for pardon, only one was pardoned in the end. As such, the court acknowledged that the applicants’ claim (namely, that this case was merely an exception) had merit.
According to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the right of convicts to have their sentence reviewed translates to a real review of all relevant information in order to assess whether their continued imprisonment is justified on penological grounds. Furthermore, convicts must know what they must do and how they must change in order to be considered for early release.
Right to hope
According to the court, prisoners should not be deprived entirely of hope that, some day, they will be able to prove through their actions that they have changed for the better. Condemning them to spend the rest of their life in isolation, without any hope of proving that they’ve changed, results in conditions that are degrading to human dignity.
The ECtHR further noted that the state is not currently planning to reform this area of the law. In view of these circumstances, the court unanimously held that Lithuania violated Article 3 of the Convention.
The Human Rights Monitoring Institute had joined the proceedings as a third party in support of the applicants.
According to Karolis Liutkevičius, the lawyer representing the Institute in this case, the easiest way to implement the ECtHR’s ruling would be to simply lift the ban on parole for life prisoners.More >
This project aims to develop targeted information and implement practical empowerment actions, education activities and awareness-raising to increase understanding of different forms of violence against women by general public and specialists working on the field in order to combat victims blaming and ultimately, contribute to promoting zero tolerance to violence against women and strengthening gender equality.More >
The main objective is to improve the support for victims of hate crime and hate speech through mutual learning and exchange of knowledge on adequate reporting mechanisms and provision of complex assistance in European Union member states. The project addresses the priority to empowering and supporting victims of hate crime and hate speech.More >
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Lithuania violated a man’s right to information when authorities at the Pravieniškės Correctional Home refused to grant him online access for study purposes.
All Mr. Jankovskis, an inmate at the Pravieniškės Correctional Home, wanted to do was access AIKOS, a website run by the Ministry of Education and Science with info on various study programs.
The inmate wanted to see his options for pursuing a law degree via distance learning. Unfortunately, the facility’s authorities refused to grant him access, claiming that “[i]f prisoners had the right to use the internet, they would be able to continue their criminal activities.” This view was upheld by the Lithuanian courts.
Is Internet access a human right?
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) stressed that the position of the Lithuanian authorities was unreasonable.
In the court’s view, Jankovskis sought information on degrees that would assist in his rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The site in question was run by the Ministry of Education and Science, and as such was not a security risk. At the same time, the prison’s authorities did not even consider granting Jankovskis at least partial access to this one website.
The Strasbourg court noted that there is growing recognition of the importance of the Internet for the enjoyment of a range of human rights, and that Internet access is increasingly understood as a right.
The court believed that these changes reflected the importance of the Internet in everyday life, especially given that some information was only available online.
This is not the first time that the ECtHR had to rule on the right to Internet access – in the case of Kalda v. Estonia (2016), the court found that Estonia violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights by not granting a prisoner access to the online Gazette (repository of legislation) and an online database of court decisions.
Changing the approach to rehabilitation
Both these cases show that the ECtHR attaches great importance to the rehabilitative aspect of punishment, which can also be found in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania. The Code states that penalties are meant to not only punish offenders and limit their rights, but to also “exert an influence on the persons who have served their sentence to ensure that they comply with laws and do not relapse into crime.”
This necessitates the state taking active steps to modernize correctional facility and prison infrastructure as well as a shift in approach when dealing with inmates and their needs, to ensure that they become productive members of society after they have served their time.
Otherwise, if we don’t focus on rehabilitation, we’re not actually addressing the problems that are related to crime – we’re merely postponing them.More >
On 14th July, Human Rights Monitoring Institute attended the Fair Trials-hosted kick-off meeting of the Beyond Surrender project, which will look at the use and abuse of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and its impact on the life of the defendants and their families. The project, funded by the EU Commission, is being coordinated by Fair Trials and implemented in cooperation with HRMI and three other partner organisations in Poland (Helsinki Committee in Poland), Romania (APADOR-CH) and Spain (Rights International Spain).
Whilst being a useful tool to prevent evasion from justice across the EU open borders, the EAW has also contributed to fair trial abuses and has had devastating impact on people’s lives. This can often result in losing jobs, suffering from depression, and separation from one’s own family.
“Regarding the European Arrest Warrant, the EU has prioritised efficiency over human concerns.”
Patricia Goicoechea García, Deputy Director at Rights International Spain
Beyond Surrender aims to provide a human insight into post-surrender treatment of people subject to EAW. Raising awareness will be key to informing future EU work to create minimum standards as a sound basis for mutual recognition.
“In countries like Romania, Beyond Surrender will break new ground in the practices and human impact of the European Arrest Warrant. This is something that has never been studied before”
Georgiana Gheorghe, Human Rights Officer at APADOR-CH
As a first step, the partners will identify and monitor a number of surrender cases in their own countries. Not only will they test the respect of the procedural guarantees but will also focus on the personal experience of the defendants and their families, which too often go untold. To this end, Fair Trials, HRMI and other partners will produce a series of videos featuring the defendants’ testimonies in the view to show the human stories behind a court’s decision to surrender.
“Human stories can challenge the negative perception around people enduring unjustified decisions to surrender”
Natalija Bitiukova, Deputy Director at the Lithuanian Human Rights Monitoring Institute
The findings from the case-files will be displayed in a comprehensive regional report that will highlight common themes and address targeted recommendations.
Fair Trials is excited to start working on this new project and thanks its partners for committing to such a valuable job.
Our special thanks go to the European Commission for their financial support toward this work.
Within the European Union, there are over 120,000 people being held in pre-trial detention at any given time. That’s more than 1 in 5 people held in prison that haven’t yet been found guilty of any crime.
In June 2014, Fair Trials, Human Rights Monitoring Institute and 9 other organisations set out to collect a unique evidence base about how pre-trial detention is being used in practice across the EU. The project “The Practice of Pre-Trial Detention” was conducted in partnership with organisations and academics from ten EU countries and has been funded by the EU Commission. Now complete, the report brings together the findings from across the 10 jurisdictions, as well as a wider regional experts seminar, which involved over 50 participants from 24 EU Member States.
In the course of the research 242 pre-trial detention hearings were attended, 544 lawyers surveyed, 56 judges and 45 prosecutors interviewed, and 672 case files reviewed. The collected data revealed common problems in the practice of pre-trial detention throughout the EU: judges sometimes rely on unlawful grounds, human rights incompatible standards when ordering detention, while giving reasoning that is often formulaic and does not engage with the specific evidence in each case. On the other hand, measures alternative to detention are often mistrusted and underused.
The damage of long term unfounded pre-trial detention to specific persons is show in this short film by Fair Trials, in which three people detained in different EU countries share their stories.More >
The primary objective of the project is the provision of training pursuant to Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (hereinafter the “Victims’ Directive”), taking a human-rights’ based approach.
|Period||1 September 2016 – 1 July 2018|
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
|Partners||Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lietuva), Bar Council of Ireland, Law Society of Ireland, APAV (Portugal), Peace Institute (Slovenia), Justice Department (Hungary), Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and Victim Support Europe (VSE).|
1. Assessment of the training needs among judiciary and judicial staff
2. Development of training programme and training guide. The training will cover: (1) victims’ needs; (2) EU Victims Directive; (3) interviewing child victims; (4) interviewing persons with disabilities; (5) interviewing victims with special protection needs.
3. Training sessions for judges, court staff and prosecutors (60 persons)
4. Development of an e-course based on the training programme using the e-learning environment Be-ribu.lt
5. International conference in Dublin to discuss the impact of the training.
|The project is co-funded by the European Union Justice Programme||
The primary objective of the project is to identify how suspects’ procedural rights operate in practice and to provide recommendations for removing possible flaws. Data gathered through observational research will be used to ensure better implementation of suspects’ rights enshrined in the EU Directives on the right to interpretation and translation, the right to information, and the right of access to a lawyer.
The project seeks to provide a human insight into the treatment of people following surrender under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), and to identify and illustrate good and bad practice in post-surrender treatment to support effective implementation of the EAW Framework decision.
The project aims at raising awareness about gaps in correct implementation of the 2012/13 Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings, in particular with respect to the accessibility of the Letter of Rights (LoR), to produce and to test the alternative versions of the LoR.
The project aims to strengthen the procedural rights of suspects and accused in criminal proceedings by increasing knowledge and the capacity to apply the Directive 2013/48/EU (“Right of access to a lawyer directive”) and Recommendation C(2013) 8179/2 (“Right to legal aid recommendation”) among legal professionals.
Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) introduced its research on pre-trial detention (PTD) in Lithuania to criminal lawyers, who also actively engaged in the discussion held after the presentation. The lawyers unanimously agreed that one of the biggest shortcomings of the criminal proceedings is the absence of adversarial elements, especially in the pre-trial stage.
According to the participants of the discussion, such situation makes almost impossible to ensure the effective protection of the rights of the suspected person.
The lawyers also shared their insights on HRMI’s PTD research and discussed the changes brought by the recent PTD legal reform. It was noted that detention rulings often still lack specific and individual reasoning as well clear identification of supporting evidence. Moreover, the decisions often merely repeat prosecution’s arguments ignoring the defense’s position altogether.
The participants of the event pointed out limited access to the case material, the media and the public’s influence on the judiciary, causing pressure against taking unpopular decisions.
The participating lawyers also discussed European Arrest Warrant, Directive on the Right to Information and the case of Mironovas and others v. Lithuania, where ECHR has decided that the current compensations in Lithuania are not sufficient to redeem violations of rights.
Full text of research report can be found here.More >
HRMI conducted wide, unique, evidence-based research on PTD decision-making process and the use of alternatives through in-depth surveys of defense practitioners, monitoring detention hearings, reviewing case files, and interviewing prosecutors and judges.
“The results of the research gave a twofold impression. On the one hand, the overall assessment of the situation in Lithuania is significantly improving: in the summer of 2015, the practice of PTD process was reformed in order to improve protection of human rights in this area. In general, the tendency of using pre-trial detention is decreasing. On the other hand, a great number of problems related to the PTD decision-making process still exist”, says lead researcher, HRMI lawyer Karolis Liutkevičius.
To name some of the problems, the courts still satisfy more than 9 out of 10 prosecutors’ requests to detain the person, whilst the quality of legal aid in detention cases is extremely poor. The alternative means of PTD such as house arrest or bail are still widely distrusted.More >
By increasing victim support organisations’ knowledge of the possibilities, benefits and challenges of victim support through online support, project T@LK aims to build capacity to proceed with a pilot implementation of such a model, to complement the coventional support avenues already in place.
2016 04 01 – 2018 03 01
|Coordinator and Partnership||Project is promoted by the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV) and with the partnership of Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Victim Support Finland, Victim Support Malta, Catalan Victimology Society and Victim Support Europe.|
1. Desk research on existing online support methods and tools, their appropriateness to victim support, their benefits and pitfalls and identifiable best practices
2. Production of a handbook on online support to victims of crime, gathering the information collected through desk research and survey analysis, giving practical advice and promoting best practices
3. Study visit by the partners and associate partners to a key organisation identified as best practice in the field
4. Development of procedures and guidelines for victim support workers providing support through the created online support tool
5. Meeting with key stakeholders in one of the non-implementing partner countries to ensure further increase of victim support through awareness raising on the possibilities of online support.
|Project is co-financed by the Justice Programme of the European Union||
HRMI conducted a wide, unique, evidence-based research on PTD decision-making process and the use of alternatives through in-depth surveys of defense practitioners, monitoring detention hearings, reviewing case files, and interviewing prosecutors and judges.
“The results of the research gave a twofold impression. On the one hand, the overall assessment of the situation in Lithuania is significantly improving: in the summer of 2015, the practice of PTD process was reformed in order to improve protection of human rights in this area. In general, the tendency of using pre-trial detention is decreasing. On the other hand, a great number of problems related to the PTD decision-making process still exist”, says lead researcher, HRMI lawyer Karolis Liutkevičius.
To name some of the problems, the courts still grant more than 9 out of 10 prosecutors’ requests to detain the person, whilst the quality of legal aid in detention cases is extremely poor. The alternative means of PTD such as house arrest or bail are still widely distrusted.More >
On 27 October, the Head of the Prison Department issued an Order cancelling the regulation which had unduly restricted the lawyers’ access to their clients in the liberty deprivation places. This regulation, violating the right to a fair hearing and defence, was adopted a year ago, when it was established that a lawyer must provide the investigating authority or court approval of his/her status as a defender.
In September of 2014, right after this regulation was adopted, HRMI together with the Lithuanian Bar Association had requested the Prison Department to revoke the Order. The joint letter of the two organization stated that “it is to be noted that the European Court of Human Rights had held that there can be some restrictions for the defence lawyer to meet his/her client without third persons (case of Campbell and Fell v. UK (1984). […] the limitations can be imposed by the law only and within the principle of reasonableness. For this reason, the limitation for the lawyer to meet a client on the grounds that he/she did not provide the approval by the investigating authority or court that the lawyer (lawyer’s assistant) is the defender of this client, is unlawful because such limitation is not prescribed by law and therefore it breaches the principle of reasonableness and the right to defence)”.
In February of 2015, HRMI initiated a meeting at the Parliamentary Ombudsperson’s Office regarding the implementation of this Order. The participants of the meeting were the representatives of the Lithuanian Bar Association, Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Department.
After the subsequent meetings of the Lithuanian Bar Association with responsible institutions, the problem was finally solved on 27 October 2015 when the amended Order was adopted. Now it will be sufficient to provide the Lawyer‘s Warrant or a Decision on granting the legal aid guaranteed by the State, lawyer’s licence, and identification document when visiting clients in prison.More >
The aim of the project is to facilitate the assessment of Member State compliance with the requirements of the 2012/13/EU Directive on the Right to Information in Criminal Proceedings, and thus feed into the European Commission’s own evaluation process.
“I got scared – if I refuse to work with Taliban, they will kill me. I was told that Lithuania helps people.”
– Q.N., applicant in the case
Proceedings initiated: 2013
Proceedings closed: 2015
Case in brief: minors asylum-seekers from Afghanistan were unlawfully detained in Lithuania and convicted for illegal border crossing
Outcome of the case: pre-trial detention and conviction of minors were contrary to Lithuanian and international law, which provides a special protection for asylum-seekers; applicants in the case received a compensation
Facts of the case:
Two citizens of Afghanistan, who claimed they were only 14 and 17 years old at the time, were apprehended by the officers of the State Border Guard Service on 4 April 2013 in the Ignalina district after they had crossed the Lithuanian border.
These young people were fleeing war-torn Afghanistan to apply for asylum in Lithuania. A pre-trial investigation was launched and both minors were ordered to be detained, spending three months locked up in the Lukiškės Remand Prison together with adult men – enduring humiliation, insults and a number of other human rights violations.
Finally, they were found guilty for illegal border crossing and ordered to pay fine exceeding 16.000 EUR. However, in 2013 Ignalina District Court found that they were convicted unlawfully since their sole purpose of crossing the border was to request asylum in Lithuania.
On 26 November 2013, Human Rights Monitoring Institute and the Lithuanian Red Cross Society submitted a complaint to the Vilnius District Court on behalf of the applicants requesting for compensation of damages caused by unlawful conviction and unlawful detention.
The Vilnius District Court, in its judgment held that Lithuania was liable to compensate the Afghans for the loss suffered. After the appeal by the Prosecution Office and by the Ministry of Justice, the Vilnius Regional Court ruled that there were not enough evidence to prove that Afgani asylum seekers were minors, therefore they should have been treated as adults. Furthermore, the court held that since the asylum seekers were finally acquited for the illegal border crossing, they were not entitled to damages for unlawful conviction.
Finally, on 14 July 2015, the Lithuania Supreme Court found for the applicants in its final judgment. The Court agreed that their detention and conviction violated national and international law, and ordered the state to pay more than 6.000 EUR in damages.
On June 17, HRMI released its 8th overview „Human Rights in Lithuania: 2013-2014“. The Overview is the only periodic assessment of the human rights situation in Lithuania conducted by more than 20 independent experts. It covers rights of the child, women’s rights, freedom of speech, assembly and religion, prohibition of torture and other fundamental rights. Read the full Overview here.More >
“The grounds for pre-trial detention should be substantive and conclusive, not general and abstract; the court should ground its decision in the specific circumstances of the case. When sanctioning pre-trial detention or extending it, the court should consider arguments both in favor and against a restriction of person’s liberty and may order to detain a person only when convinced that it is necessary for the protection of public interest”.
– Kaunas District Court’s judgment in Gataevs’ case
Proceedings initiated: 2008
Proceedings closed: 2014
Nature of the case: after serving an imprisonment sentence in full, the liberty of spouses was unlawfully restricted for 26 days
Outcome of the case: for 26 days spent in detention spouses were awarded pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages
Facts of the case:
In autumn 2008, the spouses of Chechen origin Malik and Chadizat Gataev were arrested in Kaunas on charges of the alleged violation of the rights of the children in their care, amounting to physical violence and extortion. The Gataev family, founders of the foster home „Rodnaja semja“ (Native family) in Grosno, arrived to Lithuania 10 years ago and received a considerable attention from the State Security Department.
In June 2009, Kaunas District Court convicted the spouses on several counts and sentenced them to 10 months imprisonment. As they were previous held in pre-trial detention, they were left to serve three months.
In 14 August 2009, after they served the full sentence, the court, upon the prosecutor’s request, extended the detention of the spouses for another three months. The decision was quashed on the appeal as unlawful and Gataevs were released on 9 September 2009.
In February 2010, Human Rights Monitoring Institute drafted a claim for damages, on behalf of Gataevs’, for the unlawful restriction of their liberty during April 14-September 9 of 2009. Kaunas District Court found in favor of claimants awarding them 2032 EUR in moral damages and 290 EUR to cover their legal costs.
On 5 December 2014, Kaunas County Court increased the legal costs award up to 579 EUR.More >
The overall objective of the project is to inform the development of future initiatives aiming to reduce the unnecessary use of pre-trial detention (PTD) within the EU by building a unique evidence-base regarding what, in practice, is causing the use of PTD.
|Project period||2014 06 01 – 2016 06 30|
|Partnership||Lithuania, Romania, Ireland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Italy|
1. In the course of the research, 20 court hearings regarding the PTD were monitored, material of 61 cases was analysed, 36 lawyer, 4 judges and 5 prosecutors were interviewed.
2. Trends and weaknesses were identified and recommendations for improving the decision-making in PTD cases were provided.
3. Research report was published in Lithuanian and English and disseminated extensively. This findings were discussed at the round-tables with the Lithuanian defence lawyers and, separately, with the prosecutors at the General prosecutor’s office.
|We are grateful for the financial support to|
The project aims to contribute to the successful implementation of EU Procedural Rights Directives and to educate the practitioners on how the EU law instruments can be used to challenge systemic problems within justice systems.
In February 2014 HRMI presented the study “Pre-trial detention: police, prosecutors’ and investigating judges’ perspective”. The study seeks to determine the officers’ outlook on the use of this restrictive measure in criminal proceedings, as well as the problems related to it.
Arrest and pre-trial detention are the most human rights restricting measures that can be imposed on a person in the course of a criminal investigation. During the last five years in Lithuania pre-trial detention was used more than ten times as frequently as its closest, more lenient alternatives – house arrest and bail.This study seeks to answer why law enforcement institutions tend to very often request the procedural measure imposing maximum restriction on a person’s liberty – pre-trial detention, and why the courts order it so willingly while more lenient alternatives are chosen far more rarely.
Research was conducted using qualitative research methodology, by questioning police officers, prosecutors and investigating judges in semi-structured interviews. The study confirms the existence of substantial systemic problems related to the use of liberty restricting measures. Possibly the most serious of these is the deliberate abuse of pre-trial detention. A significant part of the study participants confirmed that pre-trial detention is sometimes sought while fully understanding that it is not necessary. Despite that, the most severe restrictive measure is sometimes employed to achieve goals not provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure.More >
“This judgement is of great significance on national as well as international level. It is a huge step forward in protecting human rights Lithuania.”
– Mėta Adutavičiūtė, HRMI Advocacy Officer
Proceedings initiated: 2013
Proceedings closed: not closed yet
Case in brief: one of the CIA Extraordinary Rendition Programme’s victims might have been held in Lithuania
Facts of the case:
Mustafa al-Hawsawi is a Saudi national who was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on 1 March 2003. He was held in secret CIA detention for the next three-and-a-half years, before being transferred to military detention in Guantnamo Bay in September 2006, where he is still being held. The US Government alleges that al-Hawsawi is a ‘senior al-Qaida member who supported al-Qaeda’s terrorist network as a facilitator, financial manager, and media committee member’, and who also supported the movement and funding of the 9/11 hijackers into the US.
The publicly available evidence indicates that al-Hawsawi was one of the so-called “high-value detainees” subjectedto treatment amounting to torture and detained in different locations (including, allegedly, Lithuania), within the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) Programme from 2003 until 2006.
In September 2013, Human Rights Monitoring Institute and REDRESS submitted a complaint with prosecutors calling for an investigation into the allegations. On 2 October 2013 REDRESS and HRMI were informed of the Prosecutor’s decision not to open an investigation on the basis of the complaint. On 8 October 2013 REDRESS and HRMI filed an appeal against this decision. At first instance, the appeal was dismissed, but a further appeal was upheld by the Vilnius Regional Court on 28 January 2014.
Vilnius Regional Court found that prosecutors hastily refused to open an inquiry. The court believed that before making a categorical conclusion that there was no crime committed, the prosecutor should have tried to question al- Hawsawi, currently kept in detention in Guantanamo, and send requests to US institutions.
Follow-up to the case:
In February 2014, the General Prosecutor’s Office opened the pre-trial investigation with respect to the circusmtances indicated in the HRMI and REDRESS request. The investigation is pending, however al-Hawsawi was not granted a status of the victim in the case.
The JUSTICIA Network, of which HRMI is a member, has addressed the European Commission regarding implemented and upcoming EU policy in the area of criminal justice.
JUSTICIA commended the European Commission on the adopted measures, namely the Roadmap for strengthening procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings and the Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.
The Network urged the Commission to continue on this path where outstanding measures under the Roadmap are concerned, and especially stressed the need to ensure a proper implementation of the adopted measures in Member States.
Where future policy is concerned, JUSTICIA called on the Commission to consider a legislative proposal on the use of pre-trial detention, as well as revision of EU measures on crime victims’ compensation and a complaints mechanism for when victims’ rights are breached.
The full submission is available here.
In 2013 the Hungarian Helsinki Committee published a study which explores the legislation and practice around pre-trial detention (PTD) in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (CEE-FSU). Human Rights Monitoring Institute was one of the organizations participating in the study’s preparation.
According to both national and international legislation PTD should be used as a means of last resort. However, this research indicates that this is hardly the case. If someone finds themselves in a PTD court hearing in the CEE-FSU region, there is an 80% probability that he will be placed in PTD. In countries like Georgia, Hungary and Kazakhstan, the chances are over 90%.
These people are left to spend, at times, years of their lives in PTD. This is so, despite the fact that international standards clearly ask for PTD to be as short as possible. Nonetheless in 2011, in Hungary there were almost 300 people held in PTD for over one year; in Poland there were over 2000 people in such a situation. Also, for those unfortunately enough to be held in PTD in Turkey, according to the law, in exceptional cases they can be held in PTD for 10 years.
The study is available in English and Russian. A summary of the study in English is also available. To learn more about the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s campaign promoting reform of pre-trial detention visit the organization’s website.More >
In 2013 the JUSTICIA Network, in cooperation with the Human Rights Monitoring Institute and other EU NGOs, presented two reports on suspects’ rights protection in criminal proceedings.
The first report reviews compliance of legal aid systems in seven EU jurisdictions with the standards established by the European Human Rights Convention and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. The seven states reviewed are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England & Wales, Germany, Greece, Ireland and Lithuania.
The second report assesses the access to interpretation and translation services in criminal proceedings in six EU Member States: Czech Republic, England & Wales, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The report analyses whether these states comply with the requirements arising out of the EU Directive on the Right to Interpretation and Translation.
JUSTICIA is an international NGO network founded by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties in 2012. It works in the areas of suspects’ and victims’ rights protection in criminal proceedings. NGOs from ten EU Member States, including the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, participate in the Network’s activities.
The JUSTICIA network has already presented six publications on crime victims’ and suspects’ rights in criminal proceedings. More information on the JUSTICIA Network itself and its activities is available at the official website.More >
Over 20 non-governmental organizations, including the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, addressed Vice-President of the European Commission Viviane Reding yesterday encouraging the European Commission to continue working on the establishment of minimum standards for the use of pre-trial detention in EU.
Addressing NGOs emphasized the recognition of the European Commission, Council and Parliament that ”excessively long periods of pre-trial detention are detrimental to the individual, can prejudice cooperation between the Member States, and do not represent the values for which the European Union stands”.* Therefore European Commission is encouraged to continue working in this area and develop a timeframe for tabling a legislative proposal setting common minimum standards for the use of pre-trial detention in the EU.
Addressing organizations urged the Commission to:
1) take measures that statistical data on the use of pre-trial detention and its alternatives in EU member states would be collected and published by European statistics programme;
2) take further EU action to establish minimum and enforceable EU standards on pre-trial detention if, as the addressing organizations expect, the collected statistical data shows this to be necessary.
Complete text of reference can be found here.
* A Green Paper on the application of EU criminal justice legislation in the field of detention, COM(2011) 327More >
Arrest and pre-trial detention are the most restrictive procedural measures which can be employed during pre-trial investigation phase of criminal proceedings. These measures deprive a person of his/her liberty, in certain cases cause stigmatization, contribute to social exclusion, arrested or detained persons may experience physical and mental harm due to bad custodial conditions, and in some cases, arrests and detentions on remand may violate the presumption of innocence.
HRMI research shows that in Lithuania arrests and detentions on remand are overused. In particular, detention on remand became the main rather than the exceptional procedural measure. Given that the Code of Criminal Procedure allows an extension of the detention on remand for indefinite time, the situations occur when persons complete serving imposed sentences before they are convicted.
Among other findings of the research summarized in the HRMI’s report are:
- Absence of legal safeguards against the ungrounded imposition of maximum length of arrests – 48 hours; specifically, there is no effective mechanism, which would enable terminating of ungrounded arrests;
- Rules for seeking compensation for damages caused by arrest or/and detention in courts are overly complicated and inefficient; non-judicial compensatory scheme provide for low level of compensations;
- Law enforcement officers are often hostile or manipulative towards arrested and detained persons, they fail to properly inform them about their rights, if inform at all.
Findings of the report are based on the analysis of relevant legal regulations, court decisions, statistical data, and interviews with target groups. The standards developed in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights served as a benchmark for conclusions and recommendations.
An English summary of the report is available here.
See the full report (in Lithuanian) here.More >
On 25 November, 2011, a consortium of six non-governmental organisations, including Human Rights Monitoring Institute, presented their submission to the European Commission and European Parliament on the Green Paper on the Application of EU Criminal Justice Legislation in the Field of Detention prepared by the European Commission.
The submission primarily covers three interrelated aspects of pretrial detention laws and practice by Member States namely non-custodial alternatives to pretrial detention; statutory maximum lengths of pretrial detention; and regular judicial review of pretrial detention. The review also provides a number of limited recommendations on children and monitoring places of detention, in particular where they relate to pretrial detention.
On 15 December, European Parliament took into account the submission of non-governmental organisations and passed a resolution calling for urgent measures to be taken to remedy the “alarming” state of prisons across the EU, and to protect prisoners’ fundamental rights and minimum common standards for detention conditions in all EU countries.
An “alarming picture“ of prison overcrowding, a growing prison population, ever more foreign nationals being held, large numbers of pre-trial detainees, detainees with mental and psychological disorders and many cases of death and suicide, is painted in the Commission‘s Green Paper on the Application of EU Criminal Justice Legislation in the Field of Detention, MEPs noted.
Prison conditions must be consistent with human dignity and the rights of suspects or accused persons must be guaranteed, including the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, European Parliament stressed. Pre-trial detention must remain an exceptional measure to be used under strict conditions and for a limited period of time, it added. Providing decent conditions for prisoners and granting them access to schemes to prepare them for a return to society should also help to reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend, MEPs said.
One problem that Member States often point to is a lack of resources to improve prison conditions. MEPs therefore called for a specific EU budget heading to be created with a view to encouraging them to comply with high standards.
The total prison population of the EU was estimated at 633,909 for 2009-2010.
See the Submission of consortium of non-governmental organisations here.
See the European Commission Green Paper on the Application of EU Criminal Justice Legislation in the Field of Detention here.
See the European Parliament Resolution on Detention Conditions in the EU here.More >
On 26 May 2011, HRMI presented its traditional independent assessment of human rights in Lithuania “Human Rights in Lithuania 2009-2010: Overview”, which is based on in-house research, reports and other documents prepared by government institutions, Lithuanian and international NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, media monitoring data, and consultations with experts.
In 2009, when presenting the 2007-2008 Human Rights Overview, HRMI highlighted the ongoing deterioration of human rights situation in Lithuania since joining the European Union. “We emphasized the direct link between increasing levels of emigration and lack of foreign investment, on the one hand, and unsatisfactory human rights condition, on the other. We called for expansion of human dimension on political agenda, in which, irrespective of economic prosperity or recession, the attitude of immature democracy prevails that successful economic development will lead to improvement in human rights situation,” – said Henrikas Mickevicius, HRMI Executive Director.
Public discourse and political practice of recent years revealed that HRMI was not heard. Instead of care for human rights, a poorly disguised or even proudly displayed hostility towards human rights became obvious. Human rights situation continued to deteriorate and the popular joke about mass evacuation seem to resemble the truth. Disrespect for human rights and the culture of intolerance were openly employed as tools in political competition.
The Overview highlights the most serious violations of the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to fair trial, emphasizes regress in application of principles of equal opportunities and anti-discrimination, draws attention to the rapid growth of intrusions into private life, and to restrictions on the right to participate in public life and freedom of assembly. Special attention is paid to an unsatisfactory state of the rights of vulnerable groups, in particular of children and mentally disabled.
Human Rights in Lithuania 2009-2010: Overview
On June 10th, 2009 HRMI released the fifth human rights overview.
The Overview covers the situation of fundamental political and civil rights in Lithuania during the period of 2007-2008. It reviews the implementation of the right to political participation, the right to freedom of expression, the right to respect for private life and the right to a fair trial as well as various manifestations of racism, anti-semitism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance and discrimination. The situation of a few socially vulnerable groups such as women, children, and prisoners, the disabled and medical patients in the context of human rights is analysed separately.
See full text of the Overview in English: Human Rights in Lithuania 2007-2008: OverviewMore >
On May 16th, 2006 HRMI released the third annual human rights overview. This overview presents the state of political and civil rights and freedoms in Lithuania in 2005. It addresses the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, civil liberties, discrimination, racism and other forms of intolerance, as well as human rights in police activities. The publication offers a separate overview of the situation of vulnerable groups, such as women, children, crime victims, convicts, and the mentally disabled.
The capacity to protect the right to privacy is facilitated through adequate awareness and the manifestation of the meaning of respect for privacy in the public domain. The general public, politicians, the media, law enforcement officers and courts still do not view protection of private life as an imperative and worthy component in the quest for democracy. In this environment, the use of video surveillance, which is largely unregulated, expanded rapidly in 2005.
Inappropriate practices within law enforcement agencies led to widespread abuse of personal data protection, where private information entered the public domain without legal sanction. Wide-spread public use of personal identification numbers created an increased risk. Personal identity theft became an increasingly worrisome issue. Events of 2005 illustrate the need for the establishment of an independent national institution, which would safeguard data protection within its mandate.
Regarding the right to a fair trial, the tendency of political interference in the work of law enforcement agencies and courts became apparent in 2005. Frequent parliamentary investigations led to violations in the presumption of innocence and undermined the efforts by law enforcement agencies to investigate suspected crimes. At the same time, parliament is increasingly hesitant to strip suspected MPs of parliamentary immunity. Problems related to the lack of independence and professionalism among pre-trial investigators have persisted.
The right to freedom of expression was not sufficiently ensured in 2005. There were attempts by politicians to suppress the criticism from their political opponents by filing cases for punitive measures against them. The fact that the highest state officials regarded such public criticism as detrimental to national interests and appealed to law enforcement agencies for defense was a matter of particular concern.
In 2005, Lithuania made significant progress in improving the legal basis to deal with cases of discrimination and intolerance, which was particularly strengthened by the new Law on Equal Opportunities. However, Lithuania remains one of the most intolerant countries in Europe, with intolerance against ethnic and religious minorities rapidly increasing.
In 2005, children and women remained among the most vulnerable social groups. A matter of particular concern is the scale of violence against members of these groups. The fact that Lithuania has remained a country of source, transit and destination for human trafficking, with women and girls as the most frequent victims, is very troubling.
In 2005, the number of cases of inhumane and degrading behavior by police officers did not decrease. Proper detention conditions for convicted persons, their right to health care and social integration after their release were not guaranteed. The absence of an independent authority that could conduct regular visits to places of detention without prior notice also contributed to the failure to ensure the rights of convicted persons.
Similar to 2004, the rights of crime victims for assistance and support, especially in ensuring legal support and recovery of damages in cases of violent crimes, remained an unimplemented declaration. The right of victims of crime to be informed of the release of a suspect or convicted person from a detention facility has not been implemented either.
In 2005, there were serious violations of human rights in psychiatric institutions. The system of mental healthcare in Lithuania continued to rely on large closed mental healthcare institutions. This approach is in direct conflict with a modern health and social policy which is based on the principle of autonomy of an individual, bestowal of power, and the right to live in the least restrictive environment possible. Due to faulty legal regulation the protection of legally incapacitated individuals continues to be a particularly problematic area.More >
HRMI has prepared its second report on human rights implementation in Lithuania. The overview focuses on problematic areas and formulates recommendations for improvements.
This overview identifies the main violations of human rights in 2004 concerning the right to political participation, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, human rights in police activities, the rights of crime victims, prisoners’ rights, discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism and the rights of vulnerable social groups (patients, children, women, disabled and elderly).
The Overview has been prepared by a group of experts, and is based on the information and data from long-term HRMI projects, daily monitoring, including media monitoring, reports of international and national governmental and non-governmental organizations and public opinion surveys.
English version of the overview here.More >
On 10 June 2004, HRMI released its first assessment of the state of human rights in Lithuania. The human rights overview pays special attention to under-examined issues, such as the right to political participation, the right to privacy, the rights of crime victims, and the rights of other vulnerable groups.
The report revealed numerous violations of the right to political participation, right to respect for privacy, the right to a fair trial, the right to property, and the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and crime victims.
Full text here.More >