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HRMI Contributes to Lithuania’s Universal Periodic Review

Today, Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) jointly with the SOS Children’s Villages Lithuania and the Centre for Equality Advancement made a submission to the UN Human Rights Council on the occasion of Lithuania’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The submission expands on the human rights issues around domestic and gender-based violence, human trafficking, right to legal capacity, and child rights including the situation of minor victims and witnesses of crimes, legal regulation of corporal punishment, and the process of transition from institutional to family-based care.

Lithuania’s review will take place during the 26th session of the UPR working group, in the beginning of November 2016. The final recommendations are expected to be published by the end of 2016. Recommendations for Lithuania made during the first UPR session in 2011 can be accessed here.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. Each country’s review is based are: 1) information provided by the State under review;  2) information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups (Special procedures), human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities; 3) information from other stakeholders including national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations.


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When Will Lithuanian Schools Become Open to All?

Lithuania is one of the few EU countries that still have special schools for disabled children, with homeschooling being an exceptionally common occurrence.

According to the Lithuanian Disability Forum, roughly half of disabled children in Lithuania are taught in isolation.

This hinders efforts to fully include them and often stands in the way of their higher education: only around 1,000 persons with disabilities are able to get into higher education each year, which makes up less than 1 percent of all students.

According to the forum’s representatives, while parents would like their children to attend primary and secondary school, most schools are still not ready to accept students with visual, hearing or mental impairments: there is a dearth of properly trained staff and a prevalence of negative attitudes towards such children.

Unable to access school

A large portion of schools have still not been adapted to accommodate children with reduced mobility, says Rasa Kavaliauskaite, the president of the Lithuanian Association of People with Disabilities.She claims that of the 109 schools inspected in the 2011-2015 period, only 16.5 percent were accessible to children with disabilities, with 31.2 percent having limited accessibility and 52.3 percent being completely inaccessible.

The inspection also covered 14 higher education establishments with a total of 48 buildings, finding that only 40 percent were adapted to the needs of disabled students. The remainder had no elevators, lifts and detectable warning surfaces to notify of changes in level, with obstacles en route to the assembly halls.

Excessive financial burden?

Schools wishing to include children with special needs are facing considerable financial difficulties.

The headmistress of one of the best Vilnius progymnasiums with respect to the inclusion of children with disabilities claims that while children with special needs are allocated additional funding each year, it is only enough to cover children with moderate special needs: “Children with significant educational needs require a great deal more funding. Maybe that’s why headmasters are so averse to disabled students.”

Unprepared teachers

The level of preparation of teachers – or, rather, lack thereof – is yet another problem area. According to Sigitas Armonas, chairman of the Lithuanian Association for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, there are currently 220 sight-impaired students studying in inclusive settings in general schools in Lithuania.

However, Armonas claims that not all schools that accept visually impaired children are properly prepared for the task ahead of them, while special educators who choose to work with visually impaired children receive no training for it.

This story was prepared with the information provided by Mano teises and the Lithuanian Disability Forum.


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Human Rights in Lithuania 2013-2014: Overview

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.


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HRMI Urges Government on Children’s Safety

During their visits to children’s socialization centers of Lithuania, the country’s ombudsmen were able to establish numerous human rights violations. “The law provides that children may only be placed in relaxation rooms when they pose a threat to themselves and others because of an uncontrolled emotional outburst. However, in many socialization centers children are placed in relaxation rooms as a form of punishment,” reads the ombudsmen’s report.

In the Kaunas Children’s Socialization Center, the staff unlawfully made use of handcuffs, batons and tear gas against the children living there. In another center, it was found that relaxation rooms were insufficiently ventilated and poorly lit, and the children were often not allowed to go to the bathroom.

Socialization centers eyed by UN

Back on May 23, 2014, the UN Committee against Torture, having assessed the third periodic report of Lithuania, found that placement in “relaxation rooms” in socialization centers amounted to solitary confinement.

Six socialization centers, previously known as “teen jails,” still operate in Lithuania. While the children living in these centers are placed in different risk groups (minors who have committed a crime, minors who have run away from home or who do not do their homework, victims of human trafficking), their care and supervision is not differentiated.

HRMI urges government on children’s safety

Having initiated the investigation of the ombudsmen, the Human Rights Monitoring Institute continues to urge the government to wake up and finally realize that the socialization process in Lithuania has failed.

“Instead of developing new services within the community, for many years EU structural funds – millions of euros from EU taxpayers – were spent on ineffective institutions that violated children’s rights – to refurbish them, to reinforce their walls, the purpose of which was to separate children from society by imitating socialization, treatment and care,” wrote HMRI and 20 other human rights organizations in a letter to the Lithuanian government.


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Effective Use of Social Media for Promotion of Human Rights in Lithuania (Closed)


The purpose of the project is to launch two social-media campaigns tackling pressing human rights issues in Lithuania – ineffective child care reform and a crackdown on reproductive rights.


 

Project period 2015 01 01 – 2015 12 31
Project snapshot  11401546_1662365987332476_7702330700830125944_n
Achievements

 

1. The social media campaign “Country without Orphanages” reached the total audience of 1.135.966 people (over 30% of Lithuanian population). In June, we submitted a petition to the Government with 4184 signatures supporting the reform of large residential care institutions.

2. The built a strong network of supporters, including HE the President of the Republic of Lithuania, high-standing officials and media persons, speaking out on behalf of the child care reform.

3. With our sexual and reproductive rights campaign aimed at teenage youth we reached an audience of more than 220.000 people. During the campaign, we mobilized pro- sexual rights community for joint actions to pressure the government to introduce sexual education in schools.

We are grateful for the financial support to  komisija

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Human Rights in Lithuania: 2011-2012 Overview

Human Rights Monitoring Institute presents the seventh overview of human rights in Lithuania (in Lithuanian). It is a unique report on the human rights situation in Lithuania in the period of 2011-2012. An English summary of the overview is also available.


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Alternative Report to the UN Child Rights Committee 2012

In August 2012, an informal group of Lithuanian NGOs submitted alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the children’s rights situation in Lithuania. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is now considering the shadow report in its preliminary session in Geneva. The third and fourth State periodic reports will be considered in 2013.

The shadow report, prepared by independent NGOs active in human rights and children’s rights field, discusses the most important child’s rights protection issues in recent years in Lithuania and makes specific recommendations on how to fill in the existing gaps and to improve the current system.

Despite all the investments and achievements in health and social care system in the first decade of re-esablished independence of Lithuania, today there is a strong lack of political will and adequate systematic solutions to properly implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Lithuania. The main issues are the following: strong and rigid institutional child care system; ineffective family social support system that does not provide the necessary assistance and discriminate vulnerable children; non-existence of formal inter-institutional mechanisms that would ensure effective implementation of child care, child-friendly legal proceedings, necessary assistance to violence victims or complex assistance to young people using drugs; lack of appropriate and available assistance for children with disabilities; lack of sexual education and confidential services for young people.

Alternative report also expresses concern on the draft of a new Law on Child Protection, which is based on narrow concept of child protection and treats a child as an object rather as owner and subject of human rights. This draft law is to replace the current Law on Fundamentals of Child Rights Protection and instead of improving the current regulation (e.g., in banning all forms of violence against the child, including corporal punishment) it narrows the scope of protection and is focused only on protection of children from families at risk.

Non-governmental organizations encourage the government to pay more attention to the protection of children’s rights, improve the current Law on Fundamentals of Child Rights Protection, legally eliminate all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishments, develop alternative child care, establish formal assistance mechanisms for victims of violence, prioritise the issue of children mental welfare, create a child-friendly legal, reproductive health and sexual education services for children and young people.

Alternative report for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was prepared by the following NGOs: Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Global Initiative on Psychiatry, SOS Children‘s Villages Lithuania, Children Support Center, Lithuanian Students’ Parliament, Child Line, Eurasian Harm Reduction Network, Lithuanian Welfare Society for Persons with Mental Disability “Viltis”, Coalition “I Can Live”, Family Planning and Sexual Health Association, Center for Attachment Parenting.


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Human Rights in Lithuania: 2009-2010 Overview

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


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Submissions to the UN Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review 2011

Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) in coalition with several Lithuanian NGOs forwarded two submissions to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights practices in the country.

On 11 October 2011, UN Human Rights Council will review the first report of Lithuania submitted for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). UPR is a unique procedure which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. By the end of 2011, the UN Human Rights Council will complete the first round of country reviews.

The UPR procedure includes a possibility for non-governmental organisations to provide information and opinions to the UN Human Rights Council. HRMI together with the Center for Equality Advancement (CEA) and the Centre for Equal Rights and Social Development (CERSD) informed the UN Human Rights Council inter alia on developments related to the on-going discussion on the necessity of the National Human Rights Institution in Lithuania, on certain factors impacting the efficiency of the right to fair trial, including access to the state-guaranteed legal aid, stressed particular infringements of the right to respect for private life, and informed about questionable quality of investigation into Lithuanian participation in the CIA-run Extraordinary Rendition and Secret Detention programme.

Submission on the child‘s rights, drafted by HRMI, Children Support Centre (CSC) and Caritas Lithuania, emphasized the lack of objective data on the violence against children, the structural problems related to provision of assistance to children- victims of abuse, including victims of human trafficking, and informed about difficulties in ensuring rights of children in judicial process.

The Lithuanian Human Rights Centre, the Lithuanian Gay League, the Roma Community Centre and the Jewish Community of Lithuania have forwarded submissions the UN Human Rights Council on other human rights topics.

See the submission of HRMI, CEA and CERSD here.

See the submission of HRMI, CSC and Caritas Lithuania on child‘s rights here.


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Human Rights in Lithuania: 2007-2008 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: Overview


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Human Rights in Lithuania 2005: Overview

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.

See the full text of the Overview


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Human Rights in Lithuania 2004: Overview

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.


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Human Rights in Lithuania: 2003 Overview

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.


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