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Human Rights in Lithuania 2016-2017

Human Rights Monitoring Institute presents overview “Human Rights in Lithuania 2016-2017.” It is our 9th overview which is the only periodic assessment of the human rights situation in Lithuania conducted by 17 independent experts from various fields.

 


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Civil Society in Lithuania Urges MPs to Ratify Istanbul Convention

Almost 70 NGOs are urging Lithuanian MPs to better protect victims of domestic violence by complying with international obligations and ratifying the Council of Europe Convention combating violence against women.

Although Lithuania passed the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence in 2011, this sort of violence remains an acute problem to this day. Since the passage of the law, reports of violence have increased almost fourfold, with almost 70,000 cases recoded in 2016.

“In recent years, Lithuania has done a lot to protect the victims of domestic violence. The Istanbul Convention, the first international legal instrument aimed solely at addressing gender-based violence, would allow us to systematically analyze our existing legal measures, assess their efficacy and improve them, thus developing a more effective system of protection. Thousands of victims are waiting for this next step, and it is for them that we must take it,” said Natalija Bitiukova, Deputy Director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.

Shrouded in myth

Organizations purporting to defend “traditional values” do not shy away from fearmongering – they claim that the Istanbul Convention is aimed at spreading “gender ideology.” According to them, the Convention would establish a new, social gender in Lithuania and limit the right of parents to educate their children according to their beliefs.

Birutė Sabatauskaitė, Director of the Lithuanian Center for Human Rights, claims that such fears are unfounded:

“The Istanbul Convention applies only to gender-based violence and to domestic violence, and it really saddens me that, instead of strengthening protection and prevention, we focus on how we interpret certain concepts and, I think it’s fair to say, on manipulation and ramblings. This, in my opinion, shows a lack of respect for victims of violence.”

Progressive treaty

The Istanbul Convention is a progressive international treaty aimed at combating violence against women and domestic violence, treating them as serious violations of human rights. The document covers the prevention of violence, victim protection, bringing perpetrators to justice and monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the Convention.

Lithuania signed the Istanbul Convention back in 2013. In 2016, Lithuania adopted the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council and made a commitment to ratify the treaty.


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Stop Violence Against Women: From Awareness-Raising to Zero Victim Blaming

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.

Period 3 April 2017 – 02 October 2019
Coordinator  

Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson

 

Partners Center for Equal Opportunities Advancement
Human Rights Monitoring Institute
“Nomoshiti Initiative”
Lithuanian Medical Association (associated partner)
Objectives and activities  

  1. Empowerment of victims and women at risk to violence

    Activities will aim at the formulation of targeted messages and selection of the most effective way of communication with the victims of domestic violence. Tools for empowerment will be created. This will increase understanding of different forms of violence against women. The main task is to influence women’s suffering from domestic violence behaviour and encourage them to reach for help.

  2. Trainings for specialists

    This aims to change health care, social work and children rights protection specialist’s attitudes, stereotypes and behaviour in their approach to the victims of domestic violence. Trainings will aim at the enhancement of those specialists competence in order to recognise and prevent domestic violence.

  3. Awareness-raising

    The implementation of this task will include targeted social advocacy campaign, which will seek to raise awareness of general public about various forms of violence against women and challenge victim-blaming attitudes in the society, promote zero tolerance to violence in the society and initiate public discussion.  This general awareness-raising campaign will involve health care, social work and children rights protection specialists in order to undertake positive changes in the work with victims. A specific attention will be given to reduce victim blaming in the media.


Project is co-financed by the Justice Programme of the European Union

 


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Developing an EU Training Module for the Victims’ Directive

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
Coordinator  

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).
Activities

 

 

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

 


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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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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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Defending legal rights of domestic violence victims (completed)


The project aims to improve access to justice for the victims of domestic violence crime in Lithuania and Belarus through increased capacities of women rights NGOs, victim support services providers and legal professionals.


Project period 2014 11 05 – 2015 12 31
Partnership Lithuania, Belarus, Norway
Project snapshot
Achievements

 

1. We held an international networking event between victim support service providers, lawyers and women rights advocates from Norway, Belarus and Lithuania

2. In October 2015 we launched the first interactive learning platform www.be-ribu.lt offering the on-line course  “Domestic Violence: what every professional should know” in Lithuanian and Russian

3. Since October the platform attracted over 350 e-students (police officers, prosecutors, lawyers, social workers), 168 of them has already successfully finished the course and received a certificate.

We are grateful for the financial support to logos

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Alternative Report to UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 2014

Human Rights Monitoring Institute has submitted an alternative report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in order to assist the Committee in assessing Lithuania’s progress when implementing women’s rights, while reviewing Lithuania’s fifth periodic report.

To ensure appropriate protection for victims of domestic violence, to respect the privacy of women and to more effectively combat the trafficking of women and girls – these were the recommendations submitted by the Human Rights Monitoring Institute in its shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

The Committee (which, for the first time, includes a representative from Lithuania, professor Dalia Leinartė) will be examining the periodic report of Lithuania on June 30 – July 18 in Geneva. During this session, the Committee will assess how Lithuania had been implementing the provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

HRMI drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that, even with the adoption of the Law on Protection Against Domestic Violence, women in Lithuania cannot feel safe. The safety measures prescribed by the Law are often not applied, the penal process does not take into account the needs of the victims of domestic violence and police officers do not ensure that victims are sent to specialized help centers and receive due psychological and other assistance.

The state does not pay sufficient attention to another major problem: the trafficking of women and girls. Even though the law was changed during the reported period in order to better tackle this crime, in practice many victims remain unprotected while traffickers continue to evade capture. The scale of trafficking continues to grow, while the average age of its victims continues to decrease. The fact that society and law enforcement bodies are prone to stigmatizing and blaming the victims does not help in fighting this heinous crime.

Legislative initiatives aimed at restricting women’s rights are of the greatest concern. A draft law almost completely prohibiting abortion had been registered in 2013, and it is currently being deliberated in the committees of Parliament. This law would be a major step backward for the protection of women’s rights and would pose a real threat to their health and lives. HRMI expressed great concern over such initiatives and suggested that the Committee makes recommendations to the state to ensure that no similar laws are passed.


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D.P. v Lithuania – domestic violence

 „I hope this decision will assist others in the future, maybe victims will not be afraid to complain, and aggressors will be less violent. I worry about the kids  – they suffer the most in violent families and it affects their future lives tremendously.“

– D.P., applicant in the case


Proceedings initiated: 2007

Proceedings closed: 2013

Case in brief: the applicant suffered her spouse’s violence for over eight years, but all the investigations into domestic abuse were discontinued

Outcome of the case: by failing to protect the applicant and her children from domestic violence, Lithuanian law enforcement authorities violated Article 3 of the ECHR (prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment)


Facts of the case:

The applicant D.P. and her four children suffered the violence and terror of applicant‘s former husband, kids‘ father, for longer than ten years. Neither law-enforcement institutions nor courts were capable to stop the aggressor despite repetitive applicant’s complains since 1999.

The court proceedings lasted until 2007 but the aggressor did not receive any punishment as the proceedings became time-barred. The children of the applicant had developed post-traumatic stress disorder or a continuous depressive reaction.

The oldest applicant‘s son R.P., after suffering all his life from his father‘s terror, was diagnosed with a depression and took his own life in 2009.

Legal proceedings:

On 23 May 2008, the applicant addressed the European Court of Human Rights regarding the violation of Article 6 (right to fair trial) of the European Human Rights Convention.

After the case was communicated to the Government, Human Rights Monitoring Institute intervened as amicus curiae. In its observations, HRMI argued that Lithuania by failing to protect the applicant and her three children from repeated physical and psychological violence and by procrastinating in the criminal proceedings, violated Article 3 as well as Article 8 of the Convention.

On 22 October 2013, after Lithuania Government acknowledged in its unilateral declaration that the applicant had not been ensured effective protection guaranteed by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, and offered a just satisfaction of Eur 6000 to the applicant, the Court decided to strike the case out of its list.

Documents of the case:

Third-party observations submitted by the Human Rights Monitoring Institute

European Court of Human Rights judgment

 


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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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Valiuliene v. Lithuania – domestic violence

“The very act of domestic violence has an inherent humiliating and debasing character for the victim, which is exactly what the offender aims at. Physical pain is but one of the intended effects. A kick, a slap or a spit is also aimed at belittling the dignity of the partner, conveying a message of humiliation and degradation.”

– Concurring opinion of Judge Pinto de Albuquerque in Valiuliene v. Lithuania case


Proceedings initiated: 2011

Proceedings closed: 2013

Case in brief:  the woman suffered her spouse’s abuse for a long-time, but all the pre-trial investigations were discontinued

Outcome of the case: by failing to protect the applicant and her children from domestic violence, Lithuanian law enforcement authorities violated Article 3 of the ECHR (prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment)


Facts of the case:

The applicant logged a complaint with local court in 2001 regarding the continuous physical and mental abuse she suffered from her partner. Her case was transferred from courts to prosecution offices and vice versa. By a final ruling of 8 February 2007, the local court dismissed the applicant’s appeal, finding that any kind of prosecution had become time-barred.

Proceedings before the ECtHR:

After exhausting domestic judicial remedies, the applicant submitted an application to ECHR. In response, the Government acknowledged the violation of Article 8, whilst refusing to acknowledge the violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

Human Rights Monitoring Institute submitted observations to the Court on behalf of the applicant arguing that the treatment the applicant was subjected to amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3, and that the State failed to fulfil its positive obligation to effectively investigate the allegations of such treatment.

On 26 March 2013, the ECtHR adopted its first judgment in the domestic violence case against Lithuania. The court concluded that the criminal investigation into domestic violence acts was ineffective and did not meet the standards raising from Article 3 of the Convention. “Article 3 requires States to put in place effective criminal-law provisions to deter the commission of offences against personal integrity, backed up by law-enforcement machinery for the prevention, suppression and punishment of breaches of such provisions, and this requirement also extends to ill-treatment administered by private individuals”, – para. 75 of the ECtHR judgment reads.

Documents of the case:

Response to Government’s observations prepared by the HRMI

European Court of Human Rights judgment


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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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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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