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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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Public opinion poll (2016)

On October 19-26 the public opinion poll on the prevailing attitudes in society towards the human rights situation in Lithuania was  carried out by “Spinter tyrimai”, a market research company. The poll, commissioned by the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, is primarily aimed at determining the general public’s knowledge level about human rights and ways to defend them, as well as the extent of confidence in the mechanisms for protection of these rights.

Results of 2016 poll: 

According to Lithuanians, the most-violated right in 2016 was the right to fair trial. This follows the trend of 2012 and 2014. The right to privacy was the second-most violated right, while the right to participate in political life had the least amount of violations associated with it.

Sufficient info

There was a slight increase in the number of people claiming that they have enough information on human rights, with as much as 63% indicating so in this year’s survey, compared to 52% in 2012 and 60% in 2014.

Those claiming that there was enough information on human rights were most likely to be 18-45 years old, having attained the highest level of education, belonging to the highest income bracket and living in urban areas.

The number of people knowing where to go in the event of a rights violation has also been growing steadily. In 2016, more than half (57%) of respondents claimed that they knew which institution to go to when their rights are violated, compare to 54% in 2014, 52% in 2012 and 49% in 2010.

Rarely defend their rights

Going by the results of the survey, one in five Lithuanians has had his or her rights violated. Nevertheless, only 7% of all respondents claiming that their rights had been violated took steps to remedy the issue.

As was the case in previous years, the main reason for the reluctance to defend one’s rights is the lack of trust in institutions that are meant to remedy breaches. As much as three fourths of those that claimed a rights violation but failed to do anything about it said that they didn’t believe that going to an institution would help.

The survey revealed that when people did go to an institution when their rights were violated, they most often went to the police or the prosecutor’s office (36%), followed by NGOs and the courts.

Mentally disabled face greatest discrimination

Respondents were also asked to opine which social group faced the most discrimination in Lithuania. The situation remains unchanged for the sixth year running, with the mentally disabled being named the most discriminated social group. They got 5.68 points (compared to 5.03 points in 2014), with the elderly coming in second (5.40) and persons with physical disabilities settling on third place (5.21).

This year, the survey also included refugees as a possible social group. Their vulnerability was rated fairly highly, scoring a little over 5 points (5.02). Those aged 26-35 and urban residents were more likely to claim that refugees were discriminated against.

 


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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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Public opinion poll (2014)

Starting in 2004, Human Rights Monitoring Institute began assessing the prevailing attitudes in society towards the human rights situation in Lithuania. For this purpose HRMI, in cooperation with the Market and Opinion Research Centre “Vilmorus Ltd.”, carries out a biennial public opinion poll on human rights related questions.

The opinion polls are primarily aimed at determining the general public’s knowledge level about human rights and ways to defend them, as well as the extent of confidence in the mechanisms for protection of these rights.

The poll’s questions cover civil and political rights with an added emphasis on the public’s awareness of instances of discrimination and violations of privacy: the poll participants are asked to indicate the most discriminated societal groups and to determine whether a violation of privacy occurred in given example scenarios.

The findings indicate that the absolute majority (95 percent) of Lithuanian residents who thought that their rights had been infringed did not report said infringement to any institution. However, by contrast, a fifth or more of the respondents have indicated a willingness to defend their rights in previous years (over 18 percent in 2012 and over 22 percent in 2010).

For more statistics see the executive summary (English) of the findings or the read the full findings (Lithuanian only).


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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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Public opinion poll (2012)

Starting in 2004, Human Rights Monitoring Institute began assessing the prevailing attitudes in society towards the human rights situation in Lithuania. For this purpose HRMI, in cooperation with the Market and Opinion Research Centre “Vilmorus Ltd.”, carries out a biennial public opinion poll on human rights related questions.

The opinion polls are primarily aimed at determining the general public’s knowledge level about human rights and ways to defend them, as well as the extent of confidence in the mechanisms for protection of these rights.

The poll’s questions cover civil and political rights with an added emphasis on the public’s awareness of instances of discrimination and violations of privacy: the poll participants are asked to indicate the most discriminated societal groups and to determine whether a violation of privacy occurred in given example scenarios.

The 2012 poll indicates that certain trends are quite stable. First, the level of action to defend rights remains very low – only 1 in 5 respondents who considered their rights violated sought help. Second, the level of confidence in the effectiveness of human rights defence mechanisms has not increased as well – 4 out of 5 respondents who refrained from seeking help did not believe they would have received effective assistance, allowing them to defend their rights.

Full results (in Lithuanian)


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Comments on the Draft Legislation on Freedom of Assembly

Human Rights Monitoring Institute submitted comments on the Draft Law on Freedom of Assembly currently being under consideration in the Lithuanian Parliament.

The Law on Freedom of Assembly provides for necessary legal preconditions to enjoy one’s freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in the  Lithuanian Constitution. HRMI suggests, inter alia, to expand the list of potential organizers of and participants in a peaceful assembly; lower the age limit required for a person to be an organizer of the event; ensure that measures restricting freedom of assembly are reasonable and proportionate; amend procedural rules for coordination of the time, place and form of an assembly between organizers and municipalities.

See the Draft Law (in Lithuania) here.

See HRMI comments (in Lithuanian) here.


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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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March 11 Rally Case – freedom of assembly

“The decision of the Supreme Court is significant not only to HRMI and CEA but it is important to the whole society. It is the first time that the Supreme Court has reflected on the applicable standards of the freedom of assembly, and its conclusions are to prevent unreasonable restrictions or, as in this case, bans of peaceful assemblies”

– Henrikas Mickevicius, HRMI Founder


Proceedings initiated: 2009

Proceedings closed: 2011

Case in brief: human rights NGOs were denied a right to organized peaceful rally invoking unsubstantiated threats to safety, order and health

Outcome of the case: refusing to allow a rally, Vilnius city municipality violated NGOs right to peaceful assembly


Facts of the case:

In 2009, HRMI together with the Center for Equality Advancement (CEA) notified Vilnius city municipality about the intention to hold a peaceful rally “Against Racism and Xenophobia – For Tolerance” on 11 March – Day of Regaining Independence of Lithuania. The Administration of the Municipality refused to issue a certificate for the rally stating that the information gathered by surveillance allowed them to believe that counter-demonstrations and the acts of violence are likely to occur during the planned demonstration.

Legal proceedings:

Human Rights Monitoring Institute and CEA challenged the municipality’s decision in court. The courts of the first and the second instance dismissed the applicants’ complaint.

On 4 April 2011, the Supreme Court quashed decisions of lower courts. The Supreme Court, invoking the case-law of European Court of Human Rights and the rulings of Lithuanian Constitutional Court, has stated that refusal to issue a certificate on the grounds of a danger to the State security, public safety, public order, public health, morals and the rights and freedoms of others, as argued by the municipality, had to be based on the convincing evidence rather than assumptions based on classified information.  In this context, the Court reminded of the State’s positive obligation to ensure practical enjoyment of the freedom of assembly.

Documents of the case:

Judgment of the Supreme Court (in Lithuanian)


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Rally “For Equality” case – freedom of assembly

„I am so proud, and not only for Lithuania. I consider an opportunity to hold a Pride tomorrow to be an important step. This dispute was not only about gay rights, or the Pride itself, this was a fundamental human rights question”

– Birgitta Ohlsson, Swedish Minister for European Union Affairs


Proceedings initiated: 2010

Proceedings closed:
2010

Case in brief: the march “For Equality” was prohibited during the first Baltic Pride organized in Lithuania

Legal proceedings: the court found the prohibition unlawful, and march took place as planned


Facts of the case:

At the beginning of 2010, Lithuanian Gay League and Tolerant Youth Association were granted a certificate to organize the march “For Equality” (first Baltic Pride event in Lithuania).

Legal proceedings:

On 5 May 2010, three days before the date of the event, Vilnius district administrative court, upon the request of hte Prosecutor General, temporarily suspended the certificate. The court relied on the arguments provided by the Prosecutor General that “the members of radical and destructive movements were planning various types of provocations should the march take place”.

On the same day, the Human Rights Monitoring Institute drafted an appeal on behalf of the applicants to the Supreme Administrative Court asking to quash the decision as unlawful and being contrary to the ECtHR established principles with respect to the right to freedom of assembly.

On 7 May 2010, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the complaint and quashed the decision of Vilnius district administrative court . The Supreme Administrative Court concluded that according to the European Convention of Human Rights and the case-law of European Court of Human Rights, the state has a positive obligation to ensure effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of assembly for all, including individuals with unpopular views or minority groups. The essential clause of effective exercise of freedom of assembly is a presumption of lawfulness, which is infringed when refusing to sanction a gathering and preventing minorities from participation.

The Supreme Administrative Court found that the applicants failed to provide conclusive data or evidence which could support the allegation that the state was not adequately prepared to meet its positive obligation to ensure the safety of the participants. The Court has also concluded that the temporary suspension of the certificate without the decision of the court on the merits of the case infringes the right to peaceful assembly.

Follow-up to the case:

The march “For Equality” took place on 8 May 2010.

Case-files:

Judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court (in Lithuanian)


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“Tolerance Truck” case – freedom of assembly

“Lithuania is a catholic country, therefore a public gay event is not pleasant for Lithuanians. As long as I am a mayor, I won’t allow homosexuals to advertise themselves in the city”

– Juozas Imbrasas, fomer mayor of Vilnius


Proceedings initiated: 2008

Proceedings closed:
2010

Case in brief: Vilnius city municipality declined to issue a certificate for the event promoting tolerance and non-discrimination

Outcome of the case: the decision of municipality did not violate subjective rights of the Lithuanian Gay League


Facts of the case:

In July 2008, a PR company requested Vilnius Municipality to issue a certificate allowing to host an EU-wide event in Vilnius. The idea of the event was to park the EU Truck “For Equality. Against Discrimination” in front of the City Hall and organize a campaign promoting tolerance and human rights around it. The truck itself was a part of the EU-wide road-trip and was co-hosted in at least 10 other EU Member States. Vilnius Municipality refused to issue a certificate.

Legal proceedings:

Subsequently, Human Rights Monitoring Institute and the Lithuanian Gay League requested Vilnius Prosecution Office to assess the decision of the Vilnius Municipality; the requested was referred to the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson which in turn refused to consider it.

The Lithuanian Gay League appealed the Ombudsperson’s decision to the Vilnius Administrative Court; HRMI joined the proceedings as a third party. The Court dismissed the complaint as unfounded.

On 19 April 2010, the Supreme Administrative Court dismissed the case on appeal. The Court stated that Vilnius Municipality administration, refusing certificate for the event, did not violate subjective rights (equal opportunities) of LGL. The Court also stated that both Equal Opportunities Ombudsman and Vilnius Administrative Court rightly held that it is unclear on what grounds the applicants had complained to the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman. The Court rejected the argument made by the applicants, that any person feeling his or her equal opportunities had been violated may appeal to Equal Opportunities Ombudsman.


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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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