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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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HRMI introduce informational website for victims of crime

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.


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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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Expert task force searched for practical solutions to improve victims‘ rights protection

On 27-28 April, HRMI held expert task force meeting as part of the project „Improved response to victims of crime“.

During the two-days long intensive meeting, experts from police, prosecution office and non-governmental organisations were developing the framework and contents for practical handbook and training programme for law enforcement officers, designed to enhance interaction with victims of crime.

During group workshops, the experts sought to identify the needs of crime victims at various stages of criminal procedure, and how those needs should be addressed by the officers or other relevant actors.

Large portion of the meeting was dedicated to more vulnerable victims of crime such as children or people with disabilities, and victims of specific crimes such as domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking.

Expert knowledge pooled during the meeting as well as concrete and practical tips and advice for the officers, how to interact with victims with specific needs, will be incorporated into the handbook and the training programme.

It is anticipated that the handbook will be released by the end of this year, whilst the training should start in early 2018.

Participants of the meeting: Lithuanian Police School, Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau,  Vilnius Regional Prosecution Office, Vilnius Local Prosecution Office, expert from the Institute of Police Education in Sweden, KOPZI centre, Centre for Equality Advancement, Child Support Centre, association “Hope” (people with intellectual disabilities and their families), “Mental Health Perspectives” and HRMI.


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Tackling Hate Crime and Hate Speech

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.

Period 1 November 2016 – 1 October 2018

Coordinator
People in Need Slovakia
Partners Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania), In IUSTITIA (Czech Republic), Subjective Values Foundation (Hungary), The People for Change Foundation (Malta)
Activities  

  1. Elaboration of National Report on hate crimes and hate speech.
  2. International seminar on exchange of knowledge on reporting mechanisms held in Bratislava.
  3. Training on professional legal aid to victims of hate crime and hate speech held in Prague.
  4. Elaboration of final publication: comparative report from national reports, good practices document on reporting mechanisms, manual on legal aid to victims of hate crime and hate speech.
  5. Development of project website where everyone may read about the project and download all published outputs throughout the Project in 5 languages.

 


Project is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union

 


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Lithuanian MP Faces Impeachment for Sexual Harassment

It looks like Kęstutis Pūkas, the MP who couldn’t refrain from sexually charged comments (as well as other forms of harassment) in front of two young women who came to him looking for work, will not be able to escape impeachment proceedings this time.

According to the women, who were applying for positions as parliamentary assistants, Pūkas asked them very personal, intimate questions, invited them to his apartment at the official residential bloc for MPs and quipped that “it would be fun to have a roll around in bed.”

Commission: impeach

The situation of the MP, who admitted to inappropriate conduct but showed no remorse, was debated at the Parliamentary Commission for Ethics and Procedures.

The Commission unanimously agreed to ask Parliament to launch impeachment proceedings against Pūkas. Such proceedings are used to remove MPs who have seriously violated the Constitution or their oaths as members of Parliament, or who have committed a crime in office.

MP Kęstutis Pūkas isn't all smiles anymore: Parliament has been asked to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

Prior to the hearing, the Commission was approached by 46 NGOs requesting that impeachment proceedings begin against MP Pūkas. A petition in support of starting the impeachment process was created by the Centre for Equality Advancement and the Human Rights Institute and has been signed by over 2,000 people.

NGOs gather in front of Parliament

While the Commission was debating Pūkas’s conduct, the NGOs organized a protest in front of the Seimas (the Lithuanian Parliament).

“We are gathered here today to show our support for the young women who dared to speak out. We aim to have impeachment proceedings started against Mr. Pūkas. Sexual harassment cannot be tolerated or taken lightly,” claimed Natalija Bitiukova of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, who was one of the organizers of the protest.

The speaker of the Parliament, Viktoras Pranckietis, also urged Pūkas to relinquish his seat without waiting for formal impeachment proceedings, but the latter adamantly refuses to accept responsibility, claiming that he will not be leaving Parliament without impeachment.

You can sign the petition to support impeachment proceedings against Pūkas here.


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Improved Response to Victims of Crime

On 10 February, Human Rights Monitoring Institute and Lithuanian Police School held the kick-off meeting of the project “Improved Response to Victims of Crime” (JUST/2015/JACC/AG/VICT/9269).

The project funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union, aims to equip law enforcement officers with knowledge and tools necessary to effectively respond to victims of crime. The project also seeks to improve victims’ access to information and raise public awareness on victims’ rights.

During the first phase of the project, a toolset for officers will be produced, consisting of a handbook, dissemination material for the victims, and professional training modules. More than 300 officers and lecturers will be trained in 10 regions of the country.

During the second phase of the project, one national-level and one European conference will be held for law enforcement professionals, other practitioners and policy and decision makers to share experiences and good practices on the implementation of EU Victims Directive.

During the project, an informational website for crime victims will be launched, where the victims fill find all the necessary information on their rights, criminal proceedings and available support services. Information to the victims will also be provided by disseminating booklets, which will be released in Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and English languages.

In the second year of the project, a wide campaign will be held, to raise public awareness of victims’ rights.

Start date of the project: 1 February 2017

Project partners: Human Rights Monitoring Institute (coordinating partner), Lithuanian Police School

Associated Partners: Prosecutor General‘s Office of the Republic of Lithuania, Victim Support Europe.

The project is funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union
 

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Eurobarometer: Lithuanians tend to justify sexual and psychological violence

Lithuanians are most likely in the European Union (EU) to justify sexual and psychological violence in intimate partnership, shows the Eurobarometer survey.

More than a quarter of Lithuanian population believes that forcing a partner to have sex should not be prohibited by law. This is the highest rate throughout the EU.

“Code of Silence”

“There is a “code of silence” still prevalent on domestic sexual violence – there is no willingness to talk about it, and in the conversations, especially in the regions, we can still sometimes hear that it is considered a woman’s duty to her husband”, says Natalija Bitiukova, Deputy Director at the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.

Only 57% of respondents in Lithuania believe that sexual violence against partner is or should be prohibited by law, while the EU average is 87%. Equally low numbers of respondents (58 %) believe that economic control over the partner is or should be considered a crime (EU average – 78%).

Tend to deny women’s sexual autonomy

According to Bitiukova, the tendency in Lithuania is to deny women’s sexual autonomy, indirectly justifying invasive behaviors like sending sexually explicit messages, making ambiguous jokes, engaging in unwanted touching in the workplace.

Bitiukova relates such trends with gender stereotypes prevalent in educational materials, absence of adequate sex education, repetitive questioning of a woman’s autonomy by regularly attempting to ban abortion and stigmatizing contraception.

Positive changes came with the law on protection against domestic violence

On the other hand, public education, training, legislative changes since 2011, when a protection from domestic violence law was initiated, did not go in vain.  “More people in Lithuania believe that domestic violence against women is widespread, compared to 2010”, said the lawyer. According to her, this is confirmed by the official statistics – since 2012 reports of domestic violence are steadily growing and in 80% of all cases women are the victims.

Based on BNS information.


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Youth activists come together at OSCE/ODIHR workshop to identify strategies to effectively counter hate crime

HRMI Project Coordinator Kristina Normantaitė together with twenty other youth activists from across the OSCE region participated in a workshop on countering hate crime organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) from 25 to 27 September 2016 in Warsaw.

During the training, held on the margins of the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), participants explored the key elements of hate crimes, their impact on victims and communities, as well as measures that can be taken to counter these crimes. The activists also identified ways to assist the victims of hate crimes and enhance their capacity to monitor and report hate incidents.

The activists also participated in HDIM sessions and events held during the final day of the workshop. They had the opportunity to meet with government officials, civil society groups and representatives of international organization throughout the event.

Photo credit: OSCE/Piotr Markowski

Photo credit: OSCE/Piotr Markowski

Photo credit: OSCE/Agnieszka Rembowska

Photo credit: OSCE/Agnieszka Rembowska

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about the Workshop: http://www.osce.org/odihr/268601


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HRMI starts new project on victims’ rights

On 1 September, HRMI launched a new project on improving protection of victims rights through training of professionals.

The primary purpose of the project “Developing an EU Training Module for the Victims’ Directive”, led by Irish Council of Civil Liberties, is to develop a new training module on Victims’ Directive, and provide trainings to relevant groups of professionals in Lithuania, Ireland, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia.

The project will start with the survey to identify the training needs among various groups of specialists dealing with victims of crime. The next step will be the development of the training programme and the guide on training. The material will focus on five core areas: (1) the needs of victims; (2) training on the Victims Directive (3) training on and the cross-examination of children who are victims of crime (4) training on and the cross-examination of victims with disabilities (5) training on and the cross-examination of victims of gender based violence

The new training module will be applied in practice by organising trainins for police officers, prosecutors and judges. A separate e-training module will be launched in the elearning environment www.be-ribu.lt.

The impact of the project will be discussed during the final conference, which will take place in Dublin, Ireland.

Every year, around 50 thousand people in Lithuania become victims of crime. 2014 research shows that victims lack information on their rights, legal advice, psychological and emotional support.

In 2015, HRMI has submitted recommendations to the Lithuanian Government to ensure effective transposition of EU Victims’ Rights Directive to the national legal framework.

The Directive establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime by ensuring that persons who have fallen victim of crime are recognised, treated with respect and receive proper protection, support and access to justice.

Project is funded by:

komisija-300x104

 


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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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HRMI Submits Proposals to Combat Human Trafficking

In response to the invitation from Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania to participate in the public consultation on the prevention of human trafficking, HRMI submitted its observations and suggestions on how to combat this crime in order to improve protection of the rights of victims and to ensure successful prevention of this crime.

Although human trafficking is usually associated with a large, organized and cruel business, the reality shows that today such criminal activities can be carried out not only as a part of organized crime. Factual information shows the increasing number of individual cases, when a person or a family uses and/or sells workers, neighbors, friends, relatives and children.

HRMI invited the society to participate in a public consultation “Prevention of Human Trafficking” and to submit their proposals as well.


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T@LK – online support for victims of crime


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.


 

Project period  

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.   
Activities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  

 


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Seminar on Support to Victims of Crime

“We have to be ready to respond to EU-wide challenges and help victims of crime“, vice-minister of social affairs Algirdas Šešelgis opened a seminar for the officers and specialists.

Pic 1

During the seminar held by HRMI and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, the experts of Victim Support Europe discussed with the seminar participants how to organise provision of support services to victims of crime in Lithuania.

In Lithuania, only victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and child victims receive specialised support. The services remain fragmented and under-resourced.

Levent Altan, executive director of „Victim Suport Europe“ introduced the requirements of the Directive and spoke on the basic rights of victims. He also covered various practices across the member states in providing victim support and their readiness to implement the Directive.

Pic 3

Helgard Van Huellen from „Weisser Ring“, an oldest victim support organisation in Germany, shared experience in victim support. „Weisser Ring“ has been founded almost 40 years ago and is supported by volunteers. There are 3000 volunteers in 420 units across the country.

We mostly support victims of assault – more than one third of all victims, victims of sexual violence – almost one thind, and victims of theft, robbery, fraud.

After the transposition of EU Victims Directive (2012), all victims of crime in Lithuania will have a right to free support services: emotional support, psychological counselling, social and legal support.

Seminar participants: representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Prisons Department, Police Department, Prosecutor General’s Office, National Courts administration, State Legal Aid Service, Criminal Police Bureau.

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Stronger Protection of Victims’ Rights in Lithuania Needed

Every year, around 50 thousand people in Lithuania become victims of crime. 2014 research shows that victims lack information on their rights, legal advice, psychological and emotional support.

HRMI has recently submitted to the Lithuanian Government recommendations to ensure effective transposition of EU Victims’ Rights Directive to the national legal system.

The Directive establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime by ensuring that persons who have fallen victim of crime are recognised, treated with respect and receive proper protection, support and access to justice.

Read our recommendations (in Lithuanian).


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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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HRMI Appealed to Parliamentary Ombudspersons on the Implementation of UN Convention against Torture

During the 52nd session (28 Apr 2014 – 23 May 2014), the UN Committee against Torture will review Lithuania’s third periodic report. On this occasion, Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) has submitted an alternative report, which will assist the Committee in assessing Lithuania’s progress.

HRMI has identified severe overuse of pre-trial detention and ineffectiveness of the parole system as two of the most pressing issues in the area of criminal justice, while also noting that the long-awaited prison reform has not yet taken place.

The situation of refugees and asylum seekers is also troubling. Although the Lithuanian legislation provides that asylum seekers are exempt from detention, even in cases when they enter or stay illegally in the country, the practice does not follow this rule. A monitoring visit conducted by the HRMI staff revealed appalling conditions, including disregard of freedom of religion, in the Foreigners’ Registration Centre.

Due to the lack of legal safeguards and specialized services, victims of crime, including child victims and victims of domestic violence, often find themselves in situations amounting to torture and degrading treatment. Victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation also suffer from secondary victimization and stigmatization. “Perpetrators, benefitting from human trafficking, are depicted [in the media] as ‘helping the prostitutes to earn a living’, while crime victims – females involved in prostitution – are portrayed as having only themselves to blame“, the report reads.

In its submission, HRMI stressed that significant developments had taken place since the review of Lithuania’s second periodic report, the most notable being the adoption of the Law against Domestic Violence, which for the first time recognized domestic violence as a violation of human rights and a crime subject to prosecution. Nevertheless, acknowledging the progress in the area of combating domestic violence, setbacks in the implementation of certain obligations Lithuania has under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment should be remedied.

Another alternative report, produced in cooperation with REDRESS, Amnesty International, Reprieve, and Interights, was dedicated to the analysis of the investigation of Lithuania’s complicity in CIA Rendition Program.


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Alternative Reports to the UN Committee against Torture 2014

HRMI submitted alternative report to the UN Committee against Torture in order to assist the Committee in assessing Lithuania’s progress during the 52nd session (28 Apr 2014 – 23 May 2014) in which Lithuania’s third periodic report will be reviewed. Human Rights Monitoring Institute submitted

HRMI has identified severe overuse of pre-trial detention and ineffectiveness of the parole system as two of the most pressing issues in the area of criminal justice, while also noting that the long-awaited prison reform has not yet taken place.

The situation of refugees and asylum seekers is also troubling. Although the Lithuanian legislation provides that asylum seekers are exempt from detention, even in cases when they enter or stay illegally in the country, the practice does not follow this rule. A monitoring visit conducted by the HRMI staff revealed appalling conditions, including disregard of freedom of religion, in the Foreigners’ Registration Centre.

Due to the lack of legal safeguards and specialized services, victims of crime, including child victims and victims of domestic violence, often find themselves in situations amounting to torture and degrading treatment. Victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation also suffer from secondary victimization and stigmatization. “Perpetrators, benefitting from human trafficking, are depicted [in the media] as ‘helping the prostitutes to earn a living’, while crime victims – females involved in prostitution – are portrayed as having only themselves to blame“, the report reads.

In its submission, HRMI stressed that significant developments had taken place since the review of Lithuania’s second periodic report, the most notable being the adoption of the Law against Domestic Violence, which for the first time recognized domestic violence as a violation of human rights and a crime subject to prosecution. Nevertheless, acknowledging the progress in the area of combating domestic violence, setbacks in the implementation of certain obligations Lithuania has under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment should be remedied.

Another alternative report, produced in cooperation with REDRESS, Amnesty International, Reprieve, and Interights, was dedicated to the analysis of the investigation of Lithuania’s complicity in CIA Rendition Program.

 


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Do Courts Condone Human Trafficking?

In November 2013, HRMI addressed the Commission for Judiciary Ethics and Discipline with a complaint regarding degrading public statements made by Šiauliai Regional Court’s judge in respect of minor human trafficking victims.

After issuing a ruling in a criminal case involving sexual exploitation of minors for prostitution, the judge was asked by a journalist why the sentences handed to the abusers were so mild. The judge referred to the victims’ appearance making degrading comments and implying that the victims were themselves to blame. At the time of the commitment of the offence the victims where 15 and 14 years accordingly.

HRMI appealed to the Commission requesting to investigate the incident and institute disciplinary proceedings against the judge as her degrading comments amounted to repeated victimisation of vulnerable individuals, reinforced harmful social stereotypes and victim-blaming attitude, and violated the basic principles of judiciary ethics and the rights of the victims to adequate protection in the course of criminal proceedings.

In this way, the judge violated not only the Code of Judiciary Ethics, but also a number of international human rights treaties. The response from the Commission is pending.


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Protection of Hate Crime Victims’ Rights: the case of Lithuania (2013)

This study “Protection of Hate Crime Victims’ Rights: the case of Lithuania” seeks to determine whether Lithuanian legal system – both in theory and in practice – is ready to respond efficiently to hate crimes while taking into account the victims’ rights. It is primarily aimed at the Lithuanian decision-makers, tasked with ensuring compliance of Lithuanian laws with the provisions of the EU Directive on Victims’ Rights, and law-enforcement agencies, first of all, the pre-trial investigation officers and prosecutors dealing with the incidents of hate crimes.

The study is divided into three sections, the first of which assesses Lithuanian legal framework against the standards of victims’ rights protection and victim support as set out in the EU Directive on Victims’ Rights. The second section takes an in-depth look at the way law-enforcement officials respond to hate crimes and guarantee the victims’ rights and the way hate crimes victims assess their performance. The third section summarizes the research findings, as well as provides several recommendations.

The research reveals a gap between the EU legal standards and their implementation in Lithuania where both regulation and practice are concerned. Current Lithuanian legislation falls far short of realising the guarantees and rights afforded to crime victims under the EU Directive on Victims’ Rights. The procedural rights of crime victims set out in the Directive, even though available under Lithuanian law, suffer from very narrow and vague coverage. This is especially true where the protection of vulnerable victims, including hate crime victims, is concerned, as there is no systematic approach to victims’ protection.

The study was funded by the Fund for Bilateral Relations at national level of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism of the EEA Grants 2009-2014.


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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: 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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