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TITLE: LITHUANIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 LITHUANIA Lithuania, a parliamentary democracy, regained its independence in 1991 after more than 50 years of forced annexation by the Soviet Union. The Constitution, adopted by referendum in 1992, established a 141-member unicameral legislature, the Seimas; a directly elected President, who functions as Head of State; and a Government formed by a Prime Minister and other ministers, appointed by the President and approved by the Seimas. The Government exercises authority with the approval of the Seimas and the President. In fair elections in 1992, the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (LDDP)--the successor to the Communist Party of Lithuania, which in 1989 broke away from the Soviet Communist Party--won a majority of parliamentary seats and formed the Government. In 1993 voters elected Algirdas Brazauskas, the then Chairman of the LDDP, as President. A unified national police force under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry is responsible for law enforcement. The State Security Department is responsible for internal security and reports to Parliament and the President. The police committed a number of human rights abuses in 1994. Since independence, Lithuania has made steady progress in developing a market economy. Over 40 percent of state property, including most housing and small businesses, has been privatized. Trade is diversifying, with a gradual shift to Western markets. Industry employs 42 percent of the labor force, and agriculture 18 percent. Major exports include electronic goods, food, and chemical and petroleum products. The Government generally respects basic freedoms and civil liberties. It enacted the Preventive Detention Law as a temporary measure in 1993 but extended it for an additional year. The law, part of the Government's efforts to combat violent organized crime, extended the permissible period of detention for criminal suspects to 2 months. Some opposition members of Parliament and the Lithuanian Lawyers' Association expressed concern that the Government might abuse its provisions (see Section 1.d.). Police reportedly beat detainees and, in one instance, caused a young man's death. Police surveillance allegedly occurs not only in the battle against organized crime but also in other circumstances; no one has attempted thus far to challenge its legality. News publications and journalists expressed concern about a draft press law which would restrict freedom of the press; an impartial committee is reviewing the draft law. Abuse of women is reportedly common, but the Government has not developed an effective mechanism for dealing with it. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There were no reports of politically motivated killings. In one well-publicized case, however, police officers in the town of Visaginas arrested a young man for disorderly conduct in October and beat him to death. The prosecutor initiated proceedings against the police officer suspected of killing the young man. At year's end, the case was still pending. b. Disappearance There were no reports of abductions or disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment There were no reports that Lithuanian officials engaged in or condoned torture. However, police sometimes beat or otherwise physically mistreated detainees. The local press reported that incidents of police brutality were becoming more common. In many instances, the victims reportedly are reluctant to bring charges against police officers out of fear of reprisals. The Ministry of the Interior generally has been unwilling to publicize statistics on reported cases of police brutality. In the first 9 months of 1994, 65 cases of reported police brutality were investigated, of which 18 resulted in convictions of the police officers concerned. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Except in cases that come under the provisions of the Preventive Detention Law (described below), police may detain a person for up to 72 hours, based upon reliable evidence of criminal activity. At the end of that period, police must decide whether or not to make a formal arrest, and a magistrate must approve an arrest warrant. The authorities have a total of 10 days to present supporting evidence. Once a suspect is formally charged, prosecutors may keep the suspect under investigative arrest for up to 2 months before taking the suspect to court. In exceptional cases, investigative arrest may be extended by a further 6 to 9 months with the written approval of the Procurator General. The Constitution provides for the right to an attorney from the moment of detention. In an effort to cope with the rise in violent organized crime, Parliament in 1993 passed the Preventive Detention Law pertaining to persons suspected of being violent criminals. The Law, which was passed as a temporary measure, allowed police, but not internal security and armed forces, to detain suspected violent criminals up to 2 months rather than only for the standard 72-hour period. The effect of the Law is to give prosecutors and investigators additional time to conduct an investigation and file formal criminal charges against the detainee. Those apprehended must be released after 2 months if an investigation does not lead to formal charges. Local police commissioners must obtain the Procurator General's approval of each arrest carried out under the provisions of this law. Parliament voted in December 1993 to extend the temporary law for an additional year, but with several new provisions. Checks on prosecutorial abuse are provided by the requirements that a detainee (1) must be informed within 3 hours following arrest about the length of preventive detention being considered (not to exceed 2 months), and (2) must be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest for a ruling on the legality of detention. Furthermore, a detainee has the legal right to consult with an attorney during the period of detention. The law gives law enforcement officials wide latitude in making arrest decisions and may be open to abuse. Police detained over 400 suspected members of criminal gangs under the provisions of this law. In several well-publicized cases, the law helped to convict and sentence dangerous criminals to lengthy prison terms. In many other instances, however, the suspects were freed without charge after expiration of the maximum detention period. There is no exile. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Legal reform efforts departing from the former Soviet model continued in 1994, with Parliament's passage of new civil and criminal procedure codes as well as a Court Reform Law. The judicial system presently consists of a two-tier structure of district courts and a Supreme Court, which is an appellate court. There is also a Constitutional Court. Court decisions are arrived at independently. The Procurator General exercises an oversight responsibility through a network of district prosecutors who work with police investigators--employed by the Ministry of the Interior--in preparing the prosecution's evidence for the courts. The institution of lay assessors was abolished at the end of the year. Under the provisions of the Court Reform Law, to be implemented starting in January 1995, two new kinds of courts will be created. Local district courts will be set up below the present district courts to handle cases at the municipal level, while a new appellate court level will hear appeals arising from district court decisions, thereby reducing the case load of the overburdened Supreme Court. In addition, as a result of Lithuania's accession to the Council of Europe, the Ministry of Justice has begun a thorough review of Lithuania's laws with a view towards bringing them into accord with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Constitution provides defendants with the right to counsel. In practice, the right to legal counsel is abridged by the shortage of trained advocates who find it difficult to cope with the burgeoning numbers of criminal cases brought before the courts. Outside observers have recommended the establishment of a public defender system to regularize procedures for provision of legal assistance to indigent persons charged in criminal cases. By law, defense advocates have access to government evidence and may present evidence and witnesses. The courts and law enforcement agencies generally honor routine, written requests for evidence. There were no political trials. Government rehabilitation of over 50,000 persons charged with anti-Soviet crimes during the Stalinist era led to reports in 1991 that some people alleged to have been involved in crimes against humanity during the Nazi occupation had benefited from this rehabilitation. A special judicial procedure was established to examine each case in which an individual or organization raised an objection that a rehabilitated person may have committed a crime against humanity. In 1994 the Supreme Court overturned the rehabilitation of three persons whose cases were pending from 1993. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The authorities do not engage in indiscriminate or widespread monitoring of the correspondence or communications of citizens. With the written authorization of a procurator or judge, however, police and the security service may engage in surveillance and monitoring activities on grounds of national security. Except in cases of hot pursuit or the danger of disappearance of evidence, police must obtain a search warrant signed by a prosecutor before they may enter premises. It is widely assumed, however, that law enforcement agencies have increased the use of a range of surveillance methods to cope with the expansion of organized crime. There is some question as to the legal basis of this police surveillance, but there are no known legal cases challenging the legality of the surveillance. The former president of the Lithuanian National Bank, who charged that eavesdropping devices were found in his office in 1993, publicly called on the Procurator General to investigate the incident. The press reported that, although the devices were in fact found and are in the possession of the new bank management, the authorities failed to pursue investigation of the incident. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press Freedom of speech is widely respected. Prior restraint over either print or broadcast media and restrictions on disclosure are prohibited, unless the Government determines that national security is involved. Nevertheless, journalists working for the state-owned electronic media complained about pressure by superiors to avoid criticism of government policies in their television and radio reporting. Most independent news publications and many prominent journalists protested in September against the provisions of a draft press law, which they thought severely restricted freedom of the press. The ruling party announced the formation of an impartial committee to review the proposed press law and the provisions which prompted the protests. Many investigative journalists covering organized crime were harassed by and received death threats from these groups. A copublisher and editor of a widely read daily, who wrote extensively on organized crime, was murdered in October 1993. In October 1994, the Supreme Court convicted four persons with criminal backgrounds of murder in the case. One person received a death sentence, which will be subject to court review in early 1995. Five private radio stations, including one broadcasting in Polish, are on the air. Two private television stations also broadcast regular programming to a wide audience. On February 17, virtually all of these private radio and television stations broadcast a simultaneous public appeal for support against the Government's alleged attempts to monopolize the electronic media. Representatives of the private electronic media have complained for some time about the unfair broadcasting rates that the Government sets which allegedly favor the state radio and television stations. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association There are no laws that prohibit public gatherings. During 1994 a large number of public meetings and demonstrations took place. The Constitution provides for, and the authorities respect, the right of citizens to associate freely, requiring only that they inform local government authorities of planned demonstrations. The Communist Party of Lithuania and other organizations associated with the Soviet regime continue to be banned. c. Freedom of Religion The authorities did not restrict the exercise of the constitutional right to religious freedom in 1994. During the year, representatives of some Protestant denominations and smaller religious communities continued to protest against a pending draft law on religion that classifies religions according to whether they are considered "established" or "unestablished." A small Jewish community exists, largely in the main cities. Jewish leaders called on officials to provide better police protection for Jewish cemeteries in Kaunas, Vilnius, and Kalvaria which have been subject to increasing vandalism and pilfering. The city government of Kaunas established an ad hoc committee, including police officials and Jewish community representatives, to look for ways to improve security at the Jewish cemeteries. Kaunas officials said they would try to increase funding for the upkeep and protection of the cemeteries. The Prime Minister on September 22 publicly deplored the Nazi-initiated killing of 200,000 Lithuanian Jews during World War II. He apologized to the Jewish people for the fact that several hundred Lithuanians actively assisted the Nazis in carrying out their genocidal aims and pledged to prosecute suspected Nazi war criminals who are deported back to Lithuania. Toward year's end, the Jewish community became apprehensive regarding anti-Semitic articles in a leading independent newspaper and sent an open letter to the President, asking that he condemn these articles. Jewish representatives noted that the President had met them to discuss the issues raised in the letter, but by year's end he had not publicly condemned the articles in question. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation Under the law, citizens and permanent residents are permitted free movement within, and return to, their country. There are no restrictions on foreign travel. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Lithuania is a parliamentary democracy. The election law provides for a secret ballot in parliamentary elections. Of 141 parliamentary seats, 71 are elected directly and 70 through proportional representation. A party must draw a minimum 4 percent of the national vote in order to gain a seat through proportional representation. National minority slates are exempt from this rule. Two of the four Union of Poles representatives won their seats on a proportional basis, even though the union slate captured only 2 percent of the nationwide proportional vote. The Citizenship Law, adopted in December 1991, is generally inclusive with regard to the country's ethnic minorities. The Law provides citizenship to persons who were born within the borders of the Republic; who were citizens of Lithuania prior to 1940 and their descendants; and who became citizens under previous legal authority. Over 90 percent of Lithuania's ethnic Russian, Polish, Belarusian, and Ukrainian inhabitants received citizenship. Qualification for naturalization of persons not covered by the above-mentioned categories requires 10-year residency, a permanent job or source of income, knowledge of the Constitution, renunciation of any other citizenship, and proficiency in Lithuanian. Well over 90 percent of ethnic Poles, Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians residing in Lithuania in 1991 were granted citizenship. While there are no legal restrictions on women's participation in politics or government, they are underrepresented in political leadership positions. There are only 10 female deputies in the 141-member Seimas, and no female ministers serve in the current Cabinet. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights The Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Lithuania is an umbrella organization for several small human rights groups which operate without government restriction. In October the Government established the Department of International and Human Rights within the Justice Ministry, which is to monitor Lithuanian laws and legal practice to determine whether these are in accord with Lithuania's international obligations. The authorities actively encouraged international and nongovernmental human rights groups to visit Lithuania. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, or ethnic background. Women The Constitution provides equal rights for men and women, and official policy specifies equal pay for equal work. Generally, men and women receive the same pay for comparable work, but women are largely underrepresented in some professions and in the managerial sector as a whole. Nonetheless, significant inequalities in Lithuanian society based on gender continue. Lithuanian society still has very conservative views about the role of women in society. The fact that women's enrollment now exceeds that of men in some university faculties has prompted university administrations to introduce preferential entrance criteria for men to redress what is perceived as an abnormal state of affairs. Parliamentary deputies speaking about female deputies in public sometimes make unflattering comments based on gender stereotypes, without eliciting any unusual public reaction. Abuse of women in the home is reportedly common, especially in connection with alcohol abuse by husbands, but institutional mechanisms for coping with this problem are only now being started. One private women's organization is attempting to establish a shelter for abused women. According to a recent sociological survey, 20 percent of women report experiencing an attempted rape, while another 33 percent report having been beaten at least once in their lives. Official statistics on the incidence of abuse of women in the home are not filed separately from other categories of assault. Women's groups report some resistance among law enforcement officials to collecting and releasing such statistics. Persons convicted of rape generally receive sentences of from 3 to 5 years in prison. Children The Ministries of Social Protection and of the Interior shared official responsibility for the protection of children's rights and welfare in 1994. Starting in 1994, the Children's Rights Service of the Ministry of Social Protection took on many of the functions formerly handled by the Interior Ministry and its subordinate police officers throughout the country, thereby focusing more attention on the social welfare needs of children. Press reporting on crime throughout the year noted a number of instances of severe beatings of children by parents that resulted in hospitalization or even death. Social welfare workers believe that child abuse in connection with alcohol abuse by parents is a serious problem. The prevalence of authoritarian values in family upbringing, however, has discouraged more active measures against child abuse. The latest statistics available indicate that 5 children between 1 and 14 years of age were murdered in 1994, while 61 were subject to varying kinds of abuse. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Non-Lithuanian ethnic groups, including Russians, Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians, and Jews, comprise roughly 20 percent of the population. Non-Lithuanians, especially Poles, have expressed concerns about the possibility of job discrimination arising from implementation of the language law. Many public sector employees were required to attain a functional knowledge of Lithuanian within several years, although the authorities have been granting liberal extensions of the time frame in which this is to be achieved. During the first half of 1994, language-testing committees tested 7,299 people for whom Lithuanian is not a native language. Of those examined, 6,394 were certified as language qualified. There is no documented evidence of dismissals based on application of this law. Lithuanian authorities have indicated that the intent of the law is to apply moral incentives to learn Lithuanian as the official language of the State; they have asserted that no one would be dismissed solely because of an inability to meet the language requirement. People with Disabilities The Law on Integrating Disabled People, passed in 1991, provides for a broad category of rights and government benefits to which disabled people are legally entitled. However, given severe budgetary constraints, the Government has been able to allocate only modest sums towards implementation of the law. The equivalent of $3.25 million was disbursed in 1994. A considerable portion of this sum was channelled through a number of social organizations representing the disabled. Government funds, for example, were provided to groups that drafted labor contracts for disabled workers in different sectors of the national economy. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The 1991 Law on Trade Unions and the Constitution recognize the right of workers and employees to form and join trade unions. The Law on Trade Unions formally extends this right to employees of the police and the armed forces, although the Collective Agreements Law of 1991 does not allow collective bargaining by government employees involved in law enforcement and security-related work. In 1990 the Lithuanian branch of the U.S.S.R.'s All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, grouping 23 of 25 trade unions, renamed itself the Confederation of Free Trade Unions (CFTU) and began asserting increased independence from its Soviet parent. In 1993 the CFTU joined eight other unions that also had been a part of the All-Union Central Council to form the Lithuanian Trade Union Center (LTUC). The Lithuanian Workers Union (LWU) was formed in 1990 as an alternative to the CFTU. Unlike the CFTU/LTUC, the LWU was an early supporter of Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union and actively sought Western free trade union contacts. The LWU now claims a dues-paying membership of 50,000 organized in 35 regional groupings. There are no restrictions on unions affiliating with international trade unions. The Law on Trade Unions and the Constitution provide for the right to strike, although public officials providing essential services may not strike. There were fewer strikes in 1994 than in 1993. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Collective Agreements Law provides for collective bargaining and the right of unions to organize employees, although several provisions reportedly hinder the establishment of new union organizations. According to the Law, unions, in order to be registered, must have at least 30 founding members in large enterprises or have a membership of one-fifth of all employees in small enterprises. Difficulties commonly arise in state enterprises in which employees are represented by more than one union. LWU officials charge that managers in some state enterprises discriminate against LWU organizers and have on occasion dismissed employees in retribution for their trade union activities. The LWU also charges that the judicial system is slow to respond to LWU grievances regarding dismissals from work. LWU representatives charge that state managers sometimes prefer the CFTU/LTUC over the LWU unions as collective bargaining partners. In general, trade union spokesmen say that managers often determine wages without regard to trade union wishes, except in larger factories with well-organized trade unions. The Government issues periodic decrees that serve as guidelines for state enterprise management in setting wage scales. The LWU and the LTUC engage in direct collective bargaining over wages at the workplace level. Wage decisions are increasingly being made at the enterprise level, although government ministries still retain some control over this sphere in state-owned enterprises. The LWU reports that it supplements its bargaining efforts with active lobbying in government ministries that own enterprises. During the first 10 months of 1994, wage increases appear to have been greater than price rises. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The Constitution prohibits forced labor, and this prohibition is observed in practice. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The legal minimum age for employment of children without parental consent is 16 years. The legal minimum age with the written consent of parents is 14. Free trade union representatives assert that the mechanisms for monitoring minimum age legislation are rudimentary. Complaints about infringements of child labor regulations generally are referred to local prosecutors who investigate the charges and take legal action to stop violations. Available evidence suggests that child labor is rare. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The legal minimum wage is $13 (52 litai) per month, while the average wage in the state industrial sector is $93 (372 litai) per month. The Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Social Protection periodically set the minimum wage. Every 3 months these two government bodies must submit their minimum wage proposals to the Parliament, which has the right to approve or revise the minimum wage level. Enforcement of the minimum wage is almost nonexistent, in part because the Government does not want to exacerbate the current unemployment problem. The 40-hour workweek is standard, with a provision for at least one 24-hour rest period. The Constitution provides that workers have the right to safe and healthy working conditions. In 1993 a Labor Safety Law went into effect, setting down the rights of workers confronted with hazardous conditions and providing legal protection for workers who file complaints about such conditions. The State Labor Inspection Service, which the Law established, is charged with implementing the Labor Safety Law. Regional labor inspection offices, each of which is staffed by only two or three officials, are severely understaffed. They closed 2,756 enterprises or departments of enterprises found to be in violation of safety regulations during the first 9 months of 1994. Some 270 persons were fined, and 114 cases were referred to local prosecutors' offices. Unsafe conditions caused by worn, outdated industrial technologies are reportedly widespread, and 108 work-related deaths were recorded in the first 9 months of 1994. (###)
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