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Title:  Lithuania Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996




                           LITHUANIA


Lithuania is a parliamentary democracy.  With its statehood widely 
recognized as continuous for more than 70 years, Lithuania restored its 
independence in 1990 after more than 50 years of Soviet occupation.  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, then Chairman of the LDDP, as 
President.  Local government elections in March, however, gave the 
ruling LDDP its first electoral defeat since 1992.  Right-of-center 
candidates captured a majority of local government councils in most of 
the country's towns and cities.

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.

Since independence, Lithuania has moved to a market economy.  More than 
40 percent of state property, including most housing and small 
businesses, has been privatized.  Industry employs 42 percent of the 
labor force.  The agricultural sector's continuing high proportion of 
the work force (18 percent) reflects a lack of efficient consolidation 
of small private farms and represents a vocal protectionist current in 
economic policy debates.  The banking system remains weak, with the 
Government moving just before Christmas to suspend operations at two 
prominent private commercial banks for illiquidity and fraud.  The 
inflation rate of 35.7 percent was significantly higher than had been 
projected.  Per capita gross domestic product was estimated at $1,000 
per year.  Trade is diversifying, with a gradual shift to Western 
markets.  Major exports include textile and knitwear products, timber 
and furniture, electronic goods, food, and chemical and petroleum 
products.

The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, but 
problems remain in some areas.  Police on occasion beat detainees and 
reportedly abuse already excessive detention laws.  Some journalists 
allege that government officials apply pressure on them not to criticize 
governmental policies or acts.  Jewish cemeteries are sporadically 
subjected to vandalism and pilfering.  Violence and discrimination 
against women and child abuse are problems which the Government 

has failed to address.  In April the Parliament ratified the European 
Convention on Human Rights and Basic Freedoms.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from:

  a.  Political or other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment

There were no reports that officials engaged in or condoned torture.  
However, police sometimes beat or otherwise physically mistreated 
detainees.  The local press reported that incidents of police brutality 
are becoming more common.  In many instances, the victims reportedly are 
reluctant to bring charges against police officers owing to fear of 
reprisals.  The Ministry of the Interior generally has been unwilling to 
publicize statistics on reported cases of policy brutality.  Sources in 
the Parliament, however, reported that there were 116 complaints 
concerning employees of the Ministry of the Interior, of which 15 had 
been resolved and 74 are still under investigation.  Owing to limited 
resources and motivation, many of Lithuania's prisons are poorly 
maintained.

  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 person under investigative 
arrest for up to 2 months before taking the case 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.  This law, which was 
passed as a temporary measure, allowed police, but not the internal 
security or armed forces, to detain suspected violent criminals up to 2 
months rather than for the standard 72-hour period.  The effect of this 
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 1994 and 1995 to extend this temporary law for an 
additional year but with several new provisions, including checks on 
prosecutorial abuse.  The law now requires that a detainee (1) must be 
informed within 3 hours following arrest of the length of the preventive 
detention under consideration (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 the 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 500 suspected members of 
criminal gangs under the provision 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, leading some observers to believe that the police are 
abusing the lengthy detention period provided by this temporary law.

There is no exile.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Efforts continued in 1995 to reform legal codes imposed under the 
Soviets.  Parliament passed new civil and criminal procedure codes as 
well as a Court Reform Law.  The judicial system currently consists of a 
two-tier structure of district courts and the 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 
Soviet-era institution of lay assessors was abolished at the end of 
1994.

Under the Court Reform Law now being implemented, two new kinds of 
courts are being created.  Local district courts are being set up below 
the present district courts to handle cases at the municipal level, 
while a new appellate court level is hearing 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 the country's laws with a view towards bringing them 
into accord with the provisions of the European Convention on Human 
Rights.

The Constitution provides defendants the right to counsel.  In practice, 
the right to legal counsel is abridged by the shortage of trained 
lawyers, 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 lawyers 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 more than 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; there were no such rulings by the Supreme Court in 
1995.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy.  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 the 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 cases 
challenging the legality of surveillance.

Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, which the 
Government observes in practice.  The law prohibits the Government from 
issuing prior restraint orders over the print or broadcast media or 
setting restrictions on the disclosure of information, 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 against the 
provisions of a draft public information law, which they thought 
severely restricted freedom of the press.  The draft law failed to pass 
in a November 6 vote, but parliamentary debate on a press law was 
expected to continue.  The ruling party announced the formation of a 
committee to review the proposed press law and the provisions which 
prompted the protests.

Many investigative journalists covering organized crime have been 
harassed by or received death threats, ostensibly from organized "crime 
families."  In October 1993, a copublisher and editor of a widely read 
daily, who wrote extensively on organized crime, was murdered.  In 
October 1994, the Supreme Court convicted four persons with criminal 
backgrounds of murder in the case.  One person received a death 
sentence, which was carried out in July.

On November 17, a bomb destroyed a major new building under construction 
for the largest Lithuanian daily, Lietuvos Rytas.  The newspaper had 
been writing a series on Lithuanian organized crime families.  It is 
widely assumed that one or more of these families were responsible for 
the bombing, although the Government had filed no charges by year's end.  
Some observers also expressed concern over the Government's motives in 
sending tax inspectors to the scene shortly after the blast.  Press 
reports of the meeting between Lietuvos Rytas editors and President 
Brazauskas 2 days after the bombing stated that Brazauskas had chided 
the editors for publishing charges against organized crime figures 
without supporting evidence.  These events took place in the context of 
a parliamentary debate in which opposition members criticized the 
Government for making antipress statements in reaction against 
journalists' investigation of official corruption.

Five private radio stations, including one broadcasting in Polish, are 
on the air.  Two private television stations also broadcast regular 
programming to wide audiences.  Representatives of the private 
electronic media have complained for some time about unfair transmission 
fees and advertising rates set by the Government.  These rates 
reportedly favor the state radio and television stations.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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 law is respected 
in practice.  The Communist Party of Lithuania and other organizations 
associated with the Soviet regime continue to be banned.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government 
respects this provision in practice.  The Law on Religious Communities 
and Associations passed in October gives religious communities, 
associations, and centers property rights to prayer houses, homes, and 
other buildings and permits construction necessary for their activities.  
Nine religious communities have been declared by the new law to be 
"traditional" and therefore eligible for governmental assistance:  Latin 
Rite Catholics, Greek Rite Catholics, Evangelical Lutherans, Evangelical 
Reformers, Orthodox, Old Believers, Jews, Sunni Muslims, and Karaites.  
There are no restrictions on the activities of other religious 
communities.

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 Klaipeda which have been 
subject to sporadic vandalism and pilfering.

  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.  The law on refugee status was signed on 
July 4.  The vast majority of refugees in Lithuania are fleeing economic 
rather than political situations in their countries and are thus not 
eligible for asylum.

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 of 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 Polish Union 
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 1991 and amended in October, is 
inclusive with regard to the country's ethnic minorities.  This 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; or who became citizens under previous legal authority.  
More than 90 percent of Lithuania's ethnic Russian, Polish, Belarussian, 
and Ukrainian inhabitants received citizenship.  Qualification for 
naturalization of persons not mentioned by the above-mentioned 
categories requires a 10-year residency, a permanent job or source of 
income, knowledge of the Constitution, renunciation of any other 
citizenship, and proficiency in Lithuanian.

There are no legal restrictions on women's participation in politics or 
government.  However, women 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 Government fully cooperates with local nongovernmental organizations 
and actively encourages visits by international and nongovernmental 
human rights groups.  The Association for the Defense of Human Rights in 
Lithuania is an umbrella organization for several small human rights 
groups which operates without government restriction.  In 1994 the 
Government established a department of human rights within the Ministry 
of Justice, which monitors laws and legal practice to determine whether 
these are in accord with Lithuania's international obligations.

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, and the Government generally respects 
these prohibitions.

  Women

Abuse of women at home is reportedly common, especially in connection 
with alcohol abuse by husbands, and institutional mechanisms for coping 
with this problem are only now being formed.  One private women's 
organization is attempting to establish a shelter for abused women.  
According to one sociological survey, 20 percent of women reported an 
attempted rape, while another 33 percent reported 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 3 to 5 years in 
prison.

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.  However, women are largely 
underrepresented in some professions and in the managerial sector as a 
whole, and significant inequalities in Lithuanian society based on sex 
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 
administrators 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 public reaction.

  Children

Child abuse is a problem.  The authorities reported that 10 children 
were killed as a result of severe beatings by parents in the first half 
of 1995.  Social welfare workers believe that much of the abuse occurs 
in connection with alcohol abuse.  The prevalence of authoritarian 
values in family upbringing has discouraged more active measures against 
child abuse.  

The Ministries of Social Protection and of the Interior shared official 
responsibility for the protection of children's rights and welfare in 
1995.  Starting in 1994, the Children's Rights Service of the Ministry 
of Social Protection took on many of the functions formerly handled by 
the Ministry of the Interior and its subordinate police officers 
throughout the country, thereby focusing more attention on the social 
welfare needs of children.  The Government showed its commitment to 
children's rights and welfare by ratifying the United Nations Convention 
on the Rights of the Child in July.

  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 this law.  The equivalent of $3.25 million was 
disbursed in 1994.  No 1995 figures were available.

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic minorities comprise roughly 20 percent of the population and 
include Russians, Poles, Belarussians, Ukrainians, and Jews.  Ethnic 
Poles in particular have expressed concerns about the possibility of job 
discrimination arising from implementation of the language law.  The law 
requires that public sector employees possess a functional knowledge of 
Lithuanian within a specified time.  The authorities have granted 
liberal extensions of the time in which this is to be achieved.  During 
the first 4 months of 1995, language-testing committees tested 6,975 
people for whom Lithuanian is not a native language.  Of those examined, 
6,048 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 and 
that no one would be dismissed solely because of an inability to meet 
the language requirement.  This appears to be the case.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution and the 1991 Law on Trade Unions 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 
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 
restoring independence 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 Constitution and the 
Law on Trade Unions provide for the right to strike, although public 
officials providing essential services may not strike.  There were 
several strikes in 1995, none major.

  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 this 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, except in larger factories 
with well-organized trade unions, managers often determine wages without 
regard to trade union wishes.  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 wage control 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 6 months 
of 1995, wages continued to grow faster than average price increases, 
thereby continuing a process of modest real wage growth that began in 
1993.

There are no export processing zones.

  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 infringement 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 $30 (120 litas) per month, while the average 
wage in the state industrial sector is $128 (512 litas) 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 have only two or 
three officials, are severely understaffed.  They closed 1,882 
enterprises or departments of enterprises found to be in violation of 
safety regulations during the first 6 months of 1995.  Some 170 persons 
were fined, and 83 cases were referred to local prosecutors' offices.  
Unsafe conditions caused by worn, outdated industrial technologies are 
reportedly widespread, and 46 work-related deaths were recorded in the 
first 6 months of 1995.

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[end of document]

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