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Lithuanian watchodog September report

Exercising if expert function and furthering protection of article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (right to a fair trial), Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) altogether with the Ministry of Justice and Association of Judges, currently celebrating their 20th anniversary, organized a conference “Trial Procedure and Human Rights“ on September 20th, 2013.

Judges of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court gave the presentations on topics, such as: the risk of breaching human rights during the judicial process, human rights in administrative court, risk of violating human rights in civil process. Human Rights Monitoring Institute Chair of Board Dainius Pūras also shared his insights about the importance of courts in development of Lithuania.

”The Court can be righteous only when it defends human rights”, said Minister of Justice Juozas Bernatonis while opening the conference, which was attended by representatives from almost all courts in Lithuania. Unfortunately, stated R. Norkus, a human rights defending judicial process often itself violates the rights to a fair trial. In such cases a vicious cycle starts: when a right to a fair trial is breached, material right also cannot be defended. Speakers agreed that violations are still not uncommon in judicial processes. Read more here (in English).

In line with above, in the end of September, Lithuanian Bar Association organized the three-day seminars for attorneys about a human right to fair trial. The HRMI publicly stated that the demand for such training is obvious as the Lithuanian lawyers community is not sufficiently familiar with international standards of protection of human rights. In total, there were more than a hundred lawyers attending from various regions of Lithuania. The seminars were led by the Chief Advisor of the HRMI Henrikas Mickevičius. Read more here (in Lithuanian).

Exercising its intervention function, Human Rights Monitoring Institute and REDRESS submitted a joint complaint to the Lithuanian Prosecutor General. The complaint calls for an investigation into allegations that Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who is currently facing trial by military commission at Guantánamo Bay, was illegally transferred to and secretly detained and tortured in Lithuania as part of a CIA-led programme.

 “It has been established beyond doubt that the CIA programme, involving rendition, secret prisons, interrogations, enforced disappearances and alleged torture entailed systematic violations of human rights,” said Mėta Adutavičiūtė, Legal and Policy Adviser at HRMI. “But with the exception of Italy, neither Lithuania nor other complicit European countries – including the UK, Romania and Poland – have adequately investigated these serious allegations or provided a remedy to victims. This case presents Lithuania with an opportunity to uphold its human rights obligations, and to emphasise to other states their obligations to victims, including providing them with justice and the need for a public disclosure of the truth.” Read more here (in English).

Suspects in Lithuania are being detained before trial, without any consideration of their circumstances or application of legislative safeguards – according to expert lawyers who attended a meeting with Fair Trials International in mid-September.

Fair Trials International released the communiqué of the meeting with a group of Lithuanian criminal law experts along with a news item on it. Attendees of the meeting, which was co-hosted by HRMI, stressed that when deciding whether or not to order detention, Lithuanian judges adopt a “rubber-stamping” approach towards the requests of prosecutors, ordering detention in the majority of cases. Although prosecutors are supposed to file individual motions, making clear why a particular suspect should be detained, many use identical applications – even with the same spelling mistakes – used from one case to the next. Read more here (in English).

Exercising its expert and intervention function, the HRMI conducted an analysis of the abortion bill that is up for a scrutiny at the Lithuanian Parliament during the fall session. According to an analysis, the bill does not conform with commitments under international human rights legal obligations.

The bill is to ban the abortion and provide with only two exception when abortion would be allowed: first, in case there is apparent danger to women’s health and secondly, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that pregnancy is a result of criminal activity.

HRMI if of an opinion that such general ban interferes with a human right to privacy and would not conform with the European Convention of Human Rights as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. Read more here (in Lithuanian).

The campaign to further the protection of anti-discrimination provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and ran by the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) against insulting comments on the internet has so far been successful and led to yet another warrant. The regional court of Alytaus (Alytaus rajono apylinkės teismas) has given an order against V.L. for public encouragement of physical violence and aggression on racial background that was aimed against dark-skinned persons. On the 10th of February 2013, V.L. under the nickname ‘Kunigas’ published a comment on the internet portal of www.15min.lt that read “Visus negrus susaudyt”.  The court has ordered a penalty of 1950 Lt for this comment.

In total there have been 19 penalties given following claims submitted (380 claims have been submitted in total by the Foundation) to the prosecution service by the EFHR within the campaign led by the Foundation since last year that aims to end the feeling of being above the law of those who without any queasiness invade the dignity of others.

By submitting claims regarding illegal comments and posts to the authorities, the Foundation aims to turn the attention of those national institutions responsible for enforcing the law, to the seriousness of the situation in question and the hazard that it brings. The state cannot just simply idly watch the growing wave of hatred that has reached a never before seen scale. Read more here (in English).

Logo funduszy szwajcarskich, Ecorys oraz Euroregion Bałtyk.

                                                                                                                                                               

This text is a result of a research prepared within the project “Powerful Watchdogs” supported by a grant from Switzerland through the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union. The report aims to show the up-to-date information regarding activity of watchdog organizations in a given country. The author refers to the classification on watchdog functions, to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the international concepts of the transparent governance.

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