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Watchdog voice in Lithuania’s Presidency – Lithuanian watchdog acitivities in June 2013

Lithuania’s Presidency in of the Council of the EU

The Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI ) intervened with a public statement, that as Lithuania takes over the European Union’s rotating presidency it should lead by example and reopen its investigation into its own complicity in CIA secret prisons, US enforced disappearances, and alleged torture.

On 19 June, 2013, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights Monitoring Institute addressed the President of the Republic of Lithuania urging that the competent Lithuanian authorities reopen their investigation into Lithuania’s complicity in CIA secret prisons, US enforced disappearances and alleged torture.

The HRMI is of opinion, that Lithuania is betraying the fundamental principles of human rights that underline the European Union by refusing to investigate serious allegations of human rights crimes, such as disappearances and torture. The country holding the EU’s presidency should have the courage and leadership to confront wrongdoing and make amends. You can read more about the intervention here.

In the mid-June, exercising its expert function, Human Rights Monitoring Institute presented its 7th Human Rights in Lithuania Overview for the year 2011-2012. The Overview is the only thorough report on human rights situation in Lithuania.

The HRMI states, that Human rights were never a priority for Lithuanian politicians. With the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 human rights issues were left outside of the political agenda alltogether. The year 2011-2012 did not bring any fundamental changes – Lithuania still lacks unified and strategically formed human rights policy. Legislative initiatives are drafted regardless of their possible impact on human rights protection, and some of them even contradict the fundamental principles of human rights.

A discriminatory family concept serves as an example. Lithuanian Constitutional Court found the family concept and all the laws based on the concept to be in contradiction with the Lithuanian Constitution. Discrimination of various social groups – women, disable people, ethnic minorities, LGBT persons, elderly people – is still one of the most pressing human rights issues in Lithuania. A press release in English can be found here.

The HRMI followed up with an immediate advocacy action and presented its periodic Human Rights in Lithuania Overview to the President of Lithuania. The HRMI stated, that the increasing hostility towards human rights reveal the lack of awareness among politicians and the whole society about the importance of human rights and freedoms as well as threatens the democratic constitution of the State.

HE President Dalia Grybauskaitė stated that respect for human rights is one of the most important elements of a democratic state. According to her, it is crucial to safeguard the human rights enshrined in Constitution in all spheres of life. The meeting was widely covered by the Lithuanian media. For more information about the meeting (in Lithuanian) follow the link.

Combatin violence

Before that, HRMI together with child rights organisations exercised their intervention function and issued a public appeal to the Members of Parliament urging them to support the amendments to the Law on Child Rights introducing a ban on all forms of violence against children. The amendments would further the protection of article 24 of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights. The proposed amendments define violence against child as all forms of sexual, psychological and emotional violence, humiliation or exploitation, lack of care or neglect, causing threat to life, actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity, including corporal punishment. Back in 2010, the Parliament rejected the same amendments. The opinions in the parliament as well as in society are strongly divided, and corporal punishment is still largely justified as “traditional child rearing practice”. Read more about it (in English) here.

The Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, together with a number of Lithuanian Human rights organizations came out with a public statement to congratulate the Government on its decision to sign the EC Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. Upon signing the Convention, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevičius said:

„The Istanbul Convention contains a compendium of measures to deal with the problem of violence against women and gender-based violence. We must join the international community in the effort to take advantage of the proposed measures, in order to reduce the tragic cases when the authorities are unable to protect victims in case of domestic violence“.

The Human rights organizations in Lithuania welcomes this step in combating an often ignorant attitude by politicians towards domestic violence. Read more (in Lithuanian) here.

Double citizenship

Slightly on another note, the European Foundation for Human Rights (EFHR) exercied its intervention function and has submitted a proposal to the Parliament to organise a referendum about the issue of double citizenship along with the presidential election in 2014. The inquiry in the referendum would look as follows: “I agree for the second part of Article 12 of the Constitution of Lithuania to sound as follows: ‘ A citizen of the Republic of Lithuania can be a citizen of another country.’ The EFHR will monitor the progress of the case in the Seimas of the Republic and it will try to propose positive changes, which could be brought by double citizenship. As the latest survey made at the end of April of the current year shows that 55% of inhabitants of Lithuania support the acknowledgement of double citizenship and 26% is against it. More on it (in English) here.

TI Summer School on Integrity

Transparency International Lithuania Chapter was organizing its annual fourth TI Summer School on Integrity, which took place in Vilnius, 8 – 14 July. The School is an intensive anti-corruption training for future leaders, which hosted around 130 students from more than 60 countries worldwide and around 20 leading anti-corruption experts. The Schools serves as a valuable advocacy tool for Transparency International to publicly raise the issue of youth anti-corruption education. The President of Lithuania has paid a visit to the School in 2011 and 2012 and is once again congratulated youth leaders this year. For more information, go to the official website of the School.


 

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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