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Watchdog’s report from Lithuania (July 2013)

14Furthering a protection of non-discrimination provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (“EU Charter”), on 22 July the No Hate Speech Movement organized the European Action Day for Victims of Hate Crime and encouraged people across Europe to commemorate and support victims of hate crime and to take action against hate crime. Recognition of hate crime and public awareness is an important part of the justice for victims.

Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) – NGO Programme Lithuania Operator – in cooperation with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and with the support of the EEA Grants is exercising its expert function and preparing a comprehensive study on victims of hate crimes rights protection in Lithuania, both legislative regulation and practical implementation, with special focus on the implementation process of the EU Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. Read more about it here (in English).

On 11-12 July, EU Ministers of social security and labor met with the Social Platform – the largest European civic alliance, that fights for social justice and participatory democracy. The Social Platform urged ministers to take action and shape more effective children rights’ protection policies across Europe and ensure protection of article 24 of the EU Charter.

The Human Rights Monitoring Institute was represented by Chairman of the Board, Dainius Puras, who subsequently commented: “Key rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child” are being breached on a daily basis. Children and their families feel negative effects of the crisis, which are further worsened by the saving policies targeted at social policy and support. In this way, social isolation is created, families are weakened and preconditions for children and parents isolation are created” More about it here (in Lithuanian).

In mid-July, the HRMI exercised its intervention function and once again came back to the issue of CIA prisons in Lithuania. This comes after the Lithuanian Government submitted a comment to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Abu Zubaydah v Lithuania. According to the Government, Lithuania has done all within its powers to negate any claims about transportation, imprisonment and torture of CIA detainees in Lithuanian territory.

The HRMI publicly questions the tone of the Government and claims that pre-trial and parliamentary investigation was aimed at negating any claims as to Lithuania’s participation in CIA operations as opposed to conducting an objective and in-depth investigation to reveal the truth. The HRMI states that such position confronts key justice and human rights principles. Find more on it here (in Lithuanian).

The European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) exercised its intervention function and came out with yet another vocal public statements criticizing the Head of the Government, Algirdas Butkevicius. It came after the Prime Minister publicly stated: “I don’t think that it is possible to go back to the previous version of the bill on education, according to which the exams from the Lithuanian language and literature were different for Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian schools. <..> Neither graduates nor teachers demanded re-introduction of the old Bill on education.”.

The EFHR enforced the statement of the Forum of Parents of Polish Schools in Lithuania. They have published the following:
“We are shocked by the Prime Minister’s lie. We, parents of students from schools that have Polish as the teaching language, have been against the new Act on education from the very beginning. We collected sixty thousand signatures under our demand to cancel the amendment to the Act of 17th March 2011. We handed the signatures to Ms President, to the Prime Minister and to the Office of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. We conducted numerous protest actions <..>. 

The conversation between the EFHR and the Government about protection of Polish minority in Lithuania has been intensive over the past year and it does not seem to calm down in the near future. Read full article here (in English).

Previously to that, the EFHR come out with a public statement criticizing the President of the country, Miss Dalia Grybauskaite. The Foundation stated that it have been watching the activities of the President in disbelief and with a sense of genuine disappointment. In her speeches and addresses delivered in front of the Sejmas, the President brings up the so-called Polish issues, which have now become synonymous with the issues important to Polish minorities in Lithuania, including the most controversial ones such as the standardised exam in the Lithuanian language and the legal regulation of the spelling of Polish surnames.

In order to achieve her political aims, the President takes advantage of ethnic and patriotic issues. This undermines democracy and leads to social divisions. Although the President claims that she is not ill-disposed towards national minorities, she openly announces that she will block up most of the postulates presented by representatives of the minorities. A president of a democratic country is obliged to take a neutral position. The European Foundation of Human Rights condemned the political attitude of the President, whose values are a far cry from those that should beacon politicians, especially the heads of states. Read the full statement here (in English).

Transparency International has issued its annual Global Corruption Barometer (GCB), which reveals that Lithuania is leading the EU in the levels of bribery. The study also revealed that more than two-thirds of Lithuanians believe, that the Government serves large private interests as opposed to ordinary citizens. Transparency International Lithuanian Chapter came out with a public statement and engaged with a large number of media outlets. This resulted in a confrontation with the Government as the Prime Minister of Lithuania publicly questioned the representativeness of the study. The methodology of the GCB, however, has been used for over a decade now making it the only worldwide public opinion survey on corruption. You can find more about the GCB and its methodology here.

   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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