Lithuania: The Committee commends Lithuania’s progress regarding human rights but more needs to be done
Human Rights Committee's 123rd session - July 2018
A protest against Lithuania's legislative restrictions on LGBTI content in the media . Photo credit: euobserver
The fourth periodic report of Lithuania was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on the 10th and 11th of July 2018. The State was praised for its proactive implementation of recommendations issued during Lithuania’s last review, in particular the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution which has been now accredited with A status. However, many important issues are still of concern for the Committee, such as: discrimination against LGBTI persons, discrimination based on gender, and the repression of Government critics.
The webcast is available here : part 1 & part 2
"Recommendations provided [during the third periodic review] have been extremely useful, as they help us assess our law and policy so that action can be taken for the future improvement of Lithuania. "
Discrimination of LGBTI persons
The Committee expressed concerns about the persistence of stereotypical attitudes and lack of effective protection of LGBTI rights in Lithuania, despite previous recommendations in this regard by this Committee and other UN human rights mechanisms. Furthermore, the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information condemns gay marriage as a threat to the family unit, and ‘protects’ children from any material containing homosexual or bisexual references. Finally, persons who wish to legally reassign their gender, are often denied that right because of the lack of clarity in legislation and procedures concerning the change of civil status with respect to gender identity. The Committe therefore asked the State of Lithuania to revise its legislation to better accomodate the rights of same sex couples and LGTBI individuals, while ensuring that these legal reforms are observed in parctice throughout society.
The Delegation concurred with many of the Committee’s concerns and assured the Committee that hate crimes directed towards the LGBTI persons are taken very seriously and are punishable under article 170 of the criminal code. In relation to the protection of LGTBI persons against discrimination, a plan was launched, in 2017, in consultation with several NGOs to sensitize citizens on the rights of LGTBI persons. The State also pledged to conduct an investigation on the situation of trans people in the country.
Concerns over gender based discrimination in the workplace
The Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men ensures equal rights and the prohibition of discrimination based on sex in and outside the workplace. Although this law has been in effect since 1998, multiple reports denounce its lack of enforcement. Article 24, paragraph three of the law warrants the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson with the power to issue administrative penalties if any breaches are observed. However, there have been no fines issued to companies by the ombudsperson, nor have there been follow ups on a number of complaints. The Committee asked for some clarification on this issue.
Although the delegation did not directly address the apparent passivity of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, it revealed to the Committee that the State Labor Inspectorate had undertaken 192 labour inspections last year. Moreover, employers who employ more than 50 individuals are compelled by law to provide information on the wages of their entire workforce.
National security and freedom of expression
The Committee showed grave concern on the creation of a public list which regroups the names of individuals who are considered to be a threat to national security. The Committee stated that the selection process and inclusion of individuals on the list is not clear, and required more information on the topic. The Committee was also aware that many individuals on the list are, according to NGO reports, political activists defending the rights of the Russian ethnic minority. The Committee is therefore worried that on the pretext of ensuring public safety, freedoms of expression and association are being undermined.
This topic was raised a number of times by different members of the Committee. However, the Delegation never addressed this issue directly.
Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee
Within two years, the State party should provide information on the following recommendations from the Committee's Concluding Observations:
Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity
- Entensify efforts to eliminate discrimination, in law and in practice, against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity
- Ensure that legislation is not interpreted and applied in a discriminatory manner against LGBTI persons
- Refrain from adopting any legislation that would impede the full enjoyment of their Covenant rights
- Review relevant legislation to fully recognize the equality of same-sex couples
- Ensure that legislation concerning the change of civil status with respect to gender identity is clear and applied in accordance with the rights guaranteed under the Covenant, including through the enactment of legislation on gender reassignment procedures
Migrants and Asylum seekers
- Avoid placing asylum seekers in administrative detention and provide effective alternatives to detention, so that detention is used only as a last resort and for as short a period as possible
- Reduce the length and practice of detaining migrants and ensure that migrants have access to a lawyer and legal aid
- Improve reception conditions in the Foreigners Registration Centre (FRC), by ensuring adequate access to social, psychological, rehabilitation and health care services
- Ensure that all applications for international protection at the border and in reception and detention facilities are promptly received, registered and referred to the asylum authority
- Investigate all allegations of denials of entry and access to asylum procedures for persons seeking international protection
- Ensure against unlawful or arbitrary detention of asylum seekers at the border, including by clarifying in the Aliens Law that the holding of asylum-seekers at the border, including in the transit zones, constitutes detention with accompanying procedural and judicial guarantees
- Strengthen training for the staff of migration institutions and border personnel on the rights of asylum seekers and refugees under the Covenant and other international standards
Persons deprived of liberty and detention conditions
- Ensure that alternatives to detention, inlcuding bail, are always considered and that pre-trial detention is always an exceptional, reasonable and necessary measure
- Expedite efforts to improve conditions and reduce overcrowding in places of deprivation of liberty
- Ensure that all allegations of ill-treatment by personnel in places of deprivation of liberty are prompltly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that victims have access to effective remedies
- Ensure that persons deprived of liberty are provided in practice with all legal safeguards from the very outset of deprivation of liberty
Lituania's next periodic report is due by 27 July 2024.