Controls on wiretapping still too weak in Lithuania, say critics

DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

In 2015, prosecutors made 10,272 requests to intercept electronic communications compared to 12,332 requests in 2014 and 14,526 in 2013, according to figures provide to BNS by the National Courts Administration.

A spokeswoman for the administration, Živilė Navickaitė-Babkin, said that not all of the requests were about wiretapping of telephones – the majority was just to locate the subscriber. She also said many of the requests were to gain extensions or resumption of earlier approvals.

The majority of the measures were applied in the framework of investigations of corruption, drugs dealing and criminal organizations, she said.

However, observers maintain that the statistics show a careless attitude to approval of the measures by the courts, with only 136 requests or 1.3% rejected last year. In 259 cases, the requests were partly approved, while six were not examined.

“The positive decisions are made too often, which leads to the conclusion that the courts simply do not have time to examine them thoroughly,” Kęstutis Girnius, an associate professor at the Vilnius University‘s International Relations and Political Science Institute.

Girnius said it was a dangerous practice to allow law-enforcement authorities to wiretap telephone conversations of not only suspects but also other individuals.

However, Rimvydas Norkus, the chairman of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, said that the decrease in the requests last year indicated “a more responsible stance on the application of the measures”.

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