National Human Rights Monitoring Report criticises the lack of progress in human rights protection and praises efforts

LGBTQ+ Reuters / Scanpix

The national human rights monitoring review published by the Seimas Ombudspersons’ Office notes that ensuring equal opportunities in Lithuania’s municipalities mainly involves the creation of documents, without the tools or instruments provided. Furthermore, the Lithuanian legal system has not yet established a systematic concept of domestic violence, and the latency of violence against women with disabilities remains a serious problem. The Istanbul Convention has not yet been ratified in Lithuania, and the Civil Union Law has not been adopted. In 2022, the largely automatic mass detention of asylum seekers and migrants continued, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office writes in its press release.

The national human rights monitoring report notes positive developments in protection from domestic violence, including the possibility of granting a protection order to the perpetrator, which will come into force in the summer of 2023. Additionally, it is noted that in 2022, amendments to the Labour Code will extend the employer’s obligations to protect workers from violence and harassment, including protection against gender-based violence and harassment. However, it is noted that in the absence of a concept of systemic domestic violence in the Lithuanian legal system, the problem of this type of violence remains poorly understood, and individual episodes of systemic violence are often viewed as isolated.

“Disability-related barriers, dependence on others, stereotypes and attitudes prevalent in society make women with disabilities, especially intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, particularly vulnerable,” points out Seimas Ombudsperson Erika Leonaitė.

The report also notes that the recording of sexual offences, the collection of evidence and the provision of medical assistance should not cause additional trauma to the victims, as sexual offences are a grave violation of the dignity and physical integrity of the person, resulting in intense psychological trauma to the victims.

The report of the Seimas Ombudspersons’s Office notes that legal and organisational measures are being actively pursued to address the issues of accommodation, employment, education, and other issues of war refugees who have arrived to Lithuania since the Russian war against Ukraine, as well as the de facto detention of asylum-seekers and migrants who came in Lithuania through the Belarusian border in 2022.

Positive but insufficient developments in non-discrimination for LGBT+ people

The national human rights monitoring report notes positive developments in LGBT+ non-discrimination. As of 1 May 2022, amendments to the Procedure for the Health Examination of Blood and Blood Components Donors and for the Collection of Blood and Blood Components of Donors have entered into force, removing from the questionnaire questions on men’s history of intimate relationships with other men (sexual orientation).

“In 2022, unmarried adults diagnosed as transgender have the right to change their name to the one corresponding to their gender identity. However, it is still only possible to change one’s gender marker and the personal identification number through the courts,” reads a report by the Seimas Ombudspersons’ Office.

“Discrimination against transgender people is still invisible and unrecognised in the law, as the current legal framework does not provide sufficient legal protection. Moreover, the protection of the rights of transgender people is not yet based on the principle of respect for personal autonomy and freedom of self-determination,” notes the Seimas Ombudsperson Erika Leonaitė.

The Seimas Ombudsperson notes that research conducted in 2022 on public attitudes in Lithuania reveals that public attitudes toward LGBT + persons have changed only slightly – compared to 2021, public attitudes in 2022 have changed slightly to the positive side, but remain significantly negative: “The provisions of the Law on Protection of Minors from the Negative Effects of Public Information remain a potential basis for limiting the dissemination of public information related to the right of LGBT+ persons to respect private and family life and promote the enforcement of this right.“

The report prepared by the Seimas Ombudspersons’ Office also draws attention to the draft Law on Civil Union, which the Seimas approved after its submission. However, it has not yet been adopted, and it aims to regulate the grounds and procedure for registration, validity, and termination of a civil union, as well as the property and personal non-property rights and obligations of the partners, both for persons of the same sex and of persons of different sex.

Praise for the use of names in personal documents and criticism of the protection of national minorities and religious freedom

“A person’s name and surname are among the elements of a person’s identity and private life. Therefore, by providing in the law for the cases where the names of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania may be written in the Latin alphabet in personal documents, an important step has been taken in protecting private life”, says the Seimas Ombudsperson E. Leonaitė.

However, Lithuania has not yet developed a national strategy to prevent racism, xenophobia, radicalisation and violent extremism, although the European Union’s Strategy to Combat Anti-Semitism and Promote Jewish Life has encouraged countries to do so by 2022.

Furthermore, the national human rights monitoring report notes that no targeted measures, plans, or mechanisms at the municipal level go beyond disseminating information on social assistance issues. However, Lithuanian municipalities report receiving accounts from organisations representing Roma and/or individual Roma about discrimination in the labour market, education system, and housing rental.

The report prepared by the Seimas Ombudsperson’s Office also notes that the Seimas’ decision not to grant state recognition to the ancient Baltic religious community “Romuva”, even after the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in its favour, shows that the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state is not properly implemented in practice.

It is also noted that the alternative national defence service in Lithuania is not a genuine civilian alternative to military service, as it is subject to the control and supervision of the military, which can lead to a violation of the right to freedom of religion of people who, because of their religious convictions, do not accept military service but agree to perform their civic duties in another way.

The transformation of care institutions is too slow, and the system of deinstitutionalisation is too standardised, with no alternatives used.

The report prepared by the Seimas Ombudspersons’ Office notes that the Law on Equal Opportunities replaced the employer’s obligation to adapt premises with a commitment to provide suitable working conditions for employees with disabilities, thus taking into account the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and expanding the employer’s obligations towards employees with disabilities other than mobility.

In terms of changes in the protection of the rights and freedoms of people with disabilities, the report notes positive developments in the continuity of benefits and compensation for families caring for a child with a severe disability due to psychosocial disability at home, as well as changes in the model for assessing disability. The report highlights legislative developments aimed at increasing the accessibility of assisted employment services, allowing for a comprehensive application of the measures, and expanding the possibilities for adapting workplaces and working environments to the unemployed with disabilities and employees after they become persons with disabilities.

However, it is noted that the deinstitutionalisation of social care institutions in Lithuania is taking too long. “The deinstitutionalisation of social care institutions has been underway since 2014, but according to data from the Department of Disability Affairs, 5 829 people were still living in adult social care institutions, and 215 were on the waiting list”, the report states.

The report also notes that the current system of limitation of legal capacity is too standardised and applied to different groups of persons and cases without taking into account their individual needs and that the alternatives to the restriction of legal capacity, such as decision-making assistance and advanced directives, as set out in the Civil Code, are not widely used. In 2022, only one decision support contract and ten advance directives were registered.

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