In the exercise of its functions as the national human rights institution, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office in 2018 paid great attention to mental healthcare problems, therefore it studied the draft amendments to the Law of Mental Health Care, made proposals for its improvement, and organized meetings with the Minister of Health and non-governmental organizations. The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office also looked into problems of the reform of penitentiary institutions, provided training to penitentiary insitutions’ officials on the supervision of convicts based on the principles of human rights, and contributed to the organization of the first National Human Rights Forum to celebrate the International Human Rights Day. At the event, representatives of state institutions and non-governmental organizations invited the public to discuss topics related to domestic violence, the right to freedom of elections, modern slavery, and public right to information. In addition, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office submitted an alternative report to the United Nations on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Lithuania.
Below is a more detailed information on the activities of the NHRI conducted by the Seimas Ombudsmen in 2018:
Carried out human rights monitoring in Lithuania and prepared reports on the human rights situation (Article 192 (2) (1)
- On 19 January 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office hosted a meeting with non-governmental organizations belonging to the Coalition of Human Rights Organizations. At the meeting, the Seimas Ombudsmen together with representatives of the Coalition for Human Rights Organizations discussed co-operation opportunities in addressing human rights issues. The meeting focused on the importance of Roma integration, public education on human rights issues and the need to implement the European Court of Human Rights decision on gender reassignment.
- On 18 October 2018, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter referred to as “the Ministry of Justice”) attended a meeting with ministries, other responsible executive governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations to discuss the implementation of the recommendations made during the second cycle of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.
- On 19 October 2018, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter referred to as “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”) attended a meeting with ministries, other responsible executive governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations, during which they discussed the final comments of the UN Human Rights Committee on Lithuania’s Fourth Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Disseminated information on human rights and raised the awareness of the society on the issues of human rights (Article 192 (2) (2))
- On 30 October 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office hosted a training provided for employees of social care institutions on “Challenges and opportunities of long-term social care provision within the client employment field”. During the training, the head of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, Augustinas Normantas, emphasized that social care in the care homes for the elderly is not just about a satisfaction of certain physiological needs, but also necessarily includes the participation of the residents of the care homes in various daily activities, their cultural and social education, meeting of spiritual and psychosocial needs. Municipal civil servants,responsible for organizing social care services in municipalities, and social care workers that participated in the event were presented with methods of providing human rights-based social care services, the implementation of which requiresthat all aspects of service planning, policy development and practice be based on human rights principles and standards.
- On 18 December 2018, the Seimas Ombudsman Office hosted a training for the staff of correctional institutions “Ensuring fundamental human rights and freedoms in penitentiary institutions”. By participating in practical activities, the staff of correctional institutions analysed problems raised in convicts’ complaints, looked into the peculiarities of complaint handling, and used critical thinking to search for unusual solutions to the problems. Representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office reminded the participants of the training about the principles of respectful treatment of convicts approved by the United Nations, spoke about the supervision of convicts that is based on the principles of human rights. During the training, theparticipants were introduced to an auxiliary model of response to provocation employed to have positive communication with convicts, and analysed the practical situations they often face.
- The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office was one of the organizers of the National Human Rights Forum, which was organised to commemorate the International Human Rights Day. The Forum was organized for the first time in Lithuania and was attended by more than 60 national and foreign experts, public figures, journalists, politicians, human rights activists, diplomats, business representatives, high school students and university students, who discussed the human rights culture in schools, voter manipulation, human trafficking, domestic violence, minority rights and other issues. The event was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When discussing human rights, the head of the National Human Rights Institution (the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office), Augustinas Normantas, emphasized the importance of human rights education. During the forum, representatives of the state, non-governmental and business sectors together with the academic community and society participated in discussions about the current situation of human rights as well as changes and solutions necessary in order to make life in Lithuaniagood for people of all nationalities, races, faiths, genders, social statuses and beliefs. The discussions of event were attended by officers of international institutions, such as European Council, United Nations, European Commission, as well as the US, Canadian, Swedish and Norwegian ambassadors. Common debates were joined by members of the Seimas, ministers, experts from Vytautas Magnus University (hereinafter referred to as the “VMU”), representatives of Lithuanian Social Research Centre, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, Lithuanian Disability Forum, Lithuanian Human Rights Centre, The White Gloves and other organizations. Human rights issues were also discussed by Marceline Naudi, vice president of the GREVIO Committee of the Council of Europe, an expert from the United Nations, Professor of VMU Jonas Ruškus, Lisa Gawell from the Raoul Wallenberg Academy in Sweden and many others. The discussion were also joined by well-known public figures active in the field of human rights: singer Erica Jennings, actor DominykasVaitiekūnas, creator of social initiatives Beata Tiškevič, journalist EdmundasJakilaitis and others.
Presented the assessment of the human rights situation in Lithuania to international organizations and provided them with information in accordance with the obligations established in the international treaties of the Republic of Lithuania (192 (2) (3))
- On 18 May 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office hosted a meeting with the delegation from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Representatives of the delegation informed the Seimas Ombudsmen that they are planning to monitor the public events related to the festival Rainbow Days 2018 in Vilnius, assessing Lithuania’s readiness to comply with international obligations to ensure the right to freedom of assembly. The head of delegation was interested in the legal acts regulating the implementation of the freedom of assembly, and paid special attention to the discussion on the implementation of Parts (1) and (2) of Article 6 of the Law on Meetings, showed interest in Article 3 of the Law which defines the organizers of the meetings, inquired how these provisions are implemented, how the procedures for the alignment of meeting places and time with the representatives of the municipality are implemented.
- The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office also drafted and on 11 June 2018 submitted an alternative (shadow) report to the UN Human Rights Committee on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Lithuania.
- On 7 September 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office held a meeting with João Pereira, Policy Advisor to the Council of Europe on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas discussed with the guest the legal protection of transgender persons in Lithuania. At the meeting the participants also discussed the progress of the case L. v. Lithuania, SOGI’s comments on the draft Law on the Recognition of Gender Identity and measures that the country should take to properly execute the ECHR’s ruling in the case L. v. Lithuania.
- On 13 December 2018, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office participated in the meeting at the Ministry of Justice on the execution of the ECHR ruling in the case of L. v. Lithuania. During the meeting, the work carried out and planned by the authorities responsible for implementing the ruling were discussed, and attention was paid to areas where transgender persons who have been granted by the court legal recognition of gender identity face practical problems.
Provided suggestions to state and municipal institutions and institutions on human rights issues (Article 192 (2) (4))
- On 8 June 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office held a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Justice in the area of criminal justice, where possible amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter referred to as the “Code of Criminal Procedure”) were discussed as well as the situation in prisons and in the Prison Department under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter referred to as the “Prison Department”).
- On 2 July 2018, a meeting was held with Health Minister AurelijusVeryga and Justice Minister ElvinasJankevičius to discuss the implementation of the ECHR ruling in the case L. v. Lithuania. The meeting was also attended by the Government’s representative to the ECHR Karolina Bubnytė, who presented the actualities of the ECHR ruling in the case L. v. Lithuania and the key aspects of the implementation of this decision. At the meeting, the participants discussed the ECHR ruling on a partially admissible statement by Mr. L., a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, addressed to the ECHR regarding insufficient legal regulation of transsexual issues in Lithuania. During the meeting, the Seimas Ombudsmen pointed out that not only medical but also legal issues had to be resolved in order to implement the ECHR ruling. Ministers and Ombudsmen agreed that this is a sensitive topic that needs to be analysed from various angles, including the safety of such service, value aspects and comparisons with foreign practices.
- On 26 September 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office hosted a meeting with representatives of the Prison Department to discuss aspects of the implementation of dynamic care in detention institutions.
- On 25 October 2018, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s participated in a meeting with representatives of the Department for the Execution of Judgements of the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, discussing problems of implementation of ECHR rulings in Lithuania and possibilities for cooperation.
- The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office also drafted and on 30 November 2018 expressed its position on “Freedom of expression by ensuring the independence of the public broadcaster”. Without considering the particular proposals of the Ad-Hoc Investigation Commission of the Seimas, the Seimas Ombudsman spoke of the need to protect freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by ensuring the independence of the national broadcaster. In his position, the Seimas Ombudsman noted that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression, includes, inter alia, freedom of the press, radio and television, as there is no democratic society without free and abundant press. The Seimas Ombudsman also noted that the ECHR case Manole and Others v. Moldova stressed the importance of the independence of the statutory public service broadcasters from political and economic impact.
- The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and submitted to the Ministry of Justice its position “On the replacement of the personal clothes of (some of) the convicted (or the arrested) by clothes issued by the correctional institution (detention centre)”. Assessing the initiative of the Ministry of Justice, the Seimas Ombudsman pointed out the need to take into account the objectives of this initiative, what the afore-mentioned measure aims to achieve, and whether all possible measures have been used (involvement of convicts in various social rehabilitation programs, increasing their employment, working with prisoners, increasing their self-confidence and shaping (by altering) the negative behaviour that has developed by socially acceptable standards of behaviour, etc.) that would contribute to the destruction of subcultures rooted in prisons. According to the opinion of the Seimas Ombudsman, although some foreign states have practices where prisoners (detainees) wear uniforms issued to them, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereafter referred to as “the CPT”) has noted in its report that prisoners’ (detainees’) self-esteem is an important part of social rehabilitation, and therefore the CPT questions whether the ban on prisoners (detainees) wearing their own clothes would contributes to fostering the self-esteem of prisoners (detainees ([CPT/Inf(2009) 34] p.74).In addition, the European Prison Rules provide that prisoners who do not have their own suitable clothing must be provided with clothing suitable for the climate (paragraph 20.1). Such clothes cannot in any way damage the self-esteem of prisoners (paragraph 20.2). All clothing must be in good condition and replaced if necessary (paragraph 20.3). When prisoners receive permission to leave the institution, they must not be required to wear clothing that would distinguish them as prisoners (paragraph 20.4). Detainees must be allowed to wear their personal clothes if they are fit for the prison (paragraph 97.1).The Seimas Ombudsman noted that there is no objective evidence that the Ministry of Justice’s initiative to replace the personal clothes of (some of) the prisoners (detainees) would allow to attain the presumed aim of reducing the rooted subcultures in prisons, for the Seimas Ombudsperson doubted whether all possible and recommended measures to reduce subcultures in prisons proposed by international human rights protection have been exhausted.Moreover, in his opinion, the Seimas Ombudsman noted that prisoners’ uniforms cannot degrade the dignity of prisoners and stigmatize those in prison, the measures taken must be in line with legitimate and socially important objectives, must be necessary to attain the above objectives and must not restrict the rights and freedoms of the individual significantly more than necessary to achieve these goals (Constitutional Court ruling of 11 December 2009)
Sought to bring national legislation in line with the international obligations of the Republic of Lithuania in the area of human rights (Article 192 (2) (5))
- On 3 April 2018, a meeting with human rights and mental health experts was organized at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office.
- On 4 April 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office hosted the presentation of the draft report on monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Department for the Affairs of the Disabled, which included representatives of the Department for the Affairs of Disabled and non-governmental organizations. At the meeting organized on the initiative of the Seimas Ombudsman, representatives of state institutions and non-governmental organizations were introduced to the results of the implementation of the Social Integration of the Disabled and the Monitoring Report 2017 for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in which the Department for the Affairs of the Disabled and non-governmental organizations highlighted the main shortcomings in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the country. The report notes that the country does not adequately ensure the participation of people with disabilities in political and social life, and that access to health care facilities for people with disabilities is difficult, and some of them (in rural areas) are generally inaccessible. The evaluation of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the country, notes that residents in adult care institutions are not fed on time and are not employed. Residents of care institutions are dependent on the services provided by staff of the care institution.
- On 4 June 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office has submitted to the Seimas Committee on Human Rights and the Seimas Commission for Suicide and Violence Prevention of its position on the draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Mental Health Care, in which it noted that not all proposed amendments to the Law on Mental Health Care are in line with the international human rights protection standards, and accordingly have made their recommendations and suggestions on the compatibility of the draft law with international obligations of the Republic of Lithuania.
- On 26 September 2018, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office participated in the hearings of the Seimas Committee on Health Affairs on the Amendments to the Law on Mental Health Care, where they presented the position of the institution on the adoption and implementation of the new draft law.
- On 24 October 2018, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office participated in the meeting of the Seimas Committee on Social Affairs and Labour discussing the Amendments to the Law on Mental Health Care.
- On 30 November 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office hosted a meeting with the Head of the Seimas Committee on Health Affairs and the Minister of Health regarding Amendments to the Law on Mental Health.
- At the meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania (hereafter referred to as “the Ministry of Health”), the Ministry of Justice and non-governmental organizations there was a discussion on the implementation of the recommendations issued to Lithuania by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related to the implementation of the Article 14 and other provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Initiated an investigation concerning fundamental human rights issues (Article 192 (2) (6))
- On 22 June 2018, the Seimas Ombudsman (Head of the National Human Rights Institution) made a decision On the initiation of an investigation into fundamental human rights issues and initiated an investigation concerning decisions following which persons, until 1 January 2016, were declared to be legally incapacitated. The investigation was launched in order to review the decisions and possibly unjustified restriction of such persons’ rights. The aim of this investigation was to determine whether the implementation of provisions of Article 72 of Law No. XII-1566 on the amendment of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania stipulating that court rulings passed before the entry into force of this Law and declaring persons to be legally incapacitated have to be reviewed within two years from the date of entry into force of the Law, as well as to clarify the possible reasons of the misapplication of the afore-mentioned provisions of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter referred to as “the Civil Code”). In the course of the investigation, requests for information were prepared and sent to all municipalities in the country, the State Enterprise Centre of Registers and the National Courts Administration.
- On 21 September 2018, the Seimas Ombudsman (Head of the National Human Rights Institution) made a decision On the initiation of an investigation regarding fundamental human rights issues and launched an investigation into the proportionality of the regulation of the social insurance of convicted persons and the rights of such persons that may be unreasonably restricted. The aim of this investigation is to determine whether current legal framework, which provides thatprisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment are not insured by state social insurance, except for the social insurance of accidents at work and occupational diseases established by the laws of the Republic of Lithuania (Article 129 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure) is proportionate. In the course of the investigation, requests for information were made and sent to all detention institutions of the country, State Enterprise “Mūsų Amatai”, the Prison Department, the Ministry of Justice, and the Lithuanian Institute of Law was asked for its competent opinion. The investigation is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2019.