NHRI activity in 2019

In 2019, while performing the functions of the National Human Rights Institution the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office paid great attention to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities, thus looking into the aspects of the enforcement of social and economic rights of these persons, the process of monitoring legal incapacity, drawing attention to the rights of persons with disabilities when providing alternative reports to international organisations. The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office also analysed the reform of the penal enforcement system, organised training for officials of correctional institutions on the implementation of human rights-based supervision of life sentences, as well as contributed to the organisation of the National Forum on Human Rights to celebrate the International Human Rights Day for the second year in a row. In addition, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office presented the alternative report to the United Nations on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Lithuania and to the UN Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – the alternative report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Carried out the monitoring of human rights in Lithuania and prepared reports on the human rights situation (Article 192(2)(1))

  • On 5 February 2019, the Seimas held a meeting with the Ombudsman for Children Edita Žiobiene, representatives of the Lithuanian Trade Union ‘Solidarity’, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – the Ministry of Justice) and the Prison Department under the Ministry of Justice (hereinafter – the Prison Department) to discuss the problems of reorganisation at the places of detention. The meeting focused on the availability of high-quality health care services in prison, emphasised that while convicted are persons whose freedom is restricted, this should not be the reason for restricting their access to health care and services.
  • On 21 March 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office attended the meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) with representatives of ministries, other responsible executive bodies and non-governmental organisations to discuss the issues of the Ninth and Tenth Periodic Report under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
  • On 19 April 2019, the meeting with representatives of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute was held at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office to discuss the possibilities of cooperation in addressing the human rights problems.
  • On 12 June 2019, the meeting with representatives of the Lithuanian Disability Forum was held at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office to discuss possibilities for cooperation in addressing the issues of ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities, and the activities carried out and planned.
  • On 5 November 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office met with representatives of the Lithuanian Gay League association. During the meeting, the projects currently being implemented by the LGBT in the field of human rights and possible opportunities for cooperation were discussed.

Disseminated information on human rights and raised the awareness of the society on the human rights issues (Article 192(2)(2))

  • On 11 February 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office participated in the discussion ‘Right to freedom of expression: Challenges and a constructive response’ organised by the Seimas Committee on Human Rights.
  • From 12 April to 7 June 2019, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office conducted a weekly Human Rights Training Programme for students, during which students of M. Romeris University and Vilnius University were familiarised with the main international documents regulating human rights, were taught to understand the goals and challenges of preventing torture, manifestations of discrimination, and participated in meetings with various NGOs active in the field of human rights.
  • On 20 September 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office participated in the conference ‘European education on Values and Humanity’ in the European Humanities University, which created the framework for dialogue between academic community and public institutions. In his speech, Vytautas Valentinavičius, the Head of the Human Rights Division of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, emphasised the need to pay greater attention to human rights when training specialists.
  • On 27 September 2019, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office organised the conference of ombudsmen from the Nordic and Baltic countries ‘Ensuring social and economic rights is a safeguard of a dignified life’. At the conference, speakers and participants from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway shared their experience and assessed the progress of neighbouring countries in the area of social and economic rights. The conference revealed that despite differences between countries, they have very similar problems and, accordingly, a sustainable cooperation between neighbouring countries can help find common solutions of problems.
  • On 22 October 2019, the staff of social care institutions in Telšiai County received training ‘Human rights-based care of persons in social care homes’. The training covered one of the most important problems in social care institutions related to the proper enforcement of the rights of older people. Theoretical training was intertwined with a realistic solution to practical tasks in order to draw the attention of social care employees to challenges arising in practice. Social care staff who attended the training was familiarised with human rights-based methods of providing social care services, whereby all aspects of service planning, policy-making and practical activities are based on human rights principles and standards. The Head of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office noted that it is important to be able to identify problems in social care institutions, but it is even more important to be able to ascertain the causes of problems and help find solutions to these problems.
  • On 11 December 2019, the training ‘Supervision of life sentences based on human rights: areas for improvement’ was organised at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office for staff of correctional institutions. During the training, the objectives and principles of prevention checks were presented, the importance of a preventive approach was stressed, and the underlying provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were analysed. Representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office reminded the staff of correctional institutions that the main objective of the implementation of human rights in the process of execution of sentences is to ensure proper detention conditions for convicted, protection against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to provide opportunities for the convicted to change their lives and have a positive impact on their own future. During the training, the staff of correctional institutions could check their knowledge by performing practical exercises during which they had difficulty in identifying hidden potential violations of human rights and risks in terms of human rights.
  • For a second year in a row, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office has contributed to the organisation of the National Forum on Human Rights to celebrate International Human Rights Day. In 2019, the event in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child gathered a large group of human rights activists, scientists, diplomats, ombudsmen, schoolchildren and students, business representatives, public servants, and politicians. During the National Human Rights Forum, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and the Human Rights Monitoring institute joined forces to touch on the particularly relevant topic and answer the question ‘Are Lithuanian prisons capable of achieving the goals of punishment?’ Gintautas Sakalauskas, the Head of the Criminalists’ Association of Lithuania, Virginijus Kulikauskas, the Director of the Prisons Department, and Raimonda Čižauskaitė, the Head of the Consulting Centre for the Convicted of Vilnius Archdiocese Caritas, also shared their views. Discussions of the National Forum on Human Rights were attended by representatives of the UNICEF, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other international organisations, ministers, foreign ambassadors, members of the Parliament (Seimas), ombudsmen, academics and non-governmental organisations.

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 5 March 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office attended the meeting with representatives of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) to discuss the peculiarities of the care of persons suffering from tuberculosis in prison and mental health institutions. The APT representatives emphasised that the care of persons suffering from tuberculosis should not differ from that of other inmates of those institutions, and that automatic isolation of the convicted or persons suffering from mental and behavioural disorders is not acceptable and does not comply with the principles of protection against torture laid down in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and, on 2 April 2019, submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination the alternative (shadow) Report on the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Lithuania.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and, on 28 October 2019, submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women the alternative (shadow) Report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in Lithuania.
  • On 28 October 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office attended the meeting with the member of the Secretariat of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, who was the principal speaker for the current report of the Republic of Lithuania under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. During the meeting, the situation of women’s rights in Lithuania was presented more widely and the questions asked by the speaker were answered.
  • On 28 October 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office attended the meeting with the contact person of the National Human Rights Institutions in the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. During the meeting, the mandate of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office as a national human rights institution, the activities carried out and the country’s human rights problems were presented.

Provided suggestions to state and municipal institutions and institutions on human rights problems (Article 192(2)(4))

  • The Seimas Ombudsmen's Office drafted and, on 7 May 2019, submitted to the Seimas Committee on Human Rights and Committee on legal Affairs the position on the Draft Law Amending the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania.
  • On 9 May 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office attended the meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Justice to discuss the comments of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office on the Draft Law Amending the Penal Enforcement Code of the Republic of Lithuania.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and, on 24 May 2019, submitted to the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – the Ministry of Health, MoH) the position on the Draft Lithuanian Hygiene Standard HN 125:2019 ‘Social Care Institutions for Adults: General Health Care Requirements’.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and, on 17 July 2019, submitted to the Ministry of Justice the position on the Law Amending Article 6 of Law No I-1343 of the Republic of Lithuania on Health Insurance.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and, on 23 August 2019, submitted to the Ministry of Justice the position on the Draft Law Amending the Penal Enforcement Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the draft Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Enforcement of Arrests.
  • On 4 October 2019, the meeting with representatives of the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority and the Ministry of Justice was held at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. During the meeting, the Head of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office noted that the quality of functions performed by officials of the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority (hereinafter also – the SCRPA) raises an increasing concern to the Seimas Ombudsman. Other relevant issues related to the implementation of the provisions laid down in the Law on Public Administration, the Law on Consumer Protection and other legal acts related to the examination of complaints, reports and other functions of the SCRPA were also discussed during the meeting.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office prepared and, on 21 October 2019, submitted to the the Seimas Committee on Legal Affairs and Committee on Human Rights the position on the Draft Law No XIIIP-3868 Amending the Penal Enforcement Code of the Republic of Lithuania Law and the Draft Law No XIIIP-3870 Amending the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the enforcement of arrest.
  • On 24 October 2019, the meeting with the Director of the Prison Department took place at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. In the meeting, the specifics of complaints received by the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office from the convicted and the need to pay more attention to improving the qualifications of officials were considered. In addition, the employment problems of the convicted were discussed.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and, on 20 November 2019, submitted to the Seimas Committee on Legal Affairs the position on the Law Amending Article 6 of the Law No I-1343 of the Republic of Lithuania on Health Insurance.
  • On 22 November 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office met with representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Prisons Department, the Police Department and other institutions to discuss observations of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and other institutions on the Draft Law Amending the Penal Enforcement Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the Draft Law Amending the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Enforcement of Arrest.

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 31 January 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office participated at the meetings of the Seimas Committee on Legal Affairs and on 24 January and 6 February 2019 – at the meetings of the Seimas Committee on Social Affairs for discussion of the Draft Law on Fundamentals of Protection of the Rights of the Child.
  • On 15 February 2019, the Seimas Ombudsman applied to the APT for an expert opinion on the care of individuals suffering from tuberculosis held in imprisonment and mental health institutions.
  • On 30 April 2019, the presentation of the draft report on the monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, attended by representatives of the Department for the Affairs of the Disabled and non-governmental organisations was held at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. During the meeting organised on the initiative of the Seimas Ombudsman, representatives of state institutions and non-governmental organisations were familiarised with the Report of 2018 on monitoring the results of activities of social integration of the disabled and the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in which the Department for the Affairs of the Disabled and non-governmental organisations highlighted the major shortcomings in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the country.
  • The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office drafted and, on 27 June 2019, submitted to the Ministry of Justice the position on the ratification of the Protocol amending the Convention on the Protection of Persons in connection with Automated Processing of Personal Data.
  • On 13 November 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office attended the meeting of the Seimas Committee on Human Rights to discuss the drafts of the Law Amending the Penal Enforcement Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the Law Amending the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Enforcement of Arrest.
  • On 13 November 2019, representatives of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office participated in hearings of the Seimas Committee on Legal Affairs on the issues of the adoption and implementation of drafts of the Law Amending the Penal Enforcement Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the Law Amending the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Enforcement of Arrest.

Initiated the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems (Article 192(2)(6))

  • The Seimas Ombudsman conducted the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems in the area of homelessness, during which the country’s strategic documents and the concept of homelessness in them, documents regulating the allocation of resources to address the problem of homelessness, the accounting for homeless people at national and regional level were assessed.
  • The Seimas Ombudsman carried out the investigation into the access of employees of adult social care institutions (social employees, nurses and their assistants) to vocational training and improvement of their professional competences on human rights problems and assessed how many subjects (themes) related to the concept of human rights, various aspects of the implementation of human rights and the mechanism for ensuring these rights are incorporated in vocational training and professional competence improvement programmes for employees of adult social care institutions (social employees, nurses and their assistants) and whether these training programmes include relevant topics related to the highest standards of protection of human rights.
  • The Seimas Ombudsman initiated the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems, such as the review of decisions on recognising persons as incapacitated by 1 January 2016 and potentially unjustified restriction of the rights of these persons; the Ombudsman assessed whether the provisions of Article 72(2) of the Law Amending the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – the CC) which provide that court decisions on declaring persons to be legally incapacitated taken before 1 January 2016 must be revised within two years after the date of entry into force of this Law were properly implemented and investigated possible reasons for the improper implementation of the above referred provisions.
  • The Seimas Ombudsman conducted the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems arising from use of physical abuse by law enforcement officials in their activities. The investigation established that provisions of legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania broadly reflect the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, adequacy, early warning of measures of physical impact intended to be used, respect for human rights emphasised in the international standards of human rights regarding the use of physical violence. However, it was noted that the different interpretation of paragraph 223 of the Convoy Rules revealed during the investigation suggests not only the problem of application of the law, but also the need to improve potentially contradictory legal regulation. The data collected during the investigation revealed that officials do not always use video recording devices when performing their tasks, and, accordingly, the cases of physical abuse often are not recorded. During the investigation, it was also established that the use of excessive physical abuse in practice is still a problem.
  • The Seimas Ombudsman initiated the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems in the State Security Department of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – the SSD) and, inter alia, assessed the compliance of legal acts regulating the activities of the SSD and internal control with the standards of protection of human rights and freedoms.
  • The Seimas Ombudsman initiated the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems in the area of state social insurance regulation of the working convicts and assessed whether the current legal regulation, when the time spent by the convicted serving imprisonment sentences working in prison institutions is not included in the length of service necessary in order to receive benefits in these types of social insurance provided for in the Law on Unemployment Social Insurance and the Law on Social Insurance Pensions, proportionately restricts the right of the convicted to accumulate the length of service and whether such restriction is in compliance with the country’s penal enforcement policy objectives.
  • The Seimas Ombudsman conducted the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems related to the smoking ban in the territory of the Central Prison Hospital (hereinafter also referred to as CPH) and assessed the applicable legal regulation and other information collected during the investigation.
  • On 13 June 2019, the Seimas Ombudsman passed the Decision on opening the investigation into the fundamental human rights problems in assessing the availability of psychological services to persons living in social care institutions. The purpose of this investigation was to assess the need for psychological services, their supply and availability in adult social care institutions and, where necessary, to draw up conclusions and proposals (recommendations) regarding the access to these services and the improvement of the procedure for the provision of these services in terms of ensuring human rights and freedoms. During the investigation, requests for information were prepared and sent to all municipalities and care institutions of the country.

 

 

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