The Seimas Ombudsman reminds that protection of human rights must remain a state priority even in an emergency

30 March 2020

In its role as National Human Rights Institution, the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office has a duty to notice and prevent situations that lead to violations of human rights as well as to promote respect for human rights and freedoms. The Seimas Ombudsman, Augustinas Normantas, considering the tensions over the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, recalls that human rights are of the highest value and that their protection must remain a state priority, even in an emergency. 

The Seimas Ombudsman understands the efforts of the state executive power to protect public health and human lives, but at the same time reminds that the state must ensure human rights in emergency situations. The Seimas Ombudsman also observes that it is the state that has the greatest responsibility for the protection of human rights and the creation of the necessary conditions for their implementation. In addition, the Seimas Ombudsman draws attention to the opinion of the international community that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a reason to restrict human rights and freedoms, and that the situation is not perceived as requiring some intense and necessary restrictions on human rights in a democratic society.

The Seimas Ombudsman notes that, even in an emergency, human rights are the highest value in a democratic country, the protection of which under all circumstances must not only exist but must remain a state priority. In assessing this, the Seimas Ombudsman draws the attention of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania that any restrictions on human rights, even in an emergency, should be carried out imperatively in accordance with the rule of law, the Constitution and the laws applicable in Lithuania, following international obligations in the sphere of human rights.

The Seimas Ombudsman also calls for state and municipal agencies and institutions to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the SPT, specialists’ epidemiologists, as well as the CPT principles for action to be taken in places of detention during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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