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Summary of the Annual Report of 2003 on the Activity of the Seimas Ombudsmen

It is universally accepted that in their service civil officials should demonstrate impartiality in serving people, respect human rights, not abuse the office and obey the laws. One of the main non-judicial remedies in the sphere of public administration is the possibility to address the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office concerning the abuse of office and bureaucracy of officers of the state government and municipal institutions. A number of the complaints that the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office receives speak about the citizens’ trust in the institution as well as the advantage of such a means to defend one’s rights over another – it is cheap, accessible to everybody and it is also efficient enough. The task of the Seimas Ombudsmen is not to impose penalties on officers for violations but to prevent them from abuse of office and bureaucracy, and in this way improving the work of the public administration system and protecting human rights.

The third-term Seimas Ombudsmen, who started their work on February 12, are Elvyra Baltutytė, Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, Romas Valentukevičius and Kęstutis Virbickas. Mrs. Zita Zamžickienė has not yet finished her term at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. Seimas Ombudsman Romas Valentukevičius was appointed Head of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office.

During 2003 the Seimas Ombudsmen investigated 1888 complaints of citizens. The complaints, which were found grounded, amounted to 39%. The actions of the officials were investigated on the basis of these complaints and decisions were made. 38% of the complaints were rejected due to failure to detect any instances of the abuse of office or bureaucracy. Complaints that did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office under Paragraph 2 and 3, Article 4 of the Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen accounted for 23%. Such complaints were dismissed on their merits.

Under the Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen Paragraph 5, Article 15, the Seimas Ombudsmen shall investigate the applications of citizens, which contain not complaints about officers but requests for the provision of explanations, other information or requested documents. In 2003 the Seimas Ombudsmen dealt with 136 such applications. Besides, by request of officers the Office submitted 12 findings.

In 2003 the Seimas Ombudsmen took up issues for investigation on their own initiative in 28 cases having established indications of the abuse of office or bureaucracy from the press and other mass media as well as from other sources. 219 complaints, which were submitted by the members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, were investigated. The commission of the Government for investigating actions and decisions of civil servants related to the restoration of property rights to land submitted 20 complaints from citizens to the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. 10 of these complaints have already been dealt with.

Having investigated complaints of citizens and answered their applications, the Seimas Ombudsmen made more than 1200 various decisions. In most cases when a complaint is found to be grounded the Seimas Ombudsmen bring the established violations of citizens’ rights to the officers’ attention and they are to resolve these issues during the set time period under the procedure provided by the law and other legal acts.

Having established violations of law, shortcomings, contradictions or loopholes in laws or other legal acts, the Seimas Ombudsmen inform the Seimas, the Government, and draft proposals to amend them. During 2003 the Seimas Ombudsmen proposed the adoption, amendment or revocation of legal acts 22 times.

Having investigated the complaints and established a violation the Office made a decision to refer the material to investigative bodies or bring a court action in 16 cases. In 72 cases it was recommended that the responsible officials evaluate the actions of, or impose penalties on their staff-members. Some 520 decisions were made recommending the officers of state or municipal institutions to take concrete measures in order to eliminate violations and defend the violated rights of citizens.

In 2003 the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office received 1625 complaints concerning actions of officers of state government institutions; 1583 complaints were investigated.

Throughout 2003 the majority of complaints investigated dealt with the restoration of property rights to land, forests, water bodies and land management issues. Such complaints amounted to 44% of all investigated complaints of the actions of officers of state government institutions. 49% of such complaints were found to be grounded. The complaints concerning the actions of officers of correctional institutions amounted to 26% of all investigated complaints of the officers of state government institutions. The complaints of the actions of police officers amounted to 13% of all complaints concerning the actions of officers of state government institutions. This number also includes complaints concerning the actions of police officers, living conditions in police custody, transportation by convoy and actions of pre-trial investigation officials.

In 2003 the Seimas Ombudsmen investigated 472 complaints concerning the actions of officers of municipal institutions. The complaints concerning the calculation of charges for utility services, heating supply and other issues related to utilities amounted to 22% of all actions of the officers of municipal institutions. A lot of complaints investigated concerned compensation, welfare benefits, various land management issues, restoration of property rights to land, dwelling and non-dwelling premises, and compensation instead of the restitution of title to buildings. It should be emphasised that 43% of all the investigated complaints concerning the actions of officers of municipal institutions were grounded.

In 2003 some 938 citizens came to the reception of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. The Seimas Ombudsmen received 454 citizens in 2003, 121 of them in institutions of county administrations, city as well as regional municipalities.

Romas Valentukevičius, Seimas Ombudsman, Head of the Office

Mr. Valentukevičius was appointed on February 12, 2003 as the Seimas Ombudsman to investigate complaints regarding the activity of officers of state government as well as military institutions and institutions ranking as such. During the report period 306 citizen complaints were received on possible abuse of office and bureaucracy of officers. 8 investigations of this number were taken on by the Seimas Ombudsman on his own initiative having established indications of the abuse of office or bureaucracy from the press and other mass media as well as from other sources. 45 applications containing no complaints on the actions of officers and 1 request of the officer to submit a finding were received. Out of 354 complaints investigated 129 were found to be grounded; in 104 of the complaints there was no corroboration of the violations cited therein; 121 complaints were returned uninvestigated or the investigation was terminated due to insufficient grounds for investigation. The majority of complaints (175) received from citizens were concerning the activity of the officers of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania, institutions accountable to it or its police institutions. These main problems were identified:

  • Conditions of detention establishments in police commissariats;
  • Problems of transportation by convoy of detainees;
  • Illegitimate use of physical force by the police officers;

The conditions of state detention establishments along with the living conditions of the detained or sentenced persons, security of their fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the working conditions for staff-members of police custodies are still very sore points. There has been some progress in dealing with the problem of the condition of state detention establishments. Legal acts have been adopted on the improvement of living conditions of inmates in police commissariat detention establishments, however real results are expected only in a couple of years since the implementation of the program directly depends on state funding. If the estimated funding is allocated it is believed that this problem will be dealt with and the persons in detention establishments will be ensured with their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Another relevant problem is the one of the time limit of a person’s detention in police custody. This problem occurs due to different interpretation of legal acts by police officers. Seeking to uniformly interpret the legal acts, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania and the police department were addressed. They approved of the opinion of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office that legal acts are unequivocal and their provisions must be observed.

The issues connected to transportation of persons by convoy still remain relevant. The transport vehicle basis for transportation of persons is old and generally does not meet European Union standards. Therefore, quite a few human rights violations were established when transporting persons by convoy. The transportation vehicle basis is being renewed little by little by buying new vehicles which meet the EU requirements. However, this directly depends on the financial capacities of the state and this process is not fast enough. When investigating the complaints of citizens it was noticed that the officers responsible for transporting persons differently apply the provisions of the legal act regulating the transportation by convoy of detained persons. It should be emphasised that a new legal act regulating the transportation of detained persons by convoy is being drafted. Moreover, the issues concerning the use of physical force by police officers against persons are still relevant, however, there are much fewer complaints received concerning this issue.

The Seimas Ombudsmen also face the problem of information presentation. Upon entrance into force of the new code of criminal procedure 2003-05-01 pre-trial investigators quite often try not to present information and documentation to the Seimas Ombudsmen claiming that the information of the pre-trial investigation can only be made public by permission of the prosecutor. The law does not grant the Seimas Ombudsmen the right to evaluate the validity or legitimacy of decisions made by prosecutors or pre-trial investigators. However, the law gives the right to the Seimas Ombudsmen to investigate facts of the abuse of office and bureaucracy of a prosecutor or pre-trial investigator when conducting a pre-trial investigation.

The Seimas Ombudsman should seek to prevent possible violations of the law in the sphere of public administration. The purpose of the Law on Public Administration of the Republic of Lithuania is to form the necessary legal preconditions for implementation of the provision of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania that all institutions of power shall serve people as well as promote the administrative capacities of public administration institutions, increasing the effectiveness of their activity. However, as the practice of the Seimas Ombudsmen shows, the officers of state institutions frequently violate this legal act when dealing with citizens’ problems. In dealing with complaints of people concerning the actions of officers of state and government institutions, the responsibility of civil servants against the person remains acute – the problems of people are being addressed in an irresponsible and insensitive manner, the answers are being prepared in a hurry and the answers submitted are not exhaustive and informative enough. It is a pity that human rights are violated due to negligence, insufficient knowledge about the legal acts in force and their application to civil servants and other employers.

When investigating complaints the Seimas Ombudsmen often notice that the heads of state of government institutions delegate the investigation of citizens’ complaints to those officers whose actions are being complained about. In such a way the provisions of legal acts in force are violated.

During the report period the Seimas Ombudsmen encountered another major violation of human rights - complaints received in which the heads of higher institutions are asked to evaluate the actions of officers accountable to them, and these complaints are being resent to the institution which is being complained about. In that way the right of a person to use the qualified services of state officers, impartial assessment as well as objective ways of problem settlement is being violated.

According to the Seimas Ombudsmen, the citizens of Lithuania unfavourably evaluate the situation of human rights in the country as well as the actions of organisations for protection of such rights, since they do not receive exhaustive information about these institutions, their actions and their fields of competence. The situation in the sphere of human rights could be improved through educational work and wider utilisation of the media, which would help to educate the society. This would change the post-Soviet attitude of the citizens and the opinion that it is the state which is responsible, not the citizens themselves, for defending their interests and resolving the matters in question.

Elvyra Baltutytė, Seimas Ombudsman

During the report period (February 12, 2003 – December 31, 2003) 535 complaints on the possible abuse of office and bureaucracy of the officers were investigated, 152 complaints were found to be grounded, 288 were rejected as there was no corroboration of the violations found. 95 complaints were returned to the complainants uninvestigated, having specified their rights.

Protection of Rights of the Detained and the Convicted

The majority of complaints filed concerned the activity of officers of imprisonment institutions and detention establishments. Although having reformed the criminal policy and the number of people kept on remand reduced, the Seimas Ombudsman with regard to the presumption of innocence still draws special attention to the living conditions of persons kept there.

With regard to the complaints of the persons in custody, a frequent phenomenon in Lithuanian imprisonment institutions was investigated – the existence of subcultures (classes) of the convicted (the detained). This factor could determine physical and psychological violence between prisoners. The reasons for the spread of this phenomenon along with some proposals were submitted to the Ministry of Justice and the Prisons Department under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania.

While investigating the complaints of 2003 on the inadequate health care in imprisonment institutions, it was established that the main reasons for violations were weak control of contagious diseases and continuous treatment. When the Seimas Ombudsmen addressed the relevant ministers and the Head of the Prisons Department it was decided to organise a joint meeting to deal with these problems.

Emphasising the importance of integration of inmates for the successful implementation of a sentence as well as stressing the importance of social relations, under the initiative of the Seimas Ombudsman the problem of issuing personal documentation to the convicted was dealt with. When the Seimas Ombudsman drew the attention of the Prisons Department to an inappropriate application of legal acts, quite a few inmates regained the right to see their relatives. A ban not grounded by legal acts preventing the utilisation of telecommunications service by the convicted for “a call of transferred charge”, was abolished.

Under the initiative of the Seimas Ombudsman an investigation was conducted through a general search of one of the detention establishments and violations of European Prison Rules were established. After that it was recommended to the Prisons Department and the ministers of Justice and the Interior to take additional measures so that the utilisation of special actions against the convicted would be regulated in more detail and that the circumstances would be recorded in a more comprehensive way in the future.

The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office keeps a close watch on the application of a new Punishment Enforcement Code, which came into force on 1 May 2003. In doing so they seek that the interpretation of new norms would meet the principles of a progressive system of criminal punishment enforcement. The reports of the Seimas Ombudsman drew the attention of the Prisons Department to an inappropriate application of legal acts; she also submitted proposals to the Minister of Justice on the improvement of legal acts.

When the number of applications to receive information from the convicted increased, the Seimas Ombudsman, on several occasions, brought to the attention of prison administrations their responsibility to help the convicted in every possible way in solving their problems.

To sum it up, one could draw the conclusion that a new Punishment Enforcement Code should try to help to particularise the enforcement of punishment, promote more respect for human rights in prisons and establishments of detention and to focus more on the social rehabilitation of the convicted.

Other problems of human rights and public administration

Quite a few complaints were investigated concerning the violations of social rights or, according to the complainants, inappropriate implementation of these rights. In investigating complaints concerning the management of the State Insurance Fund and its territorial branches or the actions of officers of the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, the relevant legal acts regulating social rights were closely analysed, proposals on the amendments of these legal acts and the annulment of legal conflict cases were submitted.

Under the Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office paragraph 2, Article 4, the legality and validity of procedural decisions of the prosecutors and pre-trial investigators shall be outside the Seimas Ombudsmen’s powers of investigation. Unfortunately, pre-trial investigators quite often interpret this provision in too broad a sense, in this way preventing investigations on the abuse of office and bureaucracy which could determine violations of human rights and facts in conducting procedural actions.

In investigating complaints concerning illegitimate interference into personal life and having established that prosecutors do not control the legitimacy of operative surveillance, relevant Committees of Seimas were informed so that the control of operative actions shall be regulated more precisely by the law.

The Seimas Ombudsman in her reports on good public administration emphasises that representatives of the state in implementing the functions on limitation of personal rights provided by law should observe the principle of proportionality by not only avoiding conflicts with citizens but also by not violating the set time limits in providing them with exhaustive information, as well as adhering to the principles of good public administration.

Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, Seimas Ombudsman

Mrs. Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė is appointed Seimas Ombudsman to investigate complaints regarding the abuse of office and bureaucracy of administration officers of Vilnius and Telšiai regions as well as the abuse of office and bureaucracy of officers of municipal institutions in these regions. In 2003 the Seimas Ombudsman received 410, investigated 288, submitted 6 findings and answered to 13 applications.

As far as issues of the complaints are concerned the majority of complaints received (56%) were related to land matters. The majority of the complaints received and investigated concerned issues of restoration of property rights to land, however a number of complaints received related to the legalisation of private farms and privatisation of land. There are objective and subjective reasons for a large number of complaints in this group. The objective ones are related to the change of legal acts regulating Land Reform - their incompletion, whereas the subjective reasons relate to the sometimes improper work of officers responsible for the preparation of documents for restoration of property rights to land, privatisation and decision making. The implementation course of Land Reform in these regions also determined a large number of problems and complaints received. According to the data submitted by the National Land Agency under the School of Agriculture, the Land Reform is 95% implemented in the Telšiai region, and 70% in the Vilnius region. Severe violations were discovered during the course of the investigation of complaints, thus there were proposals to revoke the adopted decisions as well as to question the violator’s continuance in the office.

The practice of complaint investigation shows that there are quite a few persons whose issues of legislation of personal farms remain unsettled. Seeking to protect the rights of these citizens, the Ombudsman initiated discussions, which led to the conclusion that this problem could be solved only by amendment of the legal acts in force. Therefore, the draft Law on Land Reform of the Republic of Lithuania Article 15 was submitted.

Quite a number of facts were established in investigating the complaints of citizens on land issues. It was established that for some complainants when granting them with state-owned land in territories favourable from a recreational, economic – commercial point of view, instead of their inherited land in other areas under the present legal acts, the calculated price of the land was too low. The methodology of calculation of the existing price of land set preconditions to get large plots of land in prestigious territories instead of low-priced plots of lands in not as prestigious territories. The Ombudsman proposed that the Government organise the drafting of amendments to the relevant legal acts. At present the law amending the Law on Land Reform is drafted and is being discussed by the Government.

The issue on the restoration of property rights to land in the City of Vilnius is a relevant one. After the investigation of one complaint on the issue the representative of the Government addressed the court on the revocation of the Vilnius City Council decision, which practically stops this process. The Vilnius District Administrative Court satisfied the appeal; however, the Vilnius City Council appealed it to the Supreme Administrative Court. The court has not made a decision on it yet. At present the Seimas Ombudsman is also dealing with the restoration of property rights to land in Trakai. The complaints show that applicants for the restoration of property rights to land they owned in Trakai before nationalisation, but who cannot be compensated for the owned land in kind and therefore have a right to obtain new plots of land without payment for individual construction, etc. and other purposes in the City of Trakai, have not been able to implement this right. The Ombudsman initiated the investigation on the course of solution to the problem on the allotment of plots of land for individual construction in Trakai City.

During the report period the Seimas Ombudsman investigated 102 complaints relating to the abuse of office and bureaucracy of municipal officers. The majority of complaints in this group were the ones concerning social benefit, public utilities, charges for public utility services and exploitation of buildings, the planning of territories, construction, reconstruction and planning works. In investigating the complaints of this group some problems became clear. It was established that the City of Telšiai inhabitants were being charged for sanitation from yards and streets, whereas the decision of the Vilnius City Municipality Board regulating that administrators of dwelling premises should calculate the elevator depreciation fee without the consent of the owners of these premises is, in part not in conformity with the requirements of the legal acts of higher judicial powers. The fee for sanitation was abolished after the Seimas Ombudsman explained to the officers of the Telšiai region municipality the reasons why this fee was ungrounded. Intentions are to also change the decision on the depreciation of elevators.

158 complaints investigated during 2003 by the Ombudsman were found to be grounded. That means that all reports on the investigation of such complaints established the abuse of office and bureaucracy of officers, The decisions with recommendations to eliminate the violations were made by the Ombudsman. The Seimas Ombudsman controls the execution of all decisions till their full implementation. It should be emphasised that the majority of decisions made by the Ombudsman during the reported period were implemented. According to the Seimas Ombudsman, she can achieve positive results in dealing with the problems raised in complaints only when she closely cooperates with the relevant officers.

5 complainants addressed the Ombudsman during the report period. These complainants live in dwelling premises with registered housing communities. The complaints concerned the actions of the community management bodies, most by the chairmen of a housing community. The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office is not empowered to deal with complaints of this kind under the law regulating the activity of the institution. Also, there are no other institutions or bodies coordinating or supervising the activity of housing communities. According to the Seimas Ombudsman, in a situation when community members can only settle their problems in court violates human rights. Therefore, at present the Seimas Ombudsman is considering the possibility of initiating a proposal that the legal act provided with the body supervising the activity of communities.

Kęstutis Virbickas, Seimas Ombudsman

During the report period (2003 02 12 – 2003 12 31) Seimas Ombudsman Kęstutis Virbickas investigated 297 complaints. 111 complaints were found to be grounded, 101 were rejected as there was no corroboration of the violations found and 85 were rejected due to insufficient grounds.

The Seimas Ombudsman investigated 15 applications of citizens, which contained not complaints about officers but requested for the provision of explanations and other information. Also, under the Law of the Seimas Ombudsmen, Article 23 the Ombudsman submitted 4 findings on whether or not the rulings will entail consequences which could later be complained about to the Seimas Ombudsman.

Having established indications of the abuse of office or bureaucracy from the press and other mass media as well as from other sources, the Seimas Ombudsman took up the matter for investigation on his own initiative. In all cases violations of legal acts were established.

Also, the Seimas Ombudsman arranged meetings with people in Kaunas and Utena. In addition, every Monday he would receive people at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office reception. 93 citizens attended these meetings and they were consulted on various legal matters.

The majority of complaints received related to the actions of heads of regions and officers of municipal administration institutions on the restoration of property rights to remaining real estate (43%): on the restoration of property rights to buildings – 5%, on the restoration of property rights to city land – 5%, on the restoration of property rights to land in the countryside – 33%.

According to the Ombudsman, when investigating complaints it is necessary not only to seek and resolve the problem of a specific complainant but also to identify and eliminate problems that gave rise to such complaints. It should be emphasised that due to the large number of complaints received the Seimas Ombudsman is limited to investigating only particular complaints.

The majority of decisions made by Mr. Kęstutis Virbickas during the report period were decisions to bring to the officers’ attention the facts of negligence in the office, non-compliance with laws, violation of professional ethics or bureaucracy and to recommend applying measures in order to eliminate the violations, their causes and circumstances. Such decisions were made in 71 cases.

In three cases the decisions proposed by the Ombudsman were not implemented due to bureaucracy, in one case – to abolish the adopted decision. In 7 cases the Seimas Ombudsman recommended that the heads of the institution evaluate the actions of officers accountable to them as well as to consider the issue of imposing a disciplinary penalty on staff-members. In five cases the Seimas Ombudsman exercised the right granted by law to inform the Seimas and the Government on the shortcomings of legal acts and recommended their amendment. The majority of the decisions by the Seimas Ombudsman were implemented.

Zita Zamžickienė, Seimas Ombudsman

In 2003 the Ombudsman investigated 321 complaints, 128 of them were found to be grounded, 113 were rejected as there was no corroboration of the violations found and 80 were returned not investigated (during the course of investigation it was established that the settlement of the issue fell beyond the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman). Also, under the Law of the Seimas Ombudsmen, paragraph 5, Article 15, and Article 23, 18 applications of citizens, which contained not complaints about officers but requested information, were investigated. One finding was submitted as to whether or not the rulings would entail consequences, which could later be complained about to the Seimas Ombudsman.

In 3 cases the Seimas Ombudsman, exercising her right granted by law, took up the matter for investigation on her own initiative.

In the report period the Seimas Ombudsman arranged meetings with people in the City of Šiauliai, Joniškis and Pakruojis’ regions and the Marijampolė Municipality; 62 citizens came to these meetings. Also, 27 citizens came to appointments at the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office.

It should be emphasised that out of 321 complaints investigated, 192 related to the abuse of office and bureaucracy of heads of municipal administration institutions and 161 complaints - to their structural units.

Having analysed the complaints investigated through the actions of officers, the Ombudsman came to the conclusion that civil servants are not always willing to resolve the issues; therefore, in order to defend their legitimate interests citizens are forced to address the Seimas Ombudsman with complaints. In a number of applications people indicate that they are addressing the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office as a last non-judicial institution with the expectation of finding qualified legal support. Having received a complaint from a citizen and having formulated the problem indicated in it, the Ombudsman would recommend that the responsible officers deal with the indicated problems and where that was not possible – to submit an official position with arguments and based on legal acts on the indicated issues. It should be noted that such a method has proven itself in practice since, in quite a few cases, the issue was resolved in principle. So, in a number of cases the problem was dealt with in a positive way in the very beginning of the complaint investigation and upon arrival of settlement at the place of occurrence. It should be noted that when defending a citizen I also seek for improvement in administrative behaviour bearing in mind whether the state, officers or institutions delegated by it, fulfil their responsibilities to serve people and do not violate human rights and freedoms.

Having compared the issues of the investigated complaints on the actions of officers of municipal administrative institutions over a couple of years, one can see that the main problems remain the same: building restitution and compensation for it, building construction, reconstruction works, exploitation, building privatisation, provision of places for residence, public utilities, land management issues, custody and care. However, this report concentrated more on the complaints related to Land Reform, the problem of restoration of property rights to land, forest and bodies of water which citizens owned prior to nationalisation, since the investigation of these complaints has fallen within my competence since 2003 02 13.

Having analysed the complainants’ indicated cases of negligence and bureaucracy of officers, the Seimas Ombudsman directly faces problems of the implementation of provisions of legal acts and laws. The settlement of specific issues in exercising the function provided by law to investigate the validity of officers' actions enables the disclosure of shortcomings and contradictions of legal acts. Therefore in implementing the right provided by the Law on the Seimas Ombudsman, point 8, paragraph 1, article 28, to recommend to Seimas or other state institutions to amend the laws or other statutory acts addressed to the committees of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, ministers with relevant proposals which bring attention to faulty provisions of legal acts and gaps in legal acts which raise problems in implementing them in practice.

Having conducted an exhaustive investigation of the circumstances indicated in the complaint and having found the complaint grounded under the Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen, Article 22, the Seimas Ombudsman can submit recommendations and inform the responsible persons and complainants on the investigation results. Under the Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen, paragraph 3, Article 22, the Seimas Ombudsman’s recommendation to abolish, amend or make a decision to eliminate violations of the law, their causes and circumstances must be considered by the institution or the officer to whom the recommendation is addressed. The officers of the municipality and regional head administrations refused to implement only 10 of my decisions taken during the report period. In this way by establishing specific cases of violations of legal acts, emphasising them as well as informing the heads of the relevant institutions and recommending them to take measures in order to eliminate the established violations, the role of real mediator between the citizen and government institutions is being implemented as well as public administration being improved.

International Cooperation

Meetings with Foreign Representatives

In 2003 the Seimas Ombudsmen received a number of colleagues from abroad and representatives from international organisations for their work visits. They shared experiences with them and discussed human rights issues.

Experts Francisco Cardona and Xavier Sisterna from SIGMA (organisation supporting improvement in governance and management in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe) visited the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. The aim of the visit was to evaluate the public system and the functioning of administrative institutions in Lithuania, the future Member State of the EU as well as to submit a report to the European Commission. Seimas Ombudsmen Mr. Valentukevičius and Ms. Baltutytė presented the fields of activity of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, discussed the problems which occur during work, the topics of complaints and the cases of abuse of office and bureaucracy of officers.

A United Nations expert lawyer from Canada, Mr. Daniel Bilak, visited the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office. Mr. Bilak specialises in administrative proceedings and is interested in the reform of administrative courts in Lithuania. He was met by the Head of the Office Mr. Valentukevičius. The information submitted during the meeting was incorporated into Mr. Bilak’s report ‘Administrative Justice in Lithuania’.

Also, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles paid a visit to Lithuania. The Seimas Ombudsmen, Equal Opportunities Ombudsman and Children’s Rights Ombudsman attended the meeting. They introduced the activity of their institutions, raised the main relevant problems and violations in the sphere of human rights in Lithuania. The information submitted during the meeting will be incorporated into the Council of Europe report on the situation of human rights in Lithuania.

Apart from the meetings mentioned above the Seimas Ombudsmen received a delegation from the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Bulgaria, led by the Vice-Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Sevdalin Bozhikov, the Chairman of the Petitions Commissions for North Rhine-Westphalia Mrs. Barbara Wischermann along with a delegation from the committee, Human Rights Commissioner of the Russian Federation Mr. Mironov and delegations of officials working in the sphere of human rights protection in Mongolia and the Kingdom of Nepal.

Support for Establishing Ombudsman Institutions in the Countries of Transcaucasia and Central Asia

In 2003, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office paid a lot of attention to the newly established Ombudsman institutions in Kirghizia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the initial stages of their establishment these institutions need every kind of support. The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office funded by the United Nations Development Program and Open Society Fund Lithuania provided expert support and shared their work experience.

The representatives from Ombudsman institutions in Kirghizia, Kazakhstan and Georgia came to the Seimas Ombudsmen institution for a study visit. The guests were presented with the role of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office in the legal system of the Republic of Lithuania, the legal basis regulating the activity of Lithuanian Ombudsmen, the procedure of investigating citizens’ complaints, organisation of the institution’s work, reports and other practical questions.

On June 13, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR), the Institution of Public Defender of Georgia and the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania signed the Agreement on the Implementation of the Ombudsman Offices Staff Exchange Program (Mentoring Project). This is part of a project funded by the OCSE/ODIHR. The program for the exchange of staff members aims at sharing experiences among the Ombudsman institutions’ staff, getting acquainted more closely with the work organisation at partner institutions, problems and looking for possible solutions.

Under the agreement mentioned above, Seimas Ombudsmen advisers Mrs. Virginija Pilipavičienė and Ms. Rūta Menčikovskytė visited Georgia. They met the workers of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, other institutions protecting human rights and freedoms – the Ombudsman Institution of Abhasia, the Human Rights and Petitions Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, Department for Human Rights Protection at the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, participated in meetings at the municipality of Tbilisi City, juvenile and women imprisonment institutions, non-governmental organisations. During the meetings they discussed the role of the Ombudsman institution in the system of institutions protecting human rights, laws, institutional structure, and methods of work of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and Public Defender’s Office of Georgia. The exchange program is intended to be continued in the future.

Seimas Ombudsmen Ms. Šalaševičiūtė and Mr. Virbickas participated at the international round-table discussions in Issyk-Kul as experts, organised by the United Nations Development Program and the Institution of Ombudsmen of Kirghizia. Lithuanian Ombudsmen shared their work experience and consulted the staff-members of a newly established Ombudsmen Institution of Kirghizia.

Seimas Ombudsman Ms. Šalaševičiūtė gave presentations at the 2nd International Round-Table meeting launched by the UNDP, which was held in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Ombudsman introduced the experience of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office in the field of human resources as well as the relations of the Ombudsmen’s Office with courts, participated in discussions on the importance of establishment of regional Ombudsman offices and specialised Ombudsman institutions.

Ms. Šalaševičiūtė also participated in an international seminar-discussion “International Experience of the Ombudsman Institution” in Yerevan (Armenia) where she introduced Lithuania’s experience in establishing the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, the main problems as well as gave recommendations on the Ombudsman Law of the Republic of Armenia.

Conferences, Seminars and Other Events Abroad

The Seimas Ombudsmen participated in a number of events organised by the Council of Europe, European Ombudsman Institute, International Ombudsman Institute, European Ombudsman and other foreign colleagues.

Due to the forthcoming Lithuania’s membership in the EU, the relations of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and the European Ombudsman became more active. Since April 2002, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office has been participating in a liaison network of ombudsmen and similar bodies which has been established seeking to promote a free flow of information about Community law and its implementation, as well as make possible the transfer of complaints to the institution best able to deal with them. At present the European Ombudsman network involves 90 institutions in 30 European countries. By means of this network the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office submits information on the events in the institution, as well as more important problems raised in complaints, shares experience with its European counterparts. The information in English is being submitted to the Newsletter of the European Ombudsmen on a regular basis. In May under the request of the European Ombudsman the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office delegated a specialist from the institution who submits the information mentioned above and is a contact person between the national Ombudsmen’s institution and the European Ombudsman.

Seimas Ombudsman, Head of the Office Mr. Valentukevičius participated at the 8th European Ombudsmen round-table meeting organised by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Norway, which was held in Oslo, Norway. Such an event is organised once in two years and is intended to discuss relevant problems of the national Ombudsmen of the Council of Europe as well as representatives of other institutions related to human rights protection and the role of Ombudsmen in dealing with them. During the 8th European Ombudsmen round-table meeting the topics for discussion were as follows: legal protection of prisoners, rights of representatives of ethnic minorities, the right to access official documents as well as respective powers of the Ombudsman and courts.

Discussing the legal situation of inmates in their countries, the participants of a round-table discussion agreed that a provision on the role of Ombudsmen in monitoring the protection of prisoners’ rights should be incorporated into new European Prison Rules that are being revised at the time. A question of Ombudsmen and court relation raised a number of discussions, the importance of the right of Ombudsmen to address the Supreme Court.

The Seimas Ombudsmen also took part at a conference “Ombudsman and the European Union Law” in Warsaw, the first Conference of Nordic and Baltic countries and Legal Chancellors in Tallinn, the international conference organised by the International Ombudsman Institute “Ombudsman in Old and New Democracies” in Insbruk, International Ombudsman Conference “Changing Nature of the Ombudsman Institution in Europe” in Nicosia, at the conference organised by the European Centre for Minority Issues in Berlin, at the seminar organised by the European Ombudsman for liaison officers of Ombudsman institutions and similar bodies in EU member states and accession countries “European Information, Advice and Justice for all” in Strasbourg.

Educational-Preventive Activity and Public Relations

The Seimas Ombudsmen are not limited in their activity by only investigating citizens’ complaints concerning the abuse of office and bureaucracy of officers. In conducting educational-preventive work of no less importance, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office together with the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights organised a series of seminars for implementation of provisions of the National Human Rights Action Plan in the Republic of Lithuania on the education and training of officers of law enforcement institutions. The seminar “Rights of the Prisoners” was held in the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania where Seimas Ombudsman Ms. Baltutytė gave a presentation “Complying with International Standards of Human Rights Penitentiary Establishments”, and adviser of the Ombudsman Ms. Menčikovskytė gave an overview on the features of complaints of the imprisoned in the activity of the Seimas Ombudsman. Another seminar was organised in the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania “Human Rights Protection in the Criminal Procedure”. Seimas Ombudsman Ms. Baltutytė overviewed the complaints filed with the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office concerning the actions of prosecutors, the issues of complaints, as well as emphasised the importance of constructive cooperation in investigating complaints on possible human rights violations.

Seimas Ombudsmen also actively participated in scientific and other conferences; read lectures to law students introducing them with the Seimas Ombudsmen’s activity.

Head of the Office Mr. Valentukevičius gave a lecture at the event “Lawyers at Work 2003” (TeDar 2003) organised by Lithuanian National Group Vilnius section of European Student Lawyers Association (LSA Vilnius). During TeDar 2003 Mr. Valentukevičius introduced students of law with the work of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and answered their questions.

Seimas Ombudsman Ms. Baltutytė read a report at the international scientific conference organised by Lithuanian Law University “Topical Issues of the European Union Law in the Context of European Union Draft Constitution”. During her presentation the Seimas Ombudsman discussed the role of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and presented the amendments of the European Union Constitution proposed by the European Ombudsman.

Seimas Ombudsman Mr.Virbickas gave a presentation at the conference organised by the Department of Public Administration of the Ministry of the Interior “Public Ethics in Municipalities”. The topic of the presentation – “Essential Aspects of the Seimas Ombudsmen Activity to Ensure Transparent Activity of Municipality Policies and Civil Servants.”

In seeking transparency, the Seimas Ombudsmen submit reports on their activity as well as the established human rights violations; they read these reports in various events, on the radio or other media. The Office of the Seimas Ombudsmen prepares summaries of the most important complaints; these summaries are placed on the website of the Office on a regular basis http://ombuds.lrs.lt and disseminated to the representatives of the media. You may find information on the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, their fields of activity, functions, the procedure of filing the complaint, international relations at the address http://ombuds.lrs.lt. Here you may also find information on the news in the Office. Every quarter of a year the Office publishes information bulletins, which are disseminated in governmental and municipal institutions, libraries as well as placed on the website. Press conferences are launched to discuss more important complaints or events. Every last Tuesday of the month the Seimas Ombudsmen discuss on Lithuanian Radio I program “Šauksmas“ (‘Call’) where they share their views on topical issues in the sphere of human rights protection.

Other Topical Issues

European Ombudsman Prof. Nikiforos Diamandouros at the conference “Changing Nature of the Ombudsman Institution in Europe” on October 9-10 in Nicosia, Cyprus informed the participants of the conference that the Intergovernmental conference of the European Union will discuss his proposed amendments to the Draft European Constitution and asked the Ombudsmen of the EU member states and candidate countries to address the Governments of their countries not to object of his proposals.

The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office Board deliberated the mentioned proposals. Referring to the practice of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and regarding the importance of the European Ombudsman’s proposals they were approved. The Head of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office addressed the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania as well as the Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania in written asking to approve of the adoption of the mentioned proposals at the intergovernmental conference.

The Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen was adopted in 1994. At present the amended version of 1998 is in force. The practice of the law shows that some provisions of the law are not clearly formulated; therefore it causes a lot of discussions. At present there is a new draft Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen which will seek to establish new or amend old provisions related to the definition of the officer, precise listing of areas, officers the activity of which falls beyond the competence of the Seimas Ombudsmen, the differentiation of complaint investigation procedure, the expansion of the Seimas Ombudsmen rights seeking for more effective protection of violated rights.

The version of Article 16 of the Law on Administrative Proceedings establishing the list of disputes that are outside the jurisdiction of administrative courts, which came into force on January 1 2001, is still very debatable. Under such formulation of the mentioned Article the decision of the Seimas Ombudsmen could be appealed under judicial procedure. We think that such a version of the Law on Administrative Proceedings violated the main principle of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s activity – independence, the principle on which the activity of Ombudsmen is based in democratic countries. The Seimas Ombudsmen, upon investigation of complaints, make decisions, which come in the form of recommendations, which under the international Ombudsmen’s practice are not subject to appeal. Such an approach is taken in all European Union member states.

 

 

 

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