U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Lithuania
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Lithuania, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa521c.html [accessed 16 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
LITHUANIALithuania is a parliamentary democracy, having regained its independence in 1990 after more than 50 years of forced annexation by the Soviet Union. The Constitution, adopted by referendum in 1992, established a 141-member unicameral legislature, the Seimas; a directly elected president, who functions as Head of State; and a government formed by a prime minister and other ministers, appointed by the President and approved by the Seimas. The Government exercises authority with the approval of the Seimas and the President. In fair elections in 1992, the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (LDDP)--the successor to the Communist Party of Lithuania, which in 1989 broke away from the Soviet Communist Party--won a majority of parliamentary seats and formed the Government. In 1993 voters elected Algirdas Brazauskas, then Chairman of the LDDP, as President. The Conservatives prevailed in the October and November parliamentary elections, followed by the Christian Democrats. The two parties formed a coalition government (the first in Lithuania's history). A unified national police force under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry is responsible for law enforcement. The State Security Department is responsible for internal security and reports to Parliament and the President. The police committed a number of human rights abuses. Since independence, Lithuania has made steady progress in developing a market economy. Over 40 percent of state property, in addition to most housing and small businesses, has been privatized. Trade is diversifying, and expanding both to the West and the East. The largest number of residents are employed in agriculture (21.7percent), followed by industrial enterprises (20.7percent, including electricity, gas, and water supply) and wholesale and retail trade (16 percent). About 33.3percent of those employed work for state enterprises, while 66.7percent are employed by private companies. The agricultural sector's high proportion of the work force reflects a lack of efficient consolidation of small private farms and represents a vocal protectionist current in economic policy debate. The banking system remains weak, but laws on banking control and supervision are in place and a number of large private banks are undergoing outside audits. The inflation rate for the first half of 1997 was 4.8percent, compared with an annual rate of 13.1percent for 1996. Per capita gross domestic product for the first half of 1997 was estimated at $1,200 (4,800 litas) and unemployment at mid-year was 5.3percent. The balance of trade remains negative due to imports of gas and other energy products from Russia. Major exports include textile and knitwear products, timber and furniture, electronic goods, food, and chemical and petroleum products. The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, but problems remain in some areas. Police on occasion beat detainees and abuse detention laws. The Government is making some progress in bringing police corruption under control. Prison conditions remain poor. The police investigated the desecration of one Jewish site and one Polish site but identified no suspects. State media continues to be subject to political interests. Violence and discrimination against women and child abuse are serious problems.