Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Lithuania: Treatment of ethnic Russians; state protection available (2002-2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 20 December 2005
Citation / Document Symbol LTU100799.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Lithuania: Treatment of ethnic Russians; state protection available (2002-2005), 20 December 2005, LTU100799.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147fc2f.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
Comments Corrected version March 2007
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to a report published by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), in 2003, Lithuania upgraded its domestic legislation in order to guarantee equal human rights for all of its population (IHF 2004, 1). However, Country Reports 2004 indicates that " [a]lthough the law prohibits discrimination of ethnic or national minorities, intolerance persisted" (28 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5).

During 2003, the Civil Code, the Penal Code, the Labor Code and the Law on Education were amended on the basis of the principle of equality of persons (IHF 2004, 1). The Code of Civil procedure came into force on 1 January 2003 (Lithuania 26 Oct. 2004). According t Article 5 of the Code,

every interested person shall be entitled to apply to the court in the manner prescribed by law to seek remedy in case of an infringed or contested right or protection of lawful interest. The principle of equality of persons before the law and the courts, governing administration of justice, is enshrined in article 6: "Justice in civil cases shall be administered only by courts governed by the principle of equality of persons before the law and the court, irrespective of their sex, race, ethnic background, language, origin, social position, religion, views or convictions, type and character of activity and other circumstances" (ibid.).

The Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania came into force on 1 May 2003 (ibid.). Article 169 of the Criminal Code states that

For criminal liability for criminal acts connected with racial or any other type of discrimination: "Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, sex, origin, religion or belonging to other groups: Any person who commits acts aimed at a certain group of people or a member thereof on account of their sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnic background, language, origin, social position, religion, convictions or opinions with a view to interfere with their rights to participate as equals in political, economic, social, cultural, labour or any other activity or to restrict the human rights or freedoms of such a group of people or of its member, shall be punished with community service work or a fine, or detention, or imprisonment for a period of up to three years." (ibid.).

Article 8 of the Republic of Lithuania Code of Criminal Procedure, regulating the language in which the proceedings are conducted, establishes that the parties to a criminal case who do not know Lithuanian shall be granted the right to plead, give evidence and explanations, make motions and complaints, and speak in the court in their native language or any other language they know. In all the above cases also, when the parties to the case examine the materials of the case they shall have the right to make use of the services of a translator/ interpreter in the manner laid down in this code. The suspect, the accused or the convicted person as well as the other parties to the case shall, in the manner laid down in this code, be presented the documents of the case translated into their native language or any other language they know. Besides, article 44 (7) of the Republic of Lithuania Code of Criminal Procedure provides that every person suspected or accused of the commission of a criminal act shall have the right to get the services of a translator/interpreter free of charge.

The right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual, group or institution (ibid.).

No information on the application of these laws could been found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

An amendment to the Law on Education (No. IX – 1630 of 17 June 2003) states that national minorities in Lithuania have the right to education in their own language (Lithuania 26 Oct. 2004), although Lithuanian continued to be taught as an additional course (ibid.; IHF 2004). According to the IHF, there were 56 schools that provided education in Russian, and an additional 49 mixed schools offered Russians classes (ibid.). At the end of 2003, 37 weekend schools were available to Armenian, Belarussian, Estonian, Russian and Romanian minorities so that they could learn more about their own culture (ibid.).

A new labour law came into effect on 1 January 2003 (Lithuania 26 Oct. 2004). The law prohibited discrimination based on "age, sexual orientation, state of health, race, ethnic origin, religion or opinions and provided instruments for implementing the principle of equal treatment" (ibid.). No information on the application of this law could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

A recent report from Freedom House stated that Lithuania guaranteed freedom of religion and academic opinions (2005). The report also stated that freedom of assembly was "generally respected" (ibid.). The report Nations in Transit noted that the Russian community possessed 60 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were working in cultural activites (Freedom House 2004). Ethnic Russians had access to different publications in their native language, and television and radio offered programs in the Russian language (Lithuania 26 Oct. 2004).

Regarding the political representation of minorities, Country Reports 2004 noted that "[t]here were 10 members of Parliament of Russian, Polish, Jewish, or Belarusian ethnic origin. One of the ministers was an ethnic Russian and another was an ethnic Belarusian" (28 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5).

Lithuania has a population of approximately 3.5 million inhabitants (Lithuania 26 Oct. 2004). According to the last census in April 2001, 83.5 percent of the population were Lithuanians, 6.7 percent Poles and 6.3 percent Russians (ibid.). The National Action Plan Against Poverty and Social Exclusion noted that the level of education of ethnic Russians is higher than that of ethnic Lithuanias (EU n.d., 20). The rate of unemployment among ethnic Russians was 20.3 per cent while it was 12.8 per cent among Lithuanians (ibid.). According to this report "[t]hese disparities [were] partially predetermined by the concentration of non-Lithuanians at the territories, which [were] less developed socially and economically" (ibid.). Please consult the attached document from European Union that provide rates of education, unemployment and employment in Lithuania (ibid.). Reports of Human Rights violations committed against ethnic Russians could not be found among the sources consulted for this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Lithuania." United States Department of State. [Accessed 5 Dec. 2005]

European Union (EU). N.d. Employment. Social Affairs and Equal Opportunites. Social Inclusion. "Republic of Lithuania: National Action Plan Against Poverty and Social Exclusion 2004 – 2006." [Accessed 7 Dec. 2005]

Freedom House. 2005. "Lithuania." Freedom in the World. [Accessed 6 Dec. 2005]
_____. 2004. "Lithuania." Nations in Transit. [Accessed 6 Dec. 2005]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 2004. "Lithuania." Annual Reports. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2005]

United Nations. 26 Oct. 2005. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Reports Submitted by states Parties under Article 9 of the Convention. Third Periodic Reports of States Parties Due in 2005. Addendum: Lithuania. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2005]

Attachment

European Union. N.d. Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunites. Social Inclusion. "Republic of Lithuania. National Action Plan Against Poverty and Social Exclusion 2004 – 2006". [Accessed 7 Dec. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, BBC, Council of Europe, CNN.Com, eumap.org, EFE, European Democracy, Factiva, Human Rights Internet, Human Rights Watch, IRIN News.org, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, NCSJ, Relief Web, World Policy Journal.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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