Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers Report of Lithuania

Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination

3 March 2011

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has considered the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Lithuania on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Presenting the report, Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, said since it gained independence in 1990, Lithuania had taken a wide range of measures to combat intolerance and racial discrimination. The State had ratified all core human rights instruments and ensured the compliance of national legislation with the international human rights standards regarding non-discrimination on grounds of race or nationality. Ms. Liauskiene stated that the principle of non-discrimination was enshrined in the Constitution and was mainstreamed through legislation in different fields such as employment, social protection, education, and culture. The State had always included provisions on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial, religious and any other inequality in the national legislation.

Ms. Liauskiene said that on 16 June 2009 a relevant amendment of the Criminal Code was adopted which treated racial motivation as an aggravating factor in certain crimes and carried heavier penalties. This showed a clear political will and commitment to combating racial discrimination by the strongest means available. In that respect, from 2008 to 2010 a number of training courses on legal acts prohibiting racial discrimination were organised for law enforcement officials including judges, prosecutors, police officers and lawyers on how to better assess cases of racial, ethnic, xenophobic, religious, gender-based and other related discrimination.

In preliminary concluding observations, Chris Maina Peter, the Committee Expert who served as Rapporteur on the report of Lithuania, thanked the delegation for the adequate clarifications provided, and said the dialogue had been a very good one. Mr. Peter said he had taken note of the extensive dialogue with the delegation and that the Committee would look forward to receiving an even better report from the delegation in the future.

Other Committee Experts raised questions and asked for further information on subjects pertaining to, among other things, updated data about the ethnic composition of the State’s population as well as detailed statistics on ethnic minorities in the country, information on the specific powers of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics, concrete measures to promote the spirit of the European Youth campaign to improve human rights awareness and cement a culture of communication, and measures to eliminate the use of racist symbols such as the Swastika during Sports events. The delegation was asked to explain what measures the government had taken to investigate racist hate speech and violence, notably from basketball authorities and sports fans during sporting events, but also in schools and society against people of African descent and members of the Jewish community.

The delegation of Lithuania included representatives from numerous governmental organizations including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Office of the Prosecution Service, the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman and the Permanent Mission of Moldova to the United Nations at Geneva.

The Committee will present its written observations and recommendations on the eighth and ninth periodic reports of Lithuania at the end of its session, which concludes on 11 March.

When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 March 2011 it will hold a thematic discussion on racial discrimination against people of African descent. This meeting will take place at the Palais des Nations in Room XXVI. On Tuesday, 8 March 2011 the Committee will return to the Palais Wilson where it will continue its consideration of periodic reports with the thirteenth through seventeenth periodic reports of Rwanda (CERD/C/RWA/13-17).

Report of Lithuania

The fourth and fifth periodic reports of Lithuania, submitted in one document (CERD/C/LTU/4-5), say that since 2000 Lithuania’s population has declined 3.6 per cent. The main reasons behind the decrease are the declining birth rate and emigration of young people. According to the data from the 2001 population and housing census, 115 different nationalities live in Lithuania and represent 16.5 per cent of Lithuania’s population. Compared to the data of the 1989 population census, there has been a decline within all ethnic groups: the number of Russians decreased by 124,700 (36.2 per cent); Ukrainians by 22,300 (49.8 per cent); Belarusians by 20,300 (32.1 per cent); and Jews by 8,400 (67.7 per cent). At present, Poles are the largest national minority in Lithuania. As of 1 January 2008, there were 19,932 aliens residing in the Republic of Lithuania and possessing permits for permanent residence here, including 4,795 stateless persons. Most of them were citizens of Russia (10,200), Belarus (1,900), and Ukraine (1,200).

Like other European States, Lithuania is a multicultural country. It has for many centuries been home to various nationalities, cultures, religions, and customs. In addition to Lithuanians, the country is home to Poles, Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Jews, Germans, Tartars, Latvians, Roma, Karaites, and other nationalities. Lithuania is open to all mechanisms applied by international organizations to watch the situation in the field of human rights. Lithuania cooperates closely with structures and bodies engaged in monitoring the situation in the field of protection of the rights of national minorities in Lithuania and the solution of issues related to racism and intolerance. These monitoring mechanisms include bodies from the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The situation in Lithuania in the field of racial discrimination and intolerance is periodically monitored by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) set up by the Council of Europe.

On 1 January 2005, the Law on Equal Treatment was adopted and it came into force on 18 November 2003. The law prohibits any direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnic origin, religion or opinions and provides instruments for implementing the principle of equal treatment. The law also sets certain requirements on job and training advertisements: it is prohibited to specify in such advertisements requirements giving priority to persons of a certain age, sexual orientation, race, ethnic group or religion. A person who thinks the principle of equal treatment has been violated with respect to him/her has the right to appeal to the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman and this does not prejudice the right to seek remedies in courts.

Lithuania takes all possible measures to eliminate racial discrimination and to promote understanding between all races. A set of legal acts have been passed and improved to combat racial discrimination, and the principle of racial non-discrimination is mainstreamed through legal acts in other fields (such as employment, social protection, education, culture, etc.). National legislation is being amended to transpose EU legal provisions concerning racial discrimination. A number of amendments have been drafted to tighten liability for racial acts and to guarantee higher legal protection for victims of racial discrimination. Every effort is being made to implement legal provisions as efficiently as possible so that de facto as well as de jure equality of persons regardless of race or ethnic background is ensured.

The national policy vis-à-vis national minorities is being shaped in the form of long term strategies and implemented through various national minorities’ integration programmes. Efforts are made to promote further cooperation with non-governmental organizations and conduct social research into the problems faced by national minorities. A draft law supplementing the Criminal Code to tighten criminal liability for so-called ‘hate crimes’, i.e. criminal acts committed on the basis of a person’s belonging to a certain social group (age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnic background, language, origin, social status, religion, beliefs or opinions), has been drafted and submitted to the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania for deliberation. This shows a clear political commitment to fight against racial discrimination by the strongest means available, by tightening liability for gross violation of particularly sensitive values. Once passed, the proposed amendments would not only help to prevent criminal activity and implement the principle of justice, but also promote public tolerance.

Presentation of Report

ASTA SKAISGIRYTE LIAUSKIENE, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, in presenting the periodic report of Lithuania, said Lithuania was a multicultural country and was home to various nationalities, cultures and religions. Even though ethnic minorities formed a relatively small part of the State’s population, 16.9 per cent of Lithuania’s population were non-Lithuanians, they were a vital cultural part and had contributed to the country’s development. Since it gained independence in 1990, Lithuania had taken a wide range of measures to combat intolerance and racial discrimination. The State had ratified all core human rights instruments and ensured the compliance of national legislation with the international human rights standards regarding non-discrimination on grounds of race or nationality.

Ms. Liauskiene said Lithuania was open to all mechanisms applied by international organizations to monitor the situation in the field of human rights. Lithuania had taken seriously the first visit of Mr. Doudou Diène, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and had taken necessary measures to implement the recommendations listed in his report. Ms. Liauskiene stated that the principle of non-discrimination was enshrined in the constitution and was mainstreamed through legislation in different fields such as employment, social protection, education, and culture. The State had always included provisions on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial, religious and any other inequality in the national legislation. Lithuania’s accession to the European Union in 2004 had provided a major impetus for improving relevant legislation so that it complied with the European Union system. The changes in national legislation had helped shape government policies for combating all forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination.

Ms. Liauskiene said that previous criminal legislation did not provide the possibility for qualifying racist attacks as criminal acts, but rather as crimes against human life, an individual’s health or public order. On 16 June 2009 a relevant amendment to the Criminal Code was adopted which treats racial motivation as an aggravating circumstance and as a qualifying feature of the crimes of murder, as well as severe and non -evere health impairment for which heavier liability was foreseen. Another amendment of the Criminal Code criminalised the production, possession, distribution or public display of information which promotes national, racial or religious discord among different groups of the population. These showed a clear political will and commitment to combating racial discrimination by the strongest means available.

Ms. Liauskiene underlined that the State was aware that effective implementation of non-discrimination legislation required further efforts by State officials who were in charge of applying it in practice. In that respect, from 2008 to 2010 a number of training courses on laws prohibiting racial discrimination were organised for law enforcement officials including judges, prosecutors, police officers and lawyers on how to better assess cases of racial, ethnic, xenophobic, religious, gender-based and other related discrimination. Given that victims usually hesitated to complain to judicial or other institutions, Ms. Liauskiene said a new version of the Law on Equal Treatment provided for more effective legal protection of these rights.

Victims of discrimination were granted more procedural guarantees as the burden of proof in discrimination cases was shifted to the defendant and the victims could claim financial and moral damages. Associations or other legal persons were entitled to represent victims of discrimination in administrative or judicial matters.

Ms. Liauskiene said hate crimes, including racially motivated crimes, were uncommon, but did occur as in other countries. Data provided by the Prosecutor General’s office showed that over the past three years the number of pre-trial investigations on incitement of hatred on grounds of race, nationality or religion had decreased. In 2008, 69 such cases were initiated, 34 in 2009 and only 20 in 2010. Ms. Liauskiene underlined that most hate crimes were committed on the internet and the newly amended law on the provision of information to the public had expanded the competence of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics to determine whether public information incited discord on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality, language, descent, social status, religious convictions or views.

Ms. Liauskiene explained that national minorities constituted a relatively small but valuable part of the Lithuanian society. According to the 2001 census 115 different nationalities lived in Lithuania. The actual number varied from several hundred Poles and Russians to barely a few hundred Karaites and even a few dozen Greeks, Bulgarians, Hungarians and others. The State’s policies toward national minorities aimed at creating a sustainable environment for the smooth integration of national minorities into Lithuanian society for them to effectively participate in the State’s public life. This policy paid particular attention to issues of education, including teaching of the official language of the State as a key factor for full participation in national social, political and economic life. According to data provided by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights annual report for 2010, 42 per cent of ethnic minorities surveyed indicated that they experienced problems in the labour market due to poor Lithuanian language skills.

The Roma minority was considered to be one of the most socially disadvantaged groups in Lithuania and the State’s national minority policy placed more focus on Roma issues. Three programmes had been implemented in order to foster the integration of the Roma in the realms of social exclusion, education and health problems as well as efforts to preserve their culture and traditions and promoting tolerance. In order to reduce unemployment of the Roma, Ms. Liauskiene said projects aimed at the integration of the Roma in the labour market had been initiated and education programmes had been implemented to support the integration of Roma children in the labour market.

Ms. Liauskiene stressed that promoting tolerance required concrete actions from governments and civil societies and sound legislation, effective law enforcement, education, and youth and media policies. The State believed that education and awareness-raising measures played a critical role in combating intolerance.

The State was aware that even the best anti-discrimination laws were not effective unless they were consistently applied and that was why the government had been implementing national anti-discrimination programmes aimed at diminishing the manifestations of discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, disability, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs in all areas of social life and promoting tolerance. The State appreciated the activities of the non-governmental organisations that implemented tolerance promotion projects which offered new angles of tackling discrimination related problems and expanded public outreach in dealing with this troublesome phenomenon. Ms. Liauskiene said the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson participated in the awareness raising activities for civil servants, non-governmental organization representatives, local administration officers, journalists, teachers and projects for refugees residing in Lithuania.

Ms. Liauskiene emphasised that non-discrimination on grounds of race and nationality was a constitutional principle in Lithuania and the State was firmly determined to implement it. The State also regarded the comments and advice of the Committee as an important tool and resource in its continued efforts to improve the fulfilment of international obligations in this field.

Questions Raised by the Rapporteur and Experts

CHRIS MAINA PETER, the Committee Expert serving as country Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, said Lithuania had ratified most of the strategic international legal instruments, but noted that Lithuania had not made the declaration under Article 14 of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recognizing the Committee’s competence to hear individual complaints from people who felt they were victims of discrimination. The Rapporteur noted that most of the international legal instruments which the State had not ratified came into being before Lithuania became a subject of international law as a sovereign State but encouraged the State to consider clearing this backlog of ratifications. The Rapporteur said Lithuania took its obligations to treaty bodies quite seriously and had been reporting to various bodies such as the Human Rights Council, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee against Torture in keeping with its obligations.

The Rapporteur said that the issue of the composition of the population of the State party was important and had been raised in the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s concluding observations during the presentation of the second and third periodic reports of Lithuania. The Committee requested updated data about the ethnic composition of the State’s population as well as a detailed statistics of the ethnic minority groups in the country. He noted that the State party had provided some detailed information of the demographic composition of the population and said that since the national census was planned for this year the Committee would appreciate if the State party updated it as to the projections about the ethnic composition in the country.

Mr. Peter highlighted the Committee’s recommendation for the State to introduce in its criminal law a provision that made committing an offence with a racist motivation an aggravating offence requiring severe punishment. The Committee would like to get an update on how the amendments would be done and how they satisfied the Committee’s recommendations.

Mr. Peter requested that the delegation provide clarification on a 2007 case in which 9 persons were found guilty of criminal acts under Article 170 of the Criminal Code with precautionary penalties.

Regarding the issue of combating racist and xenophobic practices in the media, the Rapporteur encouraged the delegation to provide further and better information on the specific powers of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics. Was it purely an enforcement office and were there initiatives in the country to encourage journalists to regulate themselves by their own independent body to fight racism without State interference?

Regarding the issue of strengthening human rights awareness and education, Mr. Peter noted that the State party took part in a campaign in that direction and asked the delegation to provide concrete measures to promote the spirit of the European Youth campaign to improve human rights awareness and cement a culture of communication.

The Rapporteur noted with pleasure that the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson was empowered to undertake measures to improve administrative sanctions and encouraged the delegation to provide fresh data in the post-2007 period on the performance of this office and the measures taken to give the office more teeth and resources to ensure effectiveness.

Mr. Peter stated that regarding information of reported instances of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, it would be helpful for the delegation to comment on the existence of a conflict of interest where a police agent had to investigate another police officer on accusations of human rights violations.

The Rapporteur referred to the results achieved by the national anti-discrimination programme in 2006 to 2008 and asked the delegation to inform the Committee on the results and achievements of the programme.

Regarding the integration of national minorities, Mr. Peter welcomed the adoption of such a programme by the State and asked the delegation to inform the Committee of the achievements of the programme and whether the strategy effectively helped foster the integration of national minorities.

Regarding the number of reported cases of racist violence and hate speech aimed at ethnic minorities such as Africans, the Rapporteur asked the delegation to tell the Committee how it had or would come to terms with these acts of racist violence against minority groups.

Regarding Roma and their access to housing, the Rapporteur asked the delegation to update it on how the housing problem was addressed, how Roma children were treated in school, and how Roma women and children were treated in general.

The Rapporteur said the State party was serious in its commitments to dutifully address all relevant issues and congratulated the delegation of Lithuania on a job well done.

Another Expert asked for more explanations about the Tabor community; had they permanently settled or did they continue to move around the country as had been their practice in the past? The Expert also followed up on the issue of Roma children in special schools and underlined that the approach might not facilitate their integration because their mastery of the Lithuanian language would suffer. The delegation was also asked to say if it had taken steps to employ Roma police officers in order to send a message to the Roma and other minority communities to come forward and participate in the public life of the State.

The Expert asked the delegation to provide more information about the Christian community in Lithuania.

Another Expert asked the delegation to spell out the various guarantees put in place with regards to the issue of burden of proof. Regarding prosecutions and investigations of acts of discrimination, the Committee Member asked the delegation what the prosecution of crimes committed via the internet had amounted to as this would give the Committee a clear image of the effectiveness of the legal instruments. The Expert followed up on the issue of the Roma regarding their access to employment, health and housing and stressed that the delegation should comment on the supposed discrimination of the Roma in so far as housing was concerned. The delegation was also encouraged to inform the Committee on the measures taken to combat human trafficking. Commenting on a court decision which was said to be at odds with the Constitution, the Expert asked the delegation to say how the situation had been resolved.

A Committee Expert asked the delegation to say what it was doing to combat the discrimination suffered by some minorities who were said to be stateless. The Expert inquired after the results attained following the implementation of the most recent programme of action for the Roma in the period 2008 to 2010. The expert also commended the delegation on the fact that foreigners with a permanent residence in Lithuania could participate in elections. The Expert also encouraged the State to implement measures to eliminate the use of racist symbols such as the swastika during sporting events.

A Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide more information and statistics on the two smallest minority groups in the country, the Tartars and the Kariates with regard to how they were perceived in the media, what rights they enjoyed and what special services, if any, they were provided with by the State.

An Expert expressed concern about the absence of disaggregated data in relation to the various communities and hoped that the delegation would address the issue in subsequent discussions. The Expert referred to the situation of the State party in relation to Article 4 of the Convention and found that the situation in that regard seemed to have deteriorated since 2006. The delegation was asked to explain what measures the government had taken to investigate racist hate speech and violence propagated, notably by basketball authorities and fans as well as in schools and society against people of African descent and members of the Jewish community. The expert underlined that the Committee would strongly recommend that the State party carry out stronger measures to combat the prevalent prejudices against people of different racial backgrounds.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation stated that it was dependent on statistics to make its analysis and said the data from the ongoing census would be available by the end of the year. The delegation said that apart from Russians, who had more or less left Lithuania, the number of all other national minority groups had remained the same with small increases or decreases. Regarding the smaller Tartar and Kariate communities, the delegation said the State had a very inclusive approach to these groups such that there were government ministers who were Kariate. The Tartars continued to live in Lithuania and maintained their customs, traditions and religion. They had their own mosques and continued to practice and worship together in distinct locations. The delegation said this question was an important one to the government and promised to work on it and respond in more detail in subsequent consultations with the Committee.

The delegation said the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson was established in 1999 and since 2005 it supervised the Law on Equal Treatment which covered several grounds, including all aspects of equality in the state provision of social and other services to the population. It also prohibited all acts which discriminated against anybody and which encouraged unequal treatment. In the domains of education, employment, health and social security the law contained provisions to eliminate potential aspects that may foster discrimination. The Ombudsperson was appointed for a period of five years and the office was funded by the State. The office was responsible for investigating complaints about cases of discrimination and it was expected to forward those cases to the judge if sufficient grounds of discrimination were found. The Ombudsperson was also operational in the realm of public information and basically organised conferences on information dissemination for journalists, non-governmental organizations and other groups of interest.

Regarding mitigating circumstances for racially motivated crimes, the Criminal Code and Penal Code were not separate codes. Criminal liability was established for certain offences committed against individuals due to their ethnic origin which were referred to as offences against equal treatment. Currently in cases related to hatred against ethnic or religious groups, the court may establish aggravating factors if the proof or circumstances surrounding the crimes were clearly established. In that case penalties would be severe and more than just average. Most of the cases they had seen thus far had been committed on the internet and were considered hate speech.

Quoting examples such as attacks on Nigerians and Ghanaians and a case of robbery of foreigners, the delegation said the accused were found guilty and had been sanctioned with severe sentences. Regarding the attack by football fans who used racial slurs against the French football team, the case was dismissed because the court did not find enough evidence to establish the incitement to hatred. Regarding the incident which occurred in Kaonas, known as the Lithuanian basketball capital, two drunken fans started provoking black players and it was judged that this was due to their skin colour; the perpetrator received a one year prison sentence. The delegation said such racial cases no longer occurred. The delegation informed the Committee that the State remained very vigilant and would not hesitate to severely sanction those guilty of committing hate crimes or of incitement to hate, intolerance and racial discrimination.

Regarding the Inspector of Journalist Ethics, the delegation said the law had established the Ethics Commission of Journalists and Publishers which served as a self-regulating body. This commission had established a Code of Conduct which had been approved by all journalists and publishers and Article 55 of the code prohibited the direct instigation of hatred against a person based on racial or religious grounds. The delegation said the inspector was a State official who supervised the application of the code and the law regulating the conduct of journalists and publishers. Following the amendment of Article 50 in 2010, the law sought to establish whether information announced in public was discriminatory on grounds such as sex, sexual orientation, race, religion and so on. The inspector received several requests of this nature and most of them were published on the internet and had been directed against Jews and a few were directed against the Roma and were submitted for investigation.

The delegation underlined that the Ministry of Justice coordinated all legal aspects of information in order to ensure full recognition and respect of citizens’ rights. There was a legal information portal which published public information about the Ministry of Justice to contribute to raising the awareness of the public about the legal framework in force and the functions of the Ministry.

The delegation said that the issues of nationality were handled by the Ministry of Culture which was presently preparing a policy document addressed to national minorities. In this context the new bill that would contain in-depth issues about the nationalities and naturalizations should be adopted this autumn.

The government had also helped set up a council involved in consultative talks concerning the use of languages by national minorities and the council consisted of at least three members of each minority group. It was expected that persons living in compact settlements would be allowed to use the language of the minority group to address any public official or authority.

Concerning the Roma, the delegation said the integration programme for the Roma was designed to fully integrate this group into Lithuanian society while preserving their cultural identity. The funding of the programme was scaled back due to the economic crisis which the State faced. A new planning methodology was adopted and the new programme was expected to cover the period 2010 to 2012.

Regarding the free provision of housing and foodstuff for the Roma, there were social workers who assisted them in filling out social security forms in order to enable them to benefit from the provision of these services.

Seminars on discrimination for police officers and other State officials working with the Roma had been organized in order to increase their awareness on the sensitive issues involved. Other consultations were also conducted and 34 different Roma individuals had been trained on legal issues so that they would eventually assist other Roma persons to properly handle legal matters. Sensitization efforts had also been initiated and were conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Services to facilitate the Roma population’s access to jobs. The Roma now understood the nature of the State’s support in their approach to seeking jobs in order to end their social isolation. The delegation said once every quarter, job days were organized to enable the Roma to find out what their skills were and they received guidance in finding corresponding and suitable jobs. Over 70 Roma individuals who attended the job days had found jobs as a result and these efforts had helped to reduce the negative perceptions of the Roma. The health and sanitation days had not been effectively carried out due to a lack of funding.

Regarding the issue of investigations carried out by a police officer on other police officers, the delegation said this was only in cases where the police officer who was the object of the investigation had not properly performed his/her administrative or work related duty. The delegation underlined that if the police officer was investigated for a criminal offence the responsibility to investigate was assigned to an external authority.

Further questions by Experts

An Expert asked the delegation to explain how the functions of the Ombudsperson had been put together and how the ongoing processes of implementation and follow-up were being carried out. With regards to the Roma, the Expert suggested that the delegation focus on a collective approach on the initiatives undertaken by the government so that the Roma would be given the chance to contribute to enhance the effectiveness of the programmes. The Expert expressed concern that the State did not seem to target Roma women as a separate group in its efforts to provide services to this vulnerable group and asked for data about complaints submitted by the Roma.

Response by delegation

The delegation said that there were complaints from the Roma population about a number of issues such as gender inequality and lack of adequate attention in the housing programme. The delegation referred to the case of a lady of Ukrainian origin who claimed that she faced racial discrimination because she had asked for more pay. The Ombudsperson had held a meeting with the woman and her employer and a positive solution had been arrived at. There were several lawyers and judges who were specialized and had great understanding of discrimination cases.

The delegation said the government had funded the construction of a centre for hygiene and sanitation in order to enhance appropriate health practices. The use of these premises required a minimal fee and this fee took the economic situation of the Roma population into consideration. The constant provision of sanitation and hygiene products was also the government’s preoccupation.

The delegation said one of the most important aspects of solving the problems faced by the Roma and other national minorities was ensuring the implementation of a proper education and information mechanism. The Lithuanian population should be properly educated on how to overcome their prejudices while the Roma children needed to be encouraged to embrace the possibilities offered by education so that they could eventually find proper jobs.

Further questions by Experts

An Expert commented on the provision of housing to the Roma and underlined that it would be necessary to bring in more funds from charity organizations in order to enhance the programmes. The Expert said the State should also embrace alternative mechanisms and approaches in finding solutions for minorities. The Expert expressed interest in information about the existence, or not, of the Liva people who used to live along the Lithuanian and Latvian border.

Response by Delegation

The delegation said it was pleased to note the Expert’s knowledge of all the different groups living in Lithuania and explained that with regards to the Liva, there used to be two historic names to refer to that ethnic minority. According to the latest census, most of the people had integrated through intermarriage and now considered themselves as Lithuanian while others had migrated to Germany, Turkey, Poland and Latvia.

Further questions by Experts

Another Expert expressed interest about the sociological composition of the current population and the economic situation of the youth population. The Expert asked if the State intended to participate in the European Union multi-country programme which was aimed at developing a regional solution to the Roma problem. Regarding the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson’s Office, the delegation was also asked if the State considered that it had met all the requirements necessary to ensure adequate protection of human rights under the Paris Principles. The Expert also asked for an explanation about the State’s position on human trafficking.

Response by Delegation

The delegation said that Lithuania would definitely participate in the European Union multi-country programme. The delegation stated that since 2005 the State had established liability for the crime of human trafficking and the government of Lithuania had been combating human trafficking for a long time now. The government also funded services provided to victims of human trafficking in order to help them return to Lithuania and access the job market. The State also organized training courses and seminars for members of the diplomatic corps on how to better deal with cases of human trafficking.

Regarding the mandate of the Ombudsperson’s office, the delegation said it had been set up along the lines of the Paris Principles.

Further questions by Experts

An Expert sought further clarification on the issue of police investigations carried out on other police officers which was seemingly contradictory. The delegation was also asked to clarify the issue of how independent the judiciary was in applying sanctions on perpetrators of acts of discrimination.

Response by Delegation

The delegation said that the paragraph in question only dealt with official disciplinary investigations in relation to those who failed to adequately carry out their duties. A draft was being prepared and the Minister of the Interior would be granted the power to initiate and investigate such disciplinary matters.

The delegation said that the judicial branch in Lithuania was very independent. The judges did participate in courses organized for them by the Ministry of Justice in order to enhance their understanding of acts of discrimination. The delegation further underlined that the Prosecutor was an independent authority and his/her decisions on a case could only be overturned by a higher judge or another Prosecutor.

Preliminary Concluding Observations

In preliminary concluding observations, CHRIS MAINA PETER, the Committee Expert who served as Rapporteur on the report of Lithuania, thanked the delegation for the adequate clarifications provided, and said the dialogue had been a very good one. Mr. Peter said he had taken note of the extensive dialogue and the Committee looked forward to receiving an even better report from the delegation in the future and hoped that this would enhance the protection of human rights and racial discrimination in Lithuania. Mr. Peter said the Committee would deliberate and communicate their recommendations to the delegation at a later date.

ASTA SKAISGIRYTE LIAUSKIENE, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, thanked the committee for the stimulating discussion and promised that the comments and discussions with the Committee would be deliberated upon by the State and a response would be forwarded to the Committee.
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