COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE STARTS REVIEW OF REPORT OF LITHUANIA



Committee against Torture


4 November 2008




The Committee against Torture this afternoon began its consideration of the second periodic report of Lithuania on the efforts of that country to give effect to the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Introducing the report, Ar?nas Kazlauskas, Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Lithuania, drew attention to the fact that the definition of torture set out in article one of the Convention was now incorporated into the Criminal Code of Lithuania. In addition, ill-treatment, genocide and other harms were defined. Lithuania had also prepared a draft amendment to the Criminal Code to increase responsibility for criminal acts committed on the basis of the fact that the victims belonged to a certain social group – i.e. on the basis of their race, status or religion, among others.

With regard to the importance of international cooperation and international law in fighting cruel or degrading treatment or torture, Mr. Kazlauskas highlighted that, for Lithuania, that cooperation had borne positive fruits. The Committee's recommendations were an important factor in drawing up national instruments to fight torture. A very important role was also given to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the European Council and the European Committee of Human Rights decisions gave a very important impetus for the laws and practice in Lithuania.

Serving as Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, Committee Expert Luis Gallegos Chiriboga requested more detailed statistics on cases of torture. Among others, he asked if rules for administrative detention were actually implemented; for clarification on asylum procedures; and for more information on the extent of the problem of inter-prisoner violence. He also expressed concern that apparently no compensation had been granted so far for victims of torture and asked for more information on the issue of domestic violence.

Alexander Kovalev, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, asked if the training for law enforcement and prison officials was now sufficient and if there was a mechanism to monitor the outcome of such training. For medical and forensic staff, he wished to know if the Istanbul Protocol was used to establish whether torture had been committed. He was also concerned, among others, to know whether the programme to upgrade prisons and places of detention, which was to have been implemented in 2007, had been carried out and asked what Lithuania was doing to address trafficking in women and children.

Other Committee Experts then asked questions on a number of topics including on ill-treatment of asylum-seekers by immigration officials; the detention of children together with adults; psychiatric and medical rehabilitation for victims of torture; and information on incidents of violence and hate speech committed against homosexuals or on the basis of race.

Also representing the delegation of Lithuania were representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior of Lithuania, as well as Eduardas Borisovas, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, and other staff of the Mission.

The delegation will return to the Committee at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 November, to provide its responses to the questions raised today.

Lithuania is among the 145 States parties to the Convention and as such it must present periodic reports to the Committee on how it is implementing the provisions of the Convention.

The Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 November when it will take up the initial report of Serbia (CAT/C/SRB/1).

Report of Lithuania

The second periodic report of Lithuania (CAT/C/LTU/2) notes, with regard to training for law enforcement and penitentiary staff, that on 16 July 2004 the Commissar General of the Police approved the Code of Ethics of Police Officials. The subject of elements of police ethics was also included in the curricula of police training institutions. On 4 March 2002, the Police Training Centre of Lithuania drafted four training programmes. One part of this programme cycle, “Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms” is devoted to training of public police patrols. At present, 1,588 police officers at the lowest level have completed all the cycles of the training programme. Similarly, in 2004, the Training Centre of the Prison Department arranged training seminars on “indications of physical and psychological torture”, for medical staff and psychologists of custodial establishments, and on “international standards of treatment of prisoners and the security of human rights in penal institutions”, for heads of guard and security staff and middle-ranked prison officers. There is also an annual staff training session at every penal institution which includes the mandatory subjects of ill-treatment of sentenced prisoners and pre-trial detainees and the prosecution for the various forms of such abuse.

The Civil Code prescribes liability for damage caused by unlawful actions of pre-trial investigation officials, prosecutors, judges and the court. There is also the Law on Compensation of Damage Resulting from Unlawful Actions of Institutions of Public Authority. In 2004, 14 persons applied to the Ministry of Justice concerning compensation of damage resulting from unlawful actions of institutions of public authority. Four applications were filed. [...] With regard to compensations to victims, such compensations were not paid.

Presentation of Report

AR?NAS KAZLAUSKAS, Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Lithuania, said that Lithuania had joined the Convention against Torture in September 1991, and in doing so had taken on the obligation to unreservedly ban all forms of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Lithuania had consistently held the position that efforts to prevent torture or all forms of ill-treatment had to be seen through the prism of human rights. In presenting its first report, Lithuania had noted that a majority of the provisions of the Convention against Torture had already been translated into domestic law in Lithuania. In drafting its second report, they had tried to answer the Committee's concluding observations and recommendations to that report, including with regard to the definition of torture, access to detainees by doctors and family members and training for the police.

Regarding the definition of torture in the law of Lithuania, Mr. Kazlauskas drew attention to the fact that the definition set out in article one of the Convention was now incorporated into the Criminal Code of Lithuania. In addition, ill-treatment, genocide and other harms were defined.

The current Criminal Code provided protection from ill-treatment, cruelty and torture. It did not separate out discrimination based on gender, nationality, race or religion. However, it had been recommended by the European Council Committee against Racism that Lithuania recognize racially motivated crimes as an aggravating circumstance in its Criminal Code. Lithuania had subsequently prepared a draft amendment to the Criminal Code to increase responsibility for criminal acts committed on the basis of the fact that the victims belonged to a certain social group – i.e. on the basis of their race, status or religion, among others, Mr. Kazlauskas said.

With regard to the importance of international cooperation and international law in fighting cruel or degrading treatment or torture, Mr. Kazlauskas highlighted that, for Lithuania, that cooperation had borne positive fruits. The Committee's recommendations were an important factor in drawing up national instruments to fight torture. A very important role was also given to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the European Council. The European Committee of Human Rights decisions were also a very important impetus for the laws and practice in Lithuania.

In conclusion, Mr. Kazlauskas noted that in Lithuania it was the Ministry of Justice that was responsible for implementing the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It was hoped that the information in the report reflected the complexity of the efforts undertaken by the Government to combat torture and its recognition that it was a never-ending process.

Questions Raised by Committee Experts

LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, on the issue of the definition of torture, stressed that the Committee always asked if the definition of torture set out in article 1 of the Convention could be incorporated in the Constitution of a country, owing to the issue of statute of limitations which could run for other domestic legislation. Also, he requested more detailed statistics on cases of torture.

Regarding rules for administrative detention, which set time limits and other rights of access for detainees, Mr. Gallegos Chiriboga wondered about details of actual implementation of those rules.

On asylum procedure, Mr. Gallegos Chiriboga complained that the procedures, such as for non-refoulement (obligation not to return individuals to countries where there was a risk they would be subject to torture), were not clear. He would also like to hear more about what Lithuania was doing to provide adequate facilities for asylum-seekers and to identify such asylum-seekers that might have been subject to torture.

With respect to prison and detention conditions, what was the extent of the problem of inter-prisoner violence, Mr. Gallegos Chiriboga asked? He noted that, in the report, all cases under this heading were terminated for "lack of evidence". More information was needed on the process for considering the whole question of interpersonal violence.

Another issue of concern was the statement in the report that, while compensation was provided for under the law, no compensation had been granted so far, Mr. Gallegos Chiriboga observed.

The issue of domestic and sexual violence was another area that Mr. Gallegos Chiriboga said needed more clarification. Those issues touched on the very cornerstone of society.

ALEXANDER KOVALEV, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, recalled that the Special Rapporteur on Torture had recently visited Lithuania and issued recommendations, among them to reinforce training for staff on the Convention against Torture. Was the training for law enforcement and prison officials now sufficient? Also, was there a mechanism in place to monitor the outcome of the training?

For medical and forensic staff, was the Istanbul Protocol used in their training to establish whether torture had been committed, Mr. Kovalev added.

With regard to the programme to upgrade prisons and places of detention, which was to have been implemented in 2007, Mr. Kovalev asked if that had been carried out and if specific details could be furnished such as square meters per prisoner. Moreover, what monitoring mechanisms were in place for places of detention and did civil society play a role in prisons monitoring?

According to reports from non governmental organizations, prisoners who had complained had been subjected to sanctions. In that connection, how were investigations carried out inside prisons, Mr. Kovalev asked?

According to the Criminal Code, detainees had the right to access to a lawyer from the moment of arrest. In that context, Mr. Kovalev asked when the moment of arrest was defined. He also asked what legal resources were available to those who could not afford a lawyer.

Mr. Kovalev asked for the number of officials convicted on charges of torture and compensation awarded to victims, if any.

Finally, Mr. Kovalev was concerned about the issue of trafficking with respect to Lithuania, which was a source, destination and transit country for the trafficking of women and children. What was Lithuania doing to address that phenomenon, and to protect Lithuanian women and children who had been trafficked abroad?

Other Committee Experts then asked questions on a number of topics including on the declaration of a State of Emergency in Lithuania and the restrictions that imposed on individuals rights; ill-treatment of asylum-seekers by immigration officials; the detention of children together with adults; health care for asylum-seekers; psychiatric and medical rehabilitation for victims of torture; enforcement of the domestic violence law, and concern that the penalties were not strict enough; and information on incidents of violence and hate speech committed against homosexuals or on the basis of race.

On detention, Experts asked what was the maximum number of extensions allowed for periods of detention. There was also a concern that, for asylum-seekers, there was no maximum period of detention. Other questions were asked on reports of hazing of army recruits; whether Lithuania had plans to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention; a concern that detainees did not have access to doctors, but only to nurses; information on complaints received by the Ombudsman's Office on allegations of torture, and the outcomes of those cases; and information on the results of prosecutions for war crimes, in particular with regard to the Second World War and the investigation of Nazi war criminals.

Response by Delegation

The delegation said it was prepared to give some initial answers to certain questions before the meeting tomorrow. With regard to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, that was under active consideration by the Government right now and it was hoped that Lithuania would join.

On detention, this year a new law had been adopted, which would enter into force in 2009, which was fully in conformity with the provisions of the Convention, the delegation affirmed.


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