Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices. In its report published on February 1, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated it had heard allegations of excessive force exerted by police after a detainee had been subdued during arrest.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Some prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards.
Physical Conditions: The CPT report noted substandard conditions at the Alytus Prison, Marijampole Prison, and Panevezys Prison. Inmates in all prisons, but especially the Alytus and Marijampole prisons, complained about the quality and especially the quantity of food. The CPT reported its impression that the provision of health care in the penitentiaries it visited “was rather poor and the services were not well organized.”
The delegation received a number of allegations of deliberate physical mistreatment and of excessive use of force by prison staff at the Alytus and Marijampole prisons. The CPT also found an apparent increase in interprisoner violence in those two prisons and new reports of interprisoner violence at the Panevezys Prison. The CPT committee attributed the situation to “accommodation in cramped large-capacity dormitories” and “a low number of custodial staff, insufficient to ensure the safety of prisoners.”
The CPT reported a detainee may be held in a holding jail for up to 15 days after seeing a judge. It called for the prompt transfer of detainees to remand prisons.
Administration: The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman generally investigated credible prisoner complaints and attempted to resolve them, usually by making recommendations to the institutions concerned and monitoring their implementation. The law requires the ombudsman’s office to investigate detention centers and other institutions. The ombudsman’s office reported that prison institutions were responsive to all of its interventions. On September 1, the ombudsman’s office identified two of the 20 prisoner complaints to be legitimate and merited. The parliamentary ombudsman visited Alytus and Marijampole prisons five times and detention facilities 46 times.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. The CPT visited the country in 2016 and published the report in February 2017. On April 20-27, it revisited many of the same places of confinement it had visited earlier. The report of this later visit was not available at the end of the year.
Improvements: Between January and September, the government renovated housing, medical units, and food services in facilities in Siauliai, Alytus, and Pravieniskes.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The police and the State Border Guards Service are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. The Special Investigative Service, the main anticorruption agency, reports to the president and parliament. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, the State Border Guards Service, and the Special Investigative Service. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Except for persons arrested during the commission of a crime, warrants are generally required for arrests, and judges may issue them only upon the presentation of reliable evidence of criminal activity. Police may detain suspects for up to 48 hours before formally charging them. Detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them at the time of their arrest or their first interrogation.
Bail is available and was widely used.
The law provides for access to an attorney and the government provides one to indigent persons. A detained person has the right to meet with a lawyer of his or her choice in private before his or her first interrogation. Some detainees who had appointed government attorneys complained that they met their attorney for the first time at the court hearing, even in instances when they had requested an attorney shortly after their arrest. Detainees had prompt access to family members.
Pretrial Detention: The law permits authorities to hold suspects under house arrest for up to six months, a period that a judge may extend at his or her discretion. A pretrial judge may order that a suspect facing felony charges be detained for up to three months, but only to comply with extradition requests or to prevent the accused from fleeing, committing new crimes, or hindering the investigation. In many cases the law permits detention to be extended to 18 months (six months for juveniles), subject to appeal to a higher court. Judges frequently granted such extensions, often based on the allegation that the defendant would pose a danger to society or influence witnesses. The maximum period authorities may detain an adult charged with minor offenses is nine months.
In the first half of the year, the average length of pretrial detention was approximately 13 months. As of September 1, approximately 57 percent of incarcerated persons were pretrial detainees. The law allows defense attorneys access to the evidence prosecutors use to justify pretrial detention.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The constitution and law provide the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence, to prompt and detailed information about the charges against them, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and to be present at their trial. Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense), adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and free assistance of an interpreter from the moment charged through all appeals. They are entitled to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and to be free of compulsion to testify or confess guilt. They enjoy the right of appeal.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Plaintiffs may sue for legal relief or temporary protection measures from human rights violations. Persons alleging human rights abuses may also appeal to the parliamentary ombudsman for a determination of the merits of their claims. Although the ombudsman may only make recommendations to an offending institution, such institutions generally implemented the ombudsman’s recommendations. Individuals alleging violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government may, after exhausting domestic legal remedies, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The government has laws and mechanisms in place to address the issue of property restitution, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government has made some progress on the resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. A philanthropic foundation created in 2011 to receive government compensation for Communist and Nazi seizures of Jewish community-owned property distributed funds to individuals and to Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects. According to an agreement between the government and the Jewish community, the foundation was to disburse $44 million by 2023. The foundation distributed a one-time payment of $1 million to individual survivors in 2013 and 2014. The remaining funds were allocated to support Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects, as decided by the foundation board. As in the previous year, the foundation received $4.34 million for this purpose, which brought the total received since 2011 to $26.2 million. Jewish and ethnic Polish communities continued to advocate for private property restitution because there has been no opportunity to submit individual claims since 2001, when the country’s existing restitution law stopped allowing citizens to apply for private property restitution. Despite changes to the citizenship law in 2011 that made it easier to reacquire the country’s citizenship, the government did not reopen the application period for these communities and others who had been excluded from filing claims based on citizenship.
The constitution prohibits such actions, but there were reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
The law requires authorities to obtain a judge’s authorization before searching an individual’s premises. It prohibits indiscriminate monitoring, including of email, text messages, or other digital communications intended to remain private. Domestic human rights groups alleged that the government did not always properly enforce the law. In the first nine months of the year, the State Data Protection Inspectorate investigated 618 allegations of privacy violations, compared with 435 such allegations in the first nine months of 2017. Most complaints were individuals’ claims that their personal information, such as identity numbers, had been collected without a legal justification.