Estonia

Executive Summary

Estonia is a multiparty, constitutional democracy with a unicameral parliament, a prime minister as head of government, and a president as head of state. The prime minister and cabinet generally represent the party or coalition of parties with a majority of seats in the parliament. The most recent parliamentary elections took place on March 3. The new coalition is composed of the Center Party, the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), and Pro Patria, and is headed by Prime Minister Juri Ratas, who took office on April 29. Observers considered the elections free and fair.

The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service maintain internal security. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service report to the Ministry of the Interior. The Defense Forces report to the Ministry of Defense. The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service investigate civilian cases, while military police investigate defense force cases. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed violations. There were no reports of impunity for abuses committed by members of the security forces during the year.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were isolated reports of official corruption during the year.

Corruption: In December 2018 the Supreme Court terminated criminal proceedings (launched in 2015) against former prime minister, minister, mayor of Tallinn, and former long-serving Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar due to his declining health. The Office of the Prosecutor General accused Savisaar of large-scale embezzlement, accepting bribes, money laundering, and accepting prohibited donations to his party.

In 2017 the Prosecutor General’s Office pressed charges against two former top managers of the state-owned Port of Tallinn, former CEO Ain Kaljurand and former board member Allan Kiil, who were indicted on charges of accepting bribes on multiple occasions and engaging in money laundering from 2005 to 2015. Each was charged with receiving millions of euros in bribes. The court case was pending.

In 2018 the number of corruption cases was approximately the same as in 2017. These cases were often related to the health sector.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires all public officials to disclose their income and assets. Designated offices have responsibility for monitoring and verifying disclosures. The financial declarations of high-level government officials were available to the public, and there are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance with the law.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and physical abuse, including domestic violence. The law is effectively enforced. The penalty for rape, including spousal rape, is imprisonment for up to 15 years. According to the NGO Sexual Health Union, 13 percent of women have suffered sexual abuse, including rape.

According to NGOs and shelter managers, violence against women, including domestic violence, was a problem. Women constituted 80 percent of the victims of domestic violence registered by police. In the first half of year, the number of official reports of domestic violence grew as compared with 2018, partially due to a change in how the law considers such cases. In 2018 domestic violence crimes comprised 44 percent of all violent crimes in the country.

NGOs, local governments, and others could seek assistance for victims from the national government. There was a network of shelters for women, and women with children, who were victims of gender-based violence as well as hotlines for domestic violence and child abuse. There were four treatment centers for victims of sexual violence. Police officers, border guards, and social workers received training related to domestic and gender violence from NGOs, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Justice.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but there were reports of such harassment in the workplace and on public transport. By law sexual harassment complaints may be resolved in court, before the legal chancellor, by the Labor Dispute Committee, or by the gender-equality and equal-treatment commissioner. An injured party may demand termination of the harmful activity and compensation for damages. The penalty for sexual harassment is a fine or detention for up to 30 days. All victims in reported cases of sexual harassment were women. The number of registered stalking incidents grew compared with 2017, and 82 percent of victims were women, while 83 percent of perpetrators were men.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government generally enforced such laws. There were reports of discrimination in employment and occupation, and unequal treatment, due to gender, age, disability, and sexual preference (see section 7.d.).

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives primarily from the citizenship of at least one parent. Either citizen parent may pass citizenship to a child regardless of the other parent’s citizenship status. Children born to parents who are not citizens of Estonia or of any other country and have lived in the country for five years, acquire citizenship at birth. Registration of births occurred in a timely manner.

Child Abuse: In 2018 approximately 87 percent of sexual crimes were committed against persons under the age of 18, which was 6 percent less than in 2017. The Police and Border Guard Board worked to combat child abuse, including sexual abuse. The legal chancellor acted as children’s ombudsman. Police provided training to officers on sexual abuse in cooperation with the justice, education, and social ministries and local and international organizations.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. A court may extend the legal capacity of a person who is at least 15 for the purpose of marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. Conviction of engaging in child pornography carries punishment ranging from a fine to three years in prison. Girls are more frequently exploited than boys are.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parent Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

The Jewish community numbered an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 persons.

On March 16, the chief rabbi of Estonia was verbally attacked by a 27-year-old man under the influence of drugs, who insulted the rabbi and shouted anti-Semitic remarks in the center of the capital. The perpetrator was sentenced to eight days in prison for the offense. The prime minister condemned the incident, stating that discrimination based on religion, nationality, origin, or any other reason was totally unacceptable.

On June 23, unknown vandals knocked over and vandalized five gravestones at the Rahumae Jewish Cemetery in the capital. Police opened a criminal investigation which was pending at year’s end.

On January 28, the government held an annual memorial event on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Rahumae Jewish Cemetery in Tallinn. Schools participated in commemorative activities throughout the country. The Education and Research Ministry, in cooperation with the Estonian Jewish community, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Estonian Memory Institute, and the Museum of Occupation, organized an essay writing competition on topics related to the Holocaust for schoolchildren.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions.

Persons with disabilities may avail themselves of government assistance in accessing information and may request individual personal assistants when necessary. The law provides that buildings constructed or renovated after 2002 must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Few older buildings were accessible, but new or renovated ones generally were. In May 2018 the minister for entrepreneurship information technology introduced a regulation requiring public buildings to provide access and to ensure availability of information for persons with disabilities.

According to the legal chancellor, measures to safeguard the fundamental rights of individuals in mental health facilities remained inadequate. Problems included abusive use of physical restraints, weak documentation thereof, and inadequate medical care. NGOs complained that, while services typically were accessible in the capital, persons with disabilities in some rural areas had difficulty receiving appropriate care. There were reports of discrimination in occupation or employment (also see section 7.d.).

The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and local governments are responsible for the provision of social welfare services to persons with disabilities. The government continued implementing the work ability reform, which was intended for persons with reduced working ability and whose ability to be active in the society was assessed individually. The government focused on developing rehabilitation services to improve the ability of those with disabilities to cope independently. The government also provided compensation for some additional expenses incurred by persons with disabilities.

In 2018 police registered five cases of physical abuse, breach of public order, or threats that included hatred against persons from racial or ethnic minorities.

On March 26, police opened investigations regarding a verbal attack and an attempted physical attack against two persons of color by four men in the center of Tartu. The investigations were pending at the end of the year.

Members of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE, a part of the governing coalition) made derogatory and racist public statements regarding ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees, women, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community. Of note, during parliamentary swearing-in ceremonies, members of parliament from EKRE made hand gestures associated with white nationalism. No disciplinary action was taken. Also notable, an EKRE member of the European parliament also referenced the Holocaust and “the final solution” in a social media post on how best to handle refugees living in Europe.

Knowledge of Estonian is required to obtain citizenship, and all public servants and public-sector employees, service personnel, medical professionals, and other workers who have contact with the public must possess a minimum competence in the language. Russian speakers stated that Estonian language requirements resulted in job and salary discrimination. The government continued to provide free and subsidized opportunities for Estonian language learning.

In districts where more than half the population spoke a language other than Estonian, the law entitles inhabitants to receive official information in their language, and authorities respected the law.

Roma, who numbered fewer than 1,000, reportedly faced discrimination in several areas, including employment. The government took steps to emphasize the importance of education for Romani children, but their school dropout rate remained high.

Nonwhite residents reported discrimination in housing. The government faced difficulties finding housing for resettled refugees, which refugee advocates attributed to societal discrimination.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While the law is not specific regarding the forms of sexual orientation and gender identity covered, the general understanding is that it encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals. In 2018, police registered one case that included hatred against LGBTI persons. Advocacy groups reported societal harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons remained common, but noted improving attitudes towards LGBTI persons. In October a group of anti-LGBTI protestors from the EKRE party attempted to force their way into a meeting of the LGBTI association in the city of Parnu. The police responded promptly to the situation, and the meeting proceeded in another location.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law, related regulations, and statutory instruments provide workers with the right to form and join independent unions of their choice, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government generally respected these rights. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and prohibits antiunion discrimination. Both employees and employers have the right to request that labor dispute committees, consisting of representatives of unions and employers, or the courts resolve individual labor disputes. The law prohibits discrimination against employees because of union membership and requires the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Public-sector employees do not have the right to strike, but they can negotiate their salaries and working conditions directly with their employers.

The government generally enforced applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation were usually adequate to achieve compliance with the law. In most cases, violators incurred fines that were sufficient to deter violations. Criminal proceedings and civil claims were also available. The penalties employers had to pay were related primarily to workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays.

The government and most employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Parties freely engaged in collective bargaining, and there were no reports that the government or parties interfered in the functioning of workers’ organizations.

The Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions alleged frequent violations of trade union rights in the private sector during the year. Confederation officials claimed antiunion behavior was widespread. They also reported that some enterprises advised workers against forming trade unions, threatening them with dismissal or a reduction in wages if they did, or promising benefits if they did not.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced the law. Authorities prosecuted and convicted five persons for labor-related trafficking crimes during the year. Penalties for human trafficking and forced-labor offenses were sufficient to deter violations, but sentences often failed to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. In most cases, the legal minimum age for employment is 18. A 2017 amendment to the law removed several restrictions on hiring minors and made it possible for companies to apply for support for minors’ salaries. Minors who have graduated from basic school may work full time. Fifteen- to 17-year-old children may work, depending on whether the child is still at school. Seven- to 12-year-old children may engage in light work in the areas of culture, art, sports, or advertising with the consent of the Labor Inspectorate. Minors may not perform hazardous work, such as handling explosive substances, working with wild animals, etc. The law limits the hours that children may work and prohibits overtime or night work. The Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing these laws. The government effectively enforced laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace. The Labor Inspectorate monitored whether the conditions for child workers were appropriate.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The government generally enforced the law prohibiting discrimination in employment and occupation, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. If workers claimed discrimination and turned to the courts, and the Labor Inspectorate or gender equality commissioner and the appropriate institution found the suit justified, workers were indemnified by employers. With respect to employment or occupation, labor laws and regulations require employers to protect employees against discrimination, follow the principle of equal treatment, and promote equal treatment and gender equality. Nevertheless, discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with respect to age, gender, disability, ethnicity, and language (see section 6), and there were complaints to the gender and equal treatment commissioner, the legal chancellor, and the Labor Inspectorate.

Although women have the same rights as men under the law and are entitled to equal pay for equal work, employers did not always respect these rights. Despite having a higher average level of education than men, according to Eurostat statistics in March, women’s average earnings were 25.2 percent lower than those of men for the same work. There continued to be female- and male-dominated professions. Women constituted one-third of mid-level managers.

Fewer than 25 percent of persons with disabilities had jobs. During the year the legal chancellor and the commissioner for gender equality and equal treatment received claims of discrimination based on disability. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and access to the workplace.

Russian speakers worked disproportionately in blue-collar industries and continued to experience higher unemployment than ethnic Estonians. Some citizens and noncitizen residents, particularly native speakers of Russian, alleged that the language requirement resulted in job and salary discrimination. Roma reportedly faced discrimination in employment (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The country had a national monthly minimum wage that was higher than the poverty income level. Authorities generally enforced minimum wage laws, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The standard workweek is 40 hours. The law requires a rest period of at least 11 hours in sequence for every 24-hour period. Reduced working time is required for minors and for employees who perform work that is underground, poses a health hazard, or is of an otherwise special nature. The law provides for paid annual holidays and requires overtime pay of not less than 150 percent of the employee’s hourly wage. The government effectively enforced these requirements. There is no prohibition against excessive compulsory overtime.

The government sets occupational health and safety standards. Authorities generally enforced minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational health and safety standards in all sectors. The Labor Inspectorate, the Health Protection Inspectorate, and the Technical Inspectorate were responsible for enforcing these standards and made efforts to do so in both the formal and informal sectors. Violations of health and safety standards were more common in the construction and wood-processing industries. The Labor Inspectorate had an adequate number of inspectors to enforce compliance. Penalties for violations included fines and were sufficient to deter violations. Men from Ukraine experienced labor exploitation, particularly in the construction sector, where “envelope wages” (nontaxed cash payments) were sometimes paid. The share of informal wage payments relative to the total wages paid across the economy decreased from 6.2 percent in 2018 to 4.7 percent during the year.

Finland

Executive Summary

The Republic of Finland is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral parliament (Eduskunta). The prime minister heads a five-party coalition government approved by parliament and appointed by the president on June 6. The parliamentary election on April 14 and the presidential election in 2018 were considered free and fair.

The national police maintain internal security. Both Finnish Customs and the Border Guard have law enforcement responsibilities related to their fields of responsibility. The Border Guard has additional law enforcement powers to maintain public order when it operates in joint patrols and under police command. The defense forces are responsible for safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity and providing military training. The defense forces also have some domestic security responsibilities, such as assisting the national police in maintaining law and order in crises. The national police and Border Guard report to the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for police oversight, law enforcement, and maintenance of order; the Ministry of Defense oversees the defense forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Financial Disclosure: By law, appointed and elected officials must each year declare their income, assets, and other private interests that could overlap with their official duties. Officials must make their initial declaration within two months of assuming office and declare any potential conflicts of interest that arise during their tenure. The law does not provide for specific criminal penalties for nondisclosure. By law income and asset information from the tax forms of all citizens must be made public each year.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to four years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be more severe. The maximum penalties are six years’ imprisonment for rape and 10 years for aggravated rape. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (intoxicated or with a disability) are considered as severe as rape.

Authorities may prosecute domestic abuse under various criminal laws, including laws prohibiting rape, assault and battery, harassment, and disturbing the peace. The penalty for physical domestic violence ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Civil society organizations criticized the emphasis on intentional violence in the legal definition of rape, which they alleged led courts to find assailants not guilty in cases where the coercion was less explicit. In one high-profile court case decided in January, the Eastern Finland Court of Appeals overruled a lower court’s rape conviction due to the fact that the assailant was not aware that his violence had compelled the victim to have sex with him.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a problem. In September, following a country inspection, the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) reported that key professionals in the criminal justice system, such as prosecutors and law enforcement officers, were not systematically trained before taking up their duties on how to intervene in cases of violence against women, including domestic violence. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas.

The government funds shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence. In 2018, the most recent year for which data was available, 179 beds were available in shelters throughout the country, a 25-percent increase over the year before. Demand for shelter space, as indicated by the number of days residents spent in each shelter, also grew by 25 percent during the same period. GREVIO reported a need for more female police officers to fulfill the government’s pledge always to match a victim of violence with an officer of the same gender. GREVIO also highlighted the need for additional shelters for victims of intimate partner violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as a specific, punishable offense with penalties ranging from fines to up to six months’ imprisonment. Employers who fail to protect employees from workplace harassment are subject to the same penalties. The prosecutor general is responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. The government generally enforced the law.

On March 22, the Helsinki appeals court increased to 5,440 euros ($6,000) the fine of Member of Parliament Teuvo Hakkarainen (Finns Party) for sexually harassing fellow parliamentarian Veera Ruoho.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with workplace discrimination against pregnant women.

Birth Registration: A child generally acquires citizenship at birth through one or both parents. A child can also acquire citizenship at birth if the child is born in the country and meets certain other criteria, such as if the parents have refugee status in the country or if the child is not eligible for any other country’s citizenship. A local registration office records all births immediately.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, defining children as individuals younger than age 16. The law defines rape of a minor (younger than 18 years) as aggravated rape. Rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of one-year imprisonment and a maximum of six years. Child negligence and physical or psychological violence carry penalties of up to six months in prison and up to two years in prison, respectively. Aggravating factors may increase the length of the prison term.

The GREVIO report found judges did not always consider violence by one parent against another as a reason to restrict the abuser’s right of access to his or her child, reflecting a lack of awareness of the impact that exposure to violence may have on a child’s development.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18. In February parliament amended the law to disallow marriage of individuals under that age, even with an exemption from the Ministry of Justice. In recent years the ministry had issued between 10 and 30 exemptions per year. The National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking reported an increase in cases of forced marriage among its target population, rising to 26 in the first six months of the year, compared with 20 cases in all of 2018.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The country prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography and the sale, offering, or procuring of children for prostitution. The law prohibits purchase of sexual services from minors and covers “grooming” (enticement of a child), including in a virtual environment or through mobile telephone contacts. Authorities enforced the law effectively, including through a one-million-euro ($1.1 million) grant announced in August to fund training on how to recognize online solicitation and exploitation.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law regards a person whose age cannot be determined, but who can reasonably be assumed to be younger than 18, as a child.

In March the National Bureau of Investigation completed a pretrial investigation of five men suspected of importing, receiving, and distributing sexually offensive material involving children between 2004 and 2018. Some of the suspects were also accused of having sexually abused the victims. In July police detained a Helsinki man on the suspicion of committing sex crimes, including aggravated rape and aggravated child sexual abuse, against 12 girls. In August police completed a pretrial investigation of a resident of the city of Espoo who was suspected of committing sex crimes against 52 girls through social media. In the first quarter of the year, there were 475 reported cases of child exploitation.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Government statistics and Jewish leaders place the size of the Jewish population between 1,500 and 2,500 individuals, most living in the Helsinki area.

In July vandals in Helsinki defaced the entrance of the building housing, inter alia, the Embassy of Israel with anti-Semitic stickers glorifying Adolf Hitler and smashed the glass door to the building. Police and Jewish community representatives suspected the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) was behind the vandalism, although police did not make any arrests. Over the previous two years, the Helsinki Synagogue was similarly defaced in multiple incidents. The government provided funding for the security of the synagogue. Representatives of the Jewish community reported feeling under threat and specifically targeted due to their beliefs. In May, Petri Sarvamaa, a Finnish member of the European Parliament campaigning for re-election, was approached on the street and threatened by an assailant who called him a derogatory slur for a Jewish person. In September the media reported that a recently elected member of parliament, Hussein al-Taee of the Social Democratic Party of Finland, had made anti-Semitic comments online.

Police continued to implement the 2018 court ban on the neo-Nazi NRM. The Finnish-language website of the organization was no longer online, and public displays of their symbol decreased in frequency, although members continued to spray graffiti. The National Bureau of Investigation suspected the NRM continued to operate underground. In February the nondiscrimination ombudsman announced the conclusion of a case her office brought before the National Nondiscrimination and Equality Tribunal in which an individual had prominently displayed a Nazi flag to the public. In the first ruling of its kind, the tribunal found such displays illegal. During a speech at the official Holocaust remembrance ceremony in January, Interior Minister Kai Mykkanen highlighted the prominent display of Nazi flags by marchers at a December 2018 demonstration in Helsinki as a reason for concern and reaffirmed government support for the fight against anti-Semitism.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in all fields, including the provision of government services. The government effectively monitored compliance with these laws and implemented enforcement actions. In response to complaints of lack of accessibility, the ombudsman carried out unannounced inspections on polling stations, schools, prisons, medical facilities, and other locations. The findings of the inspections were released during the year, and improvements were made, including in two voting locations that did not have accessible voting booths and in multiple prisons. The spot report found two prisons to be completely inaccessible.

The law specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of origin and nationality. According to the results of the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey published in November 2018, 14 percent of persons of African descent in the country stated they had been subject to racist harassment in the previous five years. The most frequent complaints of discrimination or harassment concerned employment and online communication.

Media reports highlighted discrimination by private security guards as a concern. In February, Habiba Ali, a member of the Espoo City Council of Somali descent, complained after a security guard without cause accused her of shoplifting. In August an investigation of security services at the country’s largest amusement park found a history of training that encouraged ethnic profiling and discrimination against Romani visitors.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman is responsible for responding to complaints of discrimination and regularly mediated between business owners, government agencies, and public service providers regrading treatment of customers and clients. The Ministry of Justice also responds to complaints of discrimination. During the year the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations pointed out the vulnerability of first- and second-generation immigrant youth to discrimination.

The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups, sought to address racial discrimination, and assisted victims.

The constitution provides for the protection of the Sami language and culture, and the government financially supported these efforts. The Sami, who constituted less than 0.1 percent of the population, have full political and civil rights as citizens as well as a measure of autonomy in their civil and administrative affairs. A 21-member Sami parliament (Samediggi), popularly elected by the Sami, is responsible for the group’s language, culture, and matters concerning their status as an indigenous people. It can adopt legally binding resolutions, propose initiatives, and provide policy guidance.

During the year there were complaints the national government intervened election procedures of the Sami parliament by adding new voters to voter lists before elections in September. Members of the outgoing Sami parliament described the ministry’s actions as a violation of their right to self-determination and a threat to the viability of their self-governance. Representing the numerically small Sami minority, members of the Sami parliament asserted that the new voters recognized by the Ministry of Justice would overwhelm their traditional constituency and block their efforts to preserve cultural and traditional agricultural practices. In February, following a decision by the Ministry of Justice to compel the inclusion of a statistically significant number of new voters and a decision by the Supreme Administrative Court affirming it, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that the Ministry of Justice abide by voter eligibility requirements previously established by the Sami parliament. The Supreme Administrative Court confirmed its decision, and elections went forward in September.

The ombudsman for gender equality stated that Sami victims of domestic violence were at a disadvantage in accessing public shelters due to the long distances between population centers in the northern part of the country. The nondiscrimination ombudsman also highlighted the challenges facing Sami due to the lack of government services in their own language, particularly in education and health services.

Sami objected to plans to develop an Arctic railway running from Helsinki to the northern border, citing the railway’s potential impact on natural resources critical for their livelihoods, including reindeer-herding land and Arctic nature tourism. In May activists demonstrated in Helsinki against the railway and plans to increase mining activities in historically Sami areas.

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services, and the government enforced the law.

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical statement affirming their gender identity and a certificate of infertility before the government will legally recognize their gender identity. In addition to the requirement that an individual submit to sterilization, activists criticized the duration of the legal process, stating it can take up to three years to obtain identity documents with the new gender markers. Trafficking authorities and civil society stated they have no specialized services for transgender victims of trafficking and are unaware of their status among the trafficking-victim population.

While the law prohibits “conversion therapy” in medical settings, it continued to be practiced privately, most commonly in religious associations. The media reported that the Christian organization Journey Finland, as well as strict branches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Orthodox Church, continued to practice conversion therapy.

In July police reported they were still searching for an individual who smeared feces on and vandalized a halal grocery store in the city of Hyvinkaa two to three times a week during 2018.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and any restriction or obstruction of these rights.

The government effectively enforced all applicable laws regarding the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Workers without permanent residence may not be eligible to join voluntary unemployment insurance funds. Employers who violate the rights of employees to organize and retain employee representatives may face administrative measures, legal proceedings, and fines. The penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations. Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and there were no reports of violations. All workers, regardless of sector union membership, or nationality, are entitled to the same wages negotiated between employers and trade unions via generally applicable collective agreements.

The law does not permit public-sector employees who provide “essential services,” including police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, and border guards, to strike. An official dispute board can make nonbinding recommendations to the cabinet on ending or limiting the duration of strikes when they threaten national security. Employees prohibited from striking can use arbitration to provide for due process in the resolution of their concerns.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for forced or compulsory labor depend on the severity of the crime but were generally sufficient to deter violations. Despite strong penalties for violations, some cases of persons subjected to conditions of forced labor in the country were reported during the year.

Men and women working in the restaurant, cleaning, construction, and agriculture industries were the most likely to face conditions of forced labor. The sexual services sector, legal in certain circumstances, also saw incidences of trafficking and forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor but allows persons between the ages of 15 and 18 to enter into a valid employment contract as long as the work does not interrupt compulsory education. It provides that workers who are 15 to 18 years of age may not work after 10 p.m. or under conditions that risk their health and safety, which the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health defines as working with mechanical, chemical, physical, or biological hazards or bodily strain that may result from lifting heavy loads.

Penalties for violations of child labor regulations are sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment effectively enforced child labor regulations. There were no reports of children engaged in work outside the parameters established by law.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The Occupational Safety Administration (OSHA) received 500 reports of work-place discrimination in 2018. Of the 157 reports that resulted in further inspection, 7 percent concerned ethnicity, nationality, language, or religion, a number similar to previous years, 12 percent concerned age discrimination, and 2 percent concerned disability. The government effectively enforced applicable laws against employment discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

While there is no national minimum wage law, the law requires all employers, including nonunionized employers, to pay the minimum wages stipulated in collective bargaining agreements. Authorities adequately enforced wage laws.

The standard workweek established by law is no more than 40 hours of work per week with eight hours work per day. Because the law does not include a provision regarding a five-day workweek, regular work hours may, at least in principle, span six days. The regular weekly work hours can also be arranged so that the average is 40 hours over a period of no more than 52 weeks. Certain occupations, such as seamen, household workers, road transport workers, and workers in bakeries, are subject to separate workweek regulations. The law entitles employees working shifts or during the weekend to one 24-hour rest period per week. The law limits a worker to 250 hours of overtime per year and 138 overtime hours in any four-month period.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for labor policy and implementation, drafting labor legislation, improving the viability of working life and its quality, and promoting employment. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and regulations. In addition, OSHA enforces appropriate safety and health standards and conducts inspections at workplaces. Individuals who commit work safety offenses are subject to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of one year; individuals who commit working hours’ offenses are subject to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of six months. The center informs employers of inspections in advance unless a surprise inspection is necessary for enforcement purposes. A subsequent inspection report gives employers written advice on how to remedy minor defects. In the case of serious violations, the inspector issues an improvement notice and monitors the employer’s compliance. When necessary, OSHA may issue a binding decision and impose a fine. If a hazardous situation involved a risk to life, an inspector can halt work on the site or issue a prohibition notice concerning the source of risk.

Authorities adequately enforced wage and overtime laws. Government resources, inspections, and penalties were adequate to deter most violations.

The law requires employees to report any hazards or risks they discover in working conditions, including in machinery, equipment, or work methods. The law also requires employees, where possible, to correct dangerous conditions that come to their attention. Such corrective measures must be reported to the employer.

Lithuania

Executive Summary

The Republic of Lithuania is a constitutional, multiparty, parliamentary democracy. Legislative authority resides in a unicameral parliament (Seimas), and executive authority resides in the Office of the President. Observers evaluated the presidential elections on May 12 and 26, the European Parliamentary elections on May 26, and the 2016 national parliamentary elections as generally free and fair.

The police and the State Border Guards Service are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. The army is responsible for external security and reports to the Ministry of Defense. 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, the army, and the Special Investigative Service.

Significant human rights issues included harsh and life-threatening prison conditions.

The government took measures to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed human rights abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. Government officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: In July media reported that 48 persons, including eight judges and six attorneys, were suspected of judicial corruption, involving 110 criminal acts. According to the pretrial investigation, these judges received a total of 400,000 euros ($440,000) in bribes in exchange for favorable rulings. In September parliament passed resolutions to dismiss four of eight judges involved in the judicial corruption case.

As of September, 155 pretrial investigations of corruption were in progress.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires appointed and elected officials to declare their assets and incomes annually. The declarations were available to the public. Administrative sanctions were imposed for noncompliance.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape and domestic violence are criminal offenses. Penalties for domestic violence depend on the level of injury to the victim, ranging from required public service to life imprisonment. In the first eight months of the year, authorities received 77 reports of rape, compared with 82 during the same period in 2018. Convicted rapists generally received prison sentences of three to five years. No law specifically criminalizes spousal rape, and no data on spousal rape was available.

The law permits rapid government action in domestic violence cases. For example, police and other law enforcement officials may, with court approval, require perpetrators to live separately from their victims, to avoid all contact with them, and to surrender any weapons they may possess.

Domestic violence remained a pervasive problem. In the first eight months of the year, police received 27,914 domestic violence calls and started 5,362 pretrial investigations, 15 of which were for killings. In 2018 approximately 80 percent of all domestic violence reports were against women. On May 26, a 17-year-old girl in the Taurage region survived an attempted rape, but she was seriously injured by a 17-year-old boy at a party. When emergency services arrived, she had a damaged trachea, broken jaw, and missing teeth. Law enforcement officers began a pretrial investigation.

The country had a 24/7 national hotline and 29 crisis centers for victims of domestic violence. In 2018 the Ministry of Social Security and Labor provided an additional 1,470,026 euros ($1.62 million) to transform 17 of those crisis centers into specialized assistance centers that provide additional services, such as health and legal specialists who meet with victims of domestic violence immediately after a conflict. The ministry also continued its Action Plan for Domestic Violence Prevention and Assistance to Victims for 2017-2020 and allocated 1,173,075 euros ($1.29 million) for the year.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. On February 18, the media reported that several female cyclists had endured years of sexual harassment by Antanas Jakimavicius, the coach of the national cycling team. In response, Minister of Education, Science, and Sport Algirdas Monkevicius, president of the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee Daina Gudzineviciute, and the heads of the Lithuanian Cycling Federation organized a discussion on how to prevent sexual harassment in sports.

Coercion in Population Control: The law prohibits coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization. In July the Kaunas Regional Court awarded 31,000 euros ($34,100) to a woman with cerebral palsy after a hospital in Lazdijai sterilized her involuntarily shortly after she gave birth.

Discrimination: Men and women have the same legal status and rights.

Birth Registration: Citizenship can be acquired either by birth in the country or through one’s parents. The government registered all births promptly.

Child Abuse: The law bans all violence against children. Sexual abuse of children remained a problem despite prison sentences of up to 13 years for the crime. In the first eight months of the year, the Ministry of the Interior recorded 36 cases of child rape and 120 cases involving other forms of child sexual abuse. The government operated a children’s support center to provide medical and psychological care for children, including those who suffered from various types of violence. It also operated a national center in Vilnius to provide legal, psychological, and medical assistance to sexually abused children and their families.

According to the Department of Statistics, there were 4,854 reports of violence against children in 2018 compared with 5,625 in 2017. In the first eight months of the year, the children’s rights ombudsman reported receiving 97 complaints.

During the first eight months of the year, Child Line (a hotline for children and youth) received 248,210 telephone calls from children, and was able to respond to 130,047 of those calls. Child Line also received and answered 555 letters from children, whose concerns ranged from relations with their parents and friends to family violence and sexual abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Individuals involving a child in pornographic events or using a child in the production of pornographic material are subject to imprisonment for up to five years (see also section 2.a., Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press). Persons who offer to purchase, acquire, sell, transport, or hold a child in captivity are subject to imprisonment for three to 12 years. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights reported receiving no complaints of alleged sexual exploitation of children during the year. According to the Ministry of the Interior, during the first eight months of the year, officials opened three criminal cases involving child pornography. The age of consent is 16.

Institutionalized Children: As of September 1, the children’s rights ombudsman received six complaints and started three investigations regarding violations of children’s rights in orphanages and large-family foster homes.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

The Jewish community consisted of approximately 3,000 persons. There were reports of anti-Semitism on the internet and in public.

In March a local court dismissed a case against the government-funded Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania brought by an American citizen who lost relatives in Holocaust-era executions attributed to Jonas Noreika, a Soviet-era partisan and Nazi collaborator who signed documents establishing a Jewish ghetto in Siauliai during World War II. The American had sued the center for concluding that Noreika did not participate in the mass killing of Jews in Lithuania during World War II.

On July 27, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius removed the plaque honoring Noreika based on historical evidence that concluded Noreika was a Nazi collaborator. On July 30, President Gitanas Nauseda called for a moratorium on the removal of World War II-era monuments and proposed an initiative to provide municipalities with criteria to evaluate historic property.

On August 7, approximately 300 individuals gathered in central Vilnius to protest the city’s decision to rename Skirpa Alley, a street named after Kazys Skirpa, a known Lithuanian Nazi collaborator, military officer, and diplomat. Attendees also protested the removal of the Noreika plaque.

On September 5, the NGO Pro Patria reinstalled the Noreika plaque without permission from the Vilnius municipality. Mayor Simasius told the media that the municipality would not remove the plaque again. Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius told media on September 6 that glorifying figures like Noreika would harm the country’s international image.

In the wake of the Noreika controversy, the Lithuanian Jewish Community (JCL) Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky reported to the media that the JCL had received threatening calls and letters, and, on August 6, she temporarily closed the local synagogue and the Jewish community’s headquarters. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis condemned all examples of ethnic hatred and called on law enforcement officers to guarantee the security for every citizen and every community living in the country; Kukliansky reopened the synagogue and community center shortly thereafter.

Media reported that on September 15 an unidentified person created a large swastika with soil near the JCL’s headquarters. The swastika appeared during the “Festival of the Nations,” an annual festival displaying the country’s national minority cultures. Prime Minister Skvernelis, in a press release, denounced it as an act of vandalism and warned that such activities tarnish the country’s image internationally. Foreign Minister Linkevicius condemned the act as “deplorable,” and called for the police to investigate. On September 16, police launched an investigation of the swastika.

President Nauseda’s address on September 24 during a state ceremony to honor families that helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust condemned intolerance and public attempts to intimidate Jewish citizens.

In October, four anti-Semitic acts of vandalism took place around the country. On October 5, the media reported that an unknown person painted a swastika on a statue of Chaim Frenkel, a 19th century Jewish industrialist, in Siauliai. The Siauliai municipality removed the swastika. The following day, someone spray-painted a swastika on a street in Vilnius. On October 12, a group vandalized a mural representing Jewish cultural life in Vilnius with a swastika. A few days later, on October 16, the media reported that a swastika and a homemade bomb were left outside of a building in Vilnius. Police removed the alleged bomb and launched an investigation. The Vilnius municipality removed all of the swastikas.

Police had instructions to take pre-emptive measures against illegal activities, giving special attention to maintaining order on specific historical dates and certain religious or cultural holidays.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. There was no proactive enforcement of these requirements. The equal opportunities ombudsman investigated cases of alleged discrimination based on disability.

The law requires that all schools that provide compulsory and universally accessible education make available education to students with disabilities. The country has a tradition of separate schools for children with various disabilities. The law prohibits persons with disabilities who have been deprived of their legal capacity from voting or standing for election. The Central Electoral Commission reported that 67 percent of voting stations were accessible for persons with disabilities.

The law prohibits discrimination against ethnic or national minorities, but intolerance and societal discrimination persisted. According to the 2011 census, approximately 14 percent of the population were members of minority ethnic groups, including Russians, Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Karaites, and Jews.

Representatives of the Polish minority, approximately 200,000 persons according to the 2011 census, continued to raise their concerns about restrictions on the use of Polish letters in official documents, particularly passports, and the lack of a law on protecting national minorities’ rights.

Roma, whose population the 2011 census reported as 2,115 persons (0.07 percent of the country’s total population), continued to experience discrimination. On July 22, an online gaming website, gangsteriai.lt, released a new game set in Kirtimai, a Romani settlement on the outskirts of Vilnius. The game allowed players to shoot at photos of actual Romani residents of Kirtimai. The General Prosecutor’s office began an investigation to determine if the game was an example of hate speech.

According to an April poll conducted by Baltijos Tyrimai, 63 percent of Lithuanians view Roma as undesirable neighbors, and 65 percent of Lithuanians would not rent an apartment to a Rom. Roma claimed employers were unwilling to hire them, citing as justification stereotypes of drug us often perpetuated by law enforcement officers.

The Ministry of Education reported that approximately 1,000 Romani children under the age of 20 lived in the country in 2017, and 431 Romani school-age children were enrolled in school. In June the Vilnius municipality ended the 2016-2019 Kirtimai Integration Plan and moved most families with five or more children to apartments in Vilnius. Roma remaining in Kirtimai lived in homes some of which lacked indoor plumbing, electricity, and drinkable water. The Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance reported on June 6 that it considered as “partially implemented” the recommendation in its report from 2016 that the Roma in Kirtimai be moved to proper housing.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sexual orientation can be an aggravating factor in crimes against LGBTI persons. Gender identity remains unrecognized in the law. Societal attitudes toward LGBTI persons remained largely negative, and LGBTI persons experienced stigma, discrimination, and violence. In April the Baltijos Tyrimai poll noted that one-third of Lithuanians viewed LGBTI individuals as undesirable neighbors. Transgender persons were vulnerable and regularly experienced extreme violence and death threats, and legal barriers and discriminatory practices often inhibited them from receiving health care. Most LGBTI persons did not report sexual assault because they did not trust police.

NGO experts noted that individuals with HIV/AIDS continued to be subject to discrimination, including in employment, and treated with fear and aversion. The government did not respond.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers, except the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits employer discrimination against union organizers and members and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. These provisions also apply to migrant workers.

There were some specific legal limits to these rights. The law bans sympathy strikes. It also prohibits law enforcement officials, first aid medical workers, and other security-related personnel from collective bargaining and striking, although they may join unions. The law does not afford workers in essential services, whose right to strike is restricted or prohibited, alternative procedures for impartial and rapid settlement of their claims or a voice in developing such procedures.

In the event of a disagreement between management and labor, any such disputes are settled by a labor arbitration board formed under the jurisdiction of the district court where the registered office of the enterprise or entity involved in the collective dispute is located. Despite the fact that the law establishes the binding character of the decision upon the parties, the decisions cannot lay down rights or obligations of individuals and are not enforceable by the courts. Labor-code procedures make it difficult for some workers to exercise the right to strike. The law prohibits sympathy strikes and allows an employer to hire replacement workers in certain sectors to provide for minimum services during strikes.

Penalties ranged from fines to imprisonment and were insufficient to deter violations. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, the judicial system was slow to respond to cases of unfair dismissal and no employer faced penal sanctions for antiunion discrimination as envisaged in the law. No courts or judges specialized in labor disputes.

The government generally respected freedom of association but did not enforce the labor code effectively, although resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. Employers did not always respect collective bargaining rights, and managers often determined wages without regard to union preferences except in large factories with well organized unions.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and the government generally enforced the law effectively. Penalties ranged from a fine to imprisonment, which were sufficient to deter violations.

There were instances of forced labor, most of which involved Lithuanian men subjected to forced labor abroad. Foreign workers from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine were at risk of labor trafficking as long-haul truck drivers, builders, ship hull assemblers, and welders.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor. The law sets the minimum age for most employment at 16 but allows the employment of children as young as 14 for light work with the written consent of the child’s parents or guardians and school. The government has not created a list of jobs considered “light work.” The law mandates reduced work hours for children, allowing up to two hours per day or 12 hours per week during the school year and up to seven hours per day or 32 hours per week when school is not in session. According to the law, hazardous work is any environment that may cause disease or pose a danger to the employee’s life, such as heavy construction or working with industrial chemicals. Under the law children under 18 may not perform hazardous work. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The State Labor Inspectorate is responsible for receiving complaints related to employment of persons younger than 18. The government effectively enforced the law. In the first eight months of the year, the inspectorate identified 25 cases in which children were working illegally in the construction, agriculture, retail, services, and manufacturing sectors.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits employment discrimination but does not specifically address HIV-positive or other communicable disease status, or gender identity. The law obliges the employer to implement the principles of gender equality and nondiscrimination, which prohibit direct and indirect discrimination, and psychological and sexual harassment. The employer must apply the same selection criteria and conditions when hiring new employees; provide equal working conditions, opportunities for professional development, and benefits; apply equal and uniform criteria for dismissal; pay equal wages for the same work and for work of equal value; and take measures to prevent psychological and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The government effectively enforced the law, issuing penalties adequate to deter violations.

The law stipulates that discrimination based on sex should also cover discrimination related to pregnancy and maternity (childbirth and breastfeeding). The matter of female poverty among the elderly who do not receive equal government social remuneration, as well as a pay gap between men and women, continued to exist.

The equal opportunity ombudsman (EOO) monitored the implementation of discrimination laws. As of September 1, the EOO received 155 complaints. To address the gender equality problem, the EOO in cooperation with the Association of Municipalities and the Lithuanian Women’s Lobby Organization continued implementing a three-year project, entitled Equal OpportunitiesSuccess in Municipalities. The EEO visited all 60 municipalities and gave presentations on discrimination and gender equality problems.

NGOs reported that workers in the Romani, LGBTI, and HIV-positive communities faced social and employment discrimination (see section 6). Non-Lithuanian speakers and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and workplace access.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

According to the National Department of Statistics, as of January 1, the minimum monthly wage increased by 7 percent and was above the poverty line.

The law limits annual maximum overtime hours to 180 hours, and establishes different categories of work contracts, such as permanent, fixed-term, temporary agency, apprenticeship, project work, job sharing, employee sharing, and seasonal work. The occupational safety and health standards are current and appropriate for the main industries. The law applies to both national and foreign workers.

The government enforced standards effectively across all sectors including the informal economy, which accounted for an estimated 25 percent of the economy. The State Labor Inspectorate, which is responsible for implementing labor laws, had a staff sufficient to enforce compliance. During the first half of the year, the inspectorate conducted approximately 3,600 inspections at companies and other institutions. Of these cases, 80 percent were related to underpayment of wages, late payment of wages, or worker safety. Workers dissatisfied with the results of an investigation can appeal to the court system. The State Labor Inspectorate continued to conduct seminars for managers of companies, local communities, and persons looking for work. The seminars dealt with preventing and combating illegal employment, the administration of labor contracts, and worker’s rights.

According to the State Labor Inspectorate, violations of wage, overtime, safety, and health standards occurred primarily in the construction, retail, and manufacturing sectors. The inspectorate received complaints about hazardous conditions from workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors. As of October 1, the State Labor Inspectorate recorded 31 fatal accidents at work and 95 severe work-related injuries, compared with 25 and 58, respectively, in 2018. Most accidents occurred in the transport, construction, processing, and agricultural sectors. To address the problem, the inspectorate continued conducting a series of training seminars for inspectors on technical labor inspection. Workers have the legal right to request compensation for health concerns arising from dangerous working conditions.

Sweden

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a freely elected multiparty parliamentary form of government. Legislative authority rests in the unicameral parliament (Riksdag). Observers considered the general elections in September 2018 to be free and fair. In January a center-left coalition led by Stefan Lofven of the Social Democratic Party assumed office. The king is largely a symbolic head of state. The prime minister is the head of government and exercises executive authority.

The national police are responsible for law enforcement and general order within the country. The Security Service is responsible for national security related to terrorism, extremism, and espionage. The Ministry of Justice provides funding and letters of instruction for police activities, but it does not control how the police perform them. According to the constitution, all branches of the police are independent authorities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

Authorities generally prosecuted officials who committed human rights abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials and political parties to disclose their income and assets. The declarations are available to the public, and there are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence, is illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties range from two to 10 years in prison.

The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reported 7,958 cases of rape in 2018, an increase of approximately 8 percent compared with the previous year. Women and girls were victims in more than 93 percent of the cases. In approximately 17 percent of the cases, the abuser was convicted. Domestic violence remained a problem, and 11,522 cases were reported during 2018.

The law provides for the protection of survivors from contact with their abusers. When necessary, authorities helped survivors to protect their identities or to obtain new identities and homes. Both national and local governments helped fund volunteer groups that provided shelter and other assistance for abused women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. It is also illegal to perform FGM/C on a Swedish citizen abroad. The government developed a national action plan to prevent FGM/C and work with victims. In 2018 the National Board of Health and Welfare estimated approximately 40,000 victims of FGM/C were living in Sweden. In 2018, 38 cases of genital mutilation were reported to the police; all FGM/C had taken place abroad. The national clinic specializing in victims of FGM/C reported an 80 percent increase in visitors over the past two years.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia. The national support line for honor-related crime victims reported a significant increase of callers from approximately 20 per month in 2014 to 80 in 2018. Between January and September, the support line reported 44 cases of children being sent abroad for forced marriage. In August the Skane Court of Appeals sentenced a woman to six months in prison for unlawfully threatening to kill her 22-year-old son’s 19-year-old girlfriend unless she had an abortion, since the pregnancy was contrary to the older woman’s religion and culture.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for criminal penalties from a fine to up to two years in prison. The government generally enforced this law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. Women were underrepresented in high-ranking positions in both the public and the private sectors.

Gender-based discrimination with respect to access to credit, owning or managing a business, and access to education and housing is prohibited and was not commonly reported. The government enforced the laws effectively.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The tax authority immediately registered in the national population register all children born in the country, regardless of their parents’ citizenship or immigration or residency status in the country.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children mentally or physically. Penalties for such range from a fine up to 10 years in prison. Cases of child abuse were reported. Authorities may remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. The children’s ombudsman published a number of reports and publications for children and those working to protect children from abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to marry. The government will legally recognize as valid the marriage of anyone who comes to the country after the age of 18, even if they were married abroad before the age of 18. The government does not recognize a foreign child marriage if either of the parties was a Swedish citizen or resident in Sweden at the time of marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes “contact with children under 15 for sexual purposes,” including internet contact intended to lead to sexual assault. Penalties range from fines to one year in prison. The law prohibits the sale of children; penalties range from two to 10 years in prison. It also bans child pornography with penalties ranging from fines to six years in prison. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.

Displaced Children: Stockholm police reported underage children, mainly from Morocco, Algeria, and other countries in North Africa, lived on the streets. Many of these children had sought asylum in the country but did not qualify and were at risk of removal. Social Services offered accommodation for children or foster families regardless of asylum status.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 20,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) registered 280 anti-Semitic crimes in 2018, compared with 182 in 2016. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, harassment in schools, and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitic incidents were often associated with neo-Nazi movements and events in the Middle East and the actions of the Israeli government. Swedish Jews were often blamed for Israeli policies.

The most common forms of anti-Semitism were hate speech (45 percent of complaints), unlawful threats or harassment (34 percent), vandalism or graffiti (8 percent), and defamation (8 percent). Of the 182 investigations opened in 2016, 52 percent were dismissed, and 37 percent were directly dismissed without a formal investigation due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in only 9 percent of the cases.

Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. The Simon Wiesenthal Center left in place its travel warning, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.”

In February the Supreme Court overruled the appellate court’s decision not to expel a Palestinian man with “special refugee status” sentenced to two years in prison for attempting to firebomb the synagogue in Gothenburg in 2017. The man will serve his sentence and then be expelled. He is prohibited from returning to Sweden before 2028.

At a demonstration in Malmo on May 1 arranged by the Social Democratic Youth Association (SSU) demonstrators sang, “long life Palestine–destroy Zionism.” The demonstrators were reported for hate speech to police, who initiated an investigation. The SSU stated it understood the criticism and that it would stop singing the song.

On July 2, the Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR), a neo-Nazi group, held a meeting with a few participants in Visby during the annual Almedalen conference of the country’s political leaders. Later that day NMR members shouted denials of the Holocaust and attempted to block entrance into an exhibition featuring photographs of seven Holocaust survivors, which had been arranged by the Fotografiska Museum in central Visby. Police dispersed the NMR and initiated an investigation into hate speech.

In August an imam was convicted of hate speech following a demonstration in central Helsingborg in 2017. The imam received a conditional sentence and fines. During a speech, given in Arabic, he called Jews “the progeny of monkeys and pigs.”

A Jewish neurosurgeon at New Karolinska Hospital (NKS) reported continuing anti-Semitic harassment stemming from his 2017 report that the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery subjected him and two other Jewish colleagues to anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination. An internal investigation reportedly concluded no harassment had taken place. Following widespread media condemnation, the NKS demoted the accused surgeon in June for “violating the hospital’s core values” but without acknowledging anti-Semitism. The equality ombudsman undertook three inquiries into the hospital’s actions concerning the Jewish doctor’s claims. On October 7, the daily Svenska Dagbladet reported the Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the Karolinska Institute (KI), an associated medical university that awards the Nobel Prize for Medicine but is not legally part of NKS, for failing to introduce zero tolerance against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. Mikael Odenberg, chairman of the KI board of directors, called the criticism “expected, but unfounded.”

A report published in December 2018 by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights found that more than 80 percent of Jewish-Swedes subjected to anti-Semitic harassment chose not to report the incident to the police because they believed nothing would be done about it. Approximately one-third of the more than 1,000 respondents said they avoided carrying Jewish symbols and were thinking about moving from the country for security reasons.

A web survey published in June by the polling institute Inizio found that more than half of the 1,001 respondents it interviewed believed anti-Semitism had increased over the previous five years. More than one-third experienced anti-Semitism in their everyday lives one or more times. More than two-thirds of the respondents were worried about anti-Semitism. The survey also showed that more than half of the country’s population indicated they knew about the Holocaust rather well. Only a small minority believed it was not important to remember the Holocaust.

For 2018 and 2019, the government allocated 22 million kronor ($2.3 million) for grants to increase security for threatened places of worship and other parts of civil society. All religious communities and civil society actors who believe they have been threatened may apply for the grant.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency continued to cooperate with religious communities on a national level to promote dialogue and prevent conflicts leading to anti-Semitic incidents. It continued to train police officers to detect hate crimes and visited high schools to raise awareness of such crimes and encourage more victims to report abuses. The government made information available in several languages for victims of hate crimes and provided interpreters to facilitate reporting. Police hate-crime officers operated throughout the country.

The Living History Forum is a public authority commissioned to address societal problems related to religious and ethnic tolerance, democracy, and human rights using the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as its starting point. The Forum sensitized the public, and particularly the young, to the need to respect the equal value of all persons, with a specific focus on teaching about the Holocaust as a means of fighting Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

The Media Council, a government agency whose primary task is to train minors to be conscious media users and to protect them from harmful media influences, initiated a No Hate Speech Movement campaign and worked to stop anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The government allocated five million kronor ($529,000) annually from 2018 to 2020 to strengthen opportunities for study visits to Holocaust memorial sites and allow more students and teachers to visit them.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government effectively enforced these provisions and held accountable those responsible for violations.

Government regulations require new buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible. Observers reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as apartments, restaurants, and bars. Some means of public transportation remained inaccessible.

Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants and Roma continued to be problems.

Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked to neo-Nazi or white supremacy ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. The Security Service estimated the total membership of violent extreme right-wing groups at 500 persons, strengthened by several hundred additional supporters who attend rallies. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The NMR was the largest white supremacy group with approximately 160 active members. The NMR registered as a political party and participated in the parliamentary and local elections in September 2018. It did not win any seats. During the year the NMR split. Eight neo-Nazis from the top leadership formed a new group called Nordisk Styrka (Nordic Strength). The new group opposes NMR’s “liberalization” and wants to focus more on “the struggle.” The NGO EXPO was concerned Nordisk Styrka would try to profile themselves on radical forms of violent activism.

The National Coordinator for Vulnerable EU Citizens estimated in February that 4,500-5,000 vulnerable EU citizens, the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, resided in the country in abject poverty at any given time. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for up to three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit. Police stated that most Roma were in the country voluntarily but that there were cases of trafficking and forced begging. In December 2018 the Supreme Administrative Court determined that municipal bans on begging were compatible with the law. Since then, 11 municipalities issued begging bans. In some cases the municipality requires an official permit for persons looking to collect funds on city grounds.

Several districts in the country where a majority of the population was of immigrant origin or parentage suffered social segregation from the rest of the country. The result was lower levels of education, higher levels of unemployment, and separation from the country’s mainstream culture mainly due to poor Swedish-language skills.

In January amendments to the Act on National Minorities and Minority Languages came into force that strengthen the basic protection of the languages and culture of the national minorities. Among other things, the amendments require municipalities and county councils to adopt goals and guidelines for their minority policy work and provide members of national minorities the right to preschool and other educational activities and to elder care in their native languages.

The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acts as an advisory body to the government and has limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations govern the Sami parliament’s operations.

Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their tribal history.

In August the Historical Museum in Stockholm repatriated the remains of 25 Sami individuals to their original resting place in an old cemetery in Lycksele. The remains were excavated in an archaeological study in the 1950s. In addition to a ceremony, both the Lycksele municipality and the Swedish Church carried out educational efforts as part of a reconciliation process.

On September 3, the Supreme Court opened the hearings in the case of Girja’s Sami village versus the state, a legal process started 10 years ago. The conflict centers around who holds the right to hunting and fishing in the Sami village area, the Sami village, or the state.

Antidiscrimination laws exist; apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and were enforced.

In 2018 the NCCP identified 7,090 police reports with a hate crime motive, a majority with xenophobic motives.

In May the Staffanstorp municipal council voted to forbid veils, burqas and niqab among staff and students in preschools and schools up to grade six. The decision was appealed to the Administrative Court as a violation of religious freedom.

Police in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have democracy and anti-hate crime groups. A National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism under the auspices of the NCCP serves as a clearinghouse for information, best practices, and support of municipalities, agencies, and other actors.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government effectively enforced the law and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for protection of workers from being fired because of union activity. If a court finds a dismissal to be unlawful, the employee has the right to reinstatement.

Foreign companies may be exempt from collective bargaining, provided they meet minimum working conditions and levels of pay. Public-sector employees enjoy the right to strike, subject to limitations in the collective agreements protecting the public’s immediate health and security. The government mediation service may also intervene to postpone a strike for up to 14 days for mediation. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) claimed the law restricts the rights of the country’s trade unions to take industrial action on behalf of foreign workers in foreign companies operating in the country. The law allows unions to conduct their activities largely without interference. The government effectively enforced applicable laws. The Labor Court settles any dispute that affects the relationship between employers and employees. An employer organization, an employee organization, or an employer who has entered into a collective agreement on an individual basis may lodge claims. The Labor Court may impose prison sentences sufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Workers and employers exercised all legal collective bargaining rights, which the government protected. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. There were few reports of antiunion discrimination. ITUC quoted the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees that employee representatives and occupational safety and health (OSH) representatives were most affected by antiunion discrimination.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and the government effectively enforced the law. Penalties of imprisonment were generally sufficient to deter violations. Forced labor involving trafficked men and women occurred in agriculture (including involving companies providing foreign labor for berry picking), construction, hospitality, domestic work, forced begging, and theft, and there were reports of forced begging involving trafficked children (see section 7.c.). In some cases employers or contractors providing labor seized the passports of workers and withheld their pay. Resources and inspections were adequate.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. It permits full-time employment from the age of 16 under the supervision of local authorities. Employees younger than age 18 may work only during the daytime and under supervision. Children as young as 13 may work part time or perform light work with parental permission. The law limits the types of work children may or may not engage in. For instance, a child may not work with dangerous machinery or chemicals. A child may also not work alone or be responsible for handling cash transactions. The law considers illegal employment of a child in the labor market a civil rather than a criminal violation. According to the law, forcing a child to work may be treated as coercion, deprivation of liberty, or child abuse, and it carries a wide range of penalties, including fines and imprisonment. The government effectively implemented these laws and regulations. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

According to the National Method Support against Prostitution and Trafficking, an umbrella organization under the auspices of the Equality Agency, 19 girls and 38 boys from outside the country were subjected to trafficking in 2018. This was a decrease compared with previous years. The boys were mainly subjected to forced begging and forced petty theft. The girls were mainly subjected to sexual exploitation, forced begging, and child marriage. Police and social services reportedly acted promptly when case were reported. The most common country of origin for trafficked children was Morocco.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The government effectively enforced applicable law, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred. The equality ombudsman investigated complaints of gender discrimination in the labor market. In 2018 the ombudsman received 807 complaints of discrimination in the labor market, of which 170 were related to gender. Workers with disabilities faced workplace access discrimination. Of the complaints of ethnic discrimination, 254 involved the labor market. Complaints may also be filed with the courts or with the employer. Labor unions generally mediated in cases filed with the employer.

In November 2018 the Center for Multidisciplinary Research on Racism at Uppsala University reported on discrimination against Afro-Swedes in the labor market. Afro-Swedes with a three-year post-secondary education have significantly lower salaries than the rest of the population with the same level of education. Afro-Swedes born in Sweden had an income level 50 percent below the average.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage law. Annual collective bargaining agreements set wages within industries, which were greater than the poverty income level. By regulation both foreign and domestic employers must offer conditions of employment on par with the country’s collective agreements. Nonunion establishments generally observed these contracts as well.

The labor law and collective bargaining agreements regulate overtime and rest periods. The law allows a maximum of 200 hours of overtime annually. Collective agreements determined compensation for overtime, which could take the form of money or time off. The law requires a minimum period of 36 consecutive hours of rest, preferably on weekends, over a seven-day period.

OSH standards were appropriate. The responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority, a government agency, effectively enforced these standards. During the year the government conducted more than 400 unannounced visits to check on work permits, taxes, and working environment regulations, in the process uncovering widespread violations. In 2018 the authority conducted approximately 27,000 labor dialogue visits of which 19,000 were labor inspections. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce the law. The government’s increase of the authority’s budget resulted in an increase in inspections. The Swedish Work Environment Authority reported 50 industrial accidents that caused death of workers in 2018.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority issued occupational health and safety regulations, and trained union stewards and safety ombudsmen whom government inspectors monitored. Safety ombudsmen have the authority to stop unsafe activity immediately and to call in an inspector. The authority effectively enforced these rules. An employer may be fined for violating work environment regulations. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Many foreign seasonal workers, including berry pickers from Asia and Bulgaria, faced harsh working conditions, including the seizure of passports, withholding of pay, and poor living and working conditions. The guidelines of the Swedish Retail and Food Federation cover EU citizens who pick berries in the country but not workers from outside the EU. Under the guidelines berry pickers are to be informed that they have the right to sell their berries to all buyers and that nobody has the right to control their workhours. A foreign company providing berry pickers to a local company must also demonstrate how it expects to pay workers in case of limited work or a bad harvest. The guidelines task food and retail organizations and brokers with ensuring their implementation.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future