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 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman has three mandates: to investigate complaints about abuse of office or other violations of human rights involving public administration; to implement the national prevention of torture mechanism under the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; and to serve as an accredited national human rights institution. In the last capacity, the parliamentary ombudsman is responsible for reporting on and monitoring human rights problems, cooperating with international and domestic human rights organizations, and promoting human rights awareness and education.
The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman operates an independent public institution with responsibility for implementing and enforcing rights under the law and for investigating individual complaints.
A Children’s Rights Ombudsman is responsible for overseeing observance of children’s rights and their legal interests. It may initiate investigations of possible violations of such rights, either upon receipt of a complaint or on its own initiative.
Parliament’s human rights committee prepares and reviews draft laws and other legal acts related to civil rights and presents recommendations to government institutions and other organizations about problems related to the protection of civil rights. It also receives reports from the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
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.