This UN shadow report, considered at the 88th session of the Committee from 23 November to 11 December in Geneva, was written in response to CERD’s review of Lithuania’s sixth to eighth periodic reports of State parties under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
The aim of this report, which will be taken into account by the country rapporteur along with CERD members, is to provide CERD with additional information on the implementation of certain recommendations made by the Committee and to highlight the current debate on the rights of national minorities as well as their present-day level of protection in Lithuania.
Lithuania’s record on tackling racial discrimination faced close inspection by CERD on Friday 27 November during meetings that were broadcast live via the internet.
EFHR is pleased to be able to say that, since the last report presented in 2011, it has been noticed that the authorities in Lithuania have taken some measures to improve the quality of protection for national minorities. In particular, EFHR finds the renewal of the Department of National Minorities a positive step.
However, more still needs to be done, as we have set out to show in this report. Current issues include the lack of ratification of important international treaties, such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Protocol No. 12 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The EFHR report was also mentioned by the European Network Against Racism national platform, consisting of a coalition of three organizations: The NGO Centre for Equality Advancement, the association Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, and the NGO Roma Community Centre. You can read this alternative report here.
EFHR hopes that CERD takes our report and its recommendations into consideration. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to submit our findings and conclusions and sincerely hope that they can be of some benefit to CERD and go some way to help improve the situation in Lithuania.
Summary of the EFHR Alternative Report for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD):
- Response to Committee Recommendations (Paragraph 10): EFHR feels that the main aim of the reopened Department of National Minorities is to participate in the process of the implementation of policy regarding the rights of national minorities.
- EFHR argues that there is insufficient funding for institutions dealing with human rights or national minorities, and this trend reflects the general attitude of the Government towards the issue of the rights of national minorities.
- Response to Committee Recommendations (Paragraph 11): Despite calls for the State Party to adopt a law on national minorities as soon as feasibly possible, this has yet to transpire. Since 2010 there has been no law on national minorities in Lithuania. Draft laws have been registered in the Seimas but these have yet to even be discussed.
- Response to the Committee Recommendations (Paragraph 12): Since 2011 there has been no institution specializing in hate crimes. EFHR argues that complaints involving hate speech against minorities are often ignored by public authorities. EFHR monitors the internet for hate speech incidents and has submitted over 450 complaints to the Prosecutor’s office. However, EFHR questions whether enough is done concerning hate speech crimes, especially as punishments usually only consist of a small fine.
- EFHR points out the recent resurgence of Neo-Nazi groups in Lithuania, particularly noticeable during Independence Day (11 March) celebrations, and the blasé reaction on the part of high-profile public figures to this trend.
- Response to the Committee Recommendations (Paragraph 14): EFHR points out that there is a lack of training sessions related to human rights in Lithuania. Despite assurances that it would be taking place, a training course related to human rights for the Lithuanian Police School failed to take place.
- Response to the Committee Recommendations (Paragraph 18): EFHR highlights the fact that the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsman still receives few cases regarding discrimination related to ethnicity and nationality and notes that the figures fail to reflect the reality of the situation in Lithuania. This could be due to lack of knowledge about the topic, or a lack of trust towards this institution.
- Response to the Committee Recommendations (Paragraph 22): EFHR stress that Lithuania has ratified neither the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages nor Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
- Response to the Committee Recommendations (Paragraph 28): EFHR states that, on the Ministry for Foreign Affairs website, information regarding state reports and the concluding observations of the Committee on the reports submitted by Lithuania are only published in English, with no translations in Lithuanian or the languages of national minorities available. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for most to become fully acquainted with the latest state reports.
- The right to vote and to stand for election and the right to take part in the activities of political parties – EFHR criticizes the record of the Lithuanian Government in relation to elections and the lack of informative materials available in minority languages. Also noted is the fact that during the referendum on whether or not to join the EU, information was available in minority languages, and this contributed significantly to minorities voting (to join the EU).
- The report ended with EFHR’s conclusions/recommendations. It was noted that some steps have been taken to improve the quality of protection for national minorities in Lithuania – for example, the renewal of the Department of National Minorities.
- However, issues still remain and it appears that the Lithuanian authorities are not inclined to make the situation of national minorities a priority. These issues include insufficient public grants for organizations supporting national minorities, problems with hate speech investigations and the lack of ratification of treaties such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Protocol No. 12 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.