In 2018 the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) has submitted its alternative report about the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM) in Lithuania. Moreover, the report evaluates the implementation of the Framework Convention by the Department of National Minorities under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. The document has been sent to the Council of Europe, which monitors the compliance with the FCPNM.
The EFHR’s alternative report has written in response to the Fourth Report on the implementation of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in the Republic of Lithuania subject to Article 25 of the Convention, prepared by the Department of National Minorities under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. This Fourth Report covers the period between Q2 2011 and Q2 2016 and it was submitted last year.
The alternative report made by the EFHR has several aims. Firstly, to contribute with accurate data and information on the compliance with the FCPNM obligations in relation to national minorities. Secondly, to enhance the importance of the National Minorities Department when adopting and implementing policies on national minorities in the country. Finally, to study the positions of the aforementioned Department on the implementation of national minorities policies.
The EFHR hopes that this alternative report will help to improve the situation of national minorities in Lithuania as well as guiding non-governmental organisations towards a closer cooperation with the Department of National Minorities. However, the EFHR regrets that it has not been invited by the Department to discussions when preparing the draft of the Fourth Report.
Summary of the EFHR Alternative Report on Department of National Minorities under the Fourth Report on the Implementation of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in the Republic of Lithuania subject to Article 25 of the Convention.
- Article 1. Lithuania needs to ratify international law instruments and to fulfil international obligations for protecting the situation of national minorities in the country from a legal perspective.
- Article 2. New legal binding mechanisms should be implemented for fulfilling the goals of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Since the ratification of the Convention, no new legal instruments have been legislated or implemented and it has been said by the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania that the application of the Convention is not mandatory. Therefore, national minorities in Lithuania are not legally supported and protected.
- Article 3. There are disadvantages for national minorities in Lithuania since there is no law that can ensure their rights. Examples of situations that represent disadvantages for them can be the following: no bilingual street names and problems for recording nationality in Lithuanian passport.
- Article 4. More information about hate crimes and hate speech based on grounds of race, language, nationality and ethnic origin should be provided to national minorities so they can report and prosecute them and more measures have to be implemented for fighting it.
- Article 5. Funds from the Lithuanian Government directed to Human Rights institutions are still insufficient. However, there are awards provided by the Government for graduates who have prepared the best academic works on the theme of national minorities.
- Article 6. There have been good changes like the amendment of the Lithuanian criminal code in the year 2017 regarding hate crimes. However, the recognition of hate speech crimes is still very low.
- Article 7. Several cases of Lithuanian police interventions against Polish minorities have been recorded by the EFHR as a breach of Article 7 of the FCPNM.
- Article 8. The EFHR regrets that no measures have been taken by the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office to protect the right to freedom of religion of national minorities.
- Article 9. The Polish media in Lithuania has less broadcast time than the Russian media. This is a disadvantage for the Polish minority as it is the largest national minority in Lithuania.
- Article 10. The right to use minority languages and their situation in Lithuania should be protected by Lithuanian law.
- Article 11. Lithuanian authorities do not issue identification documents that contains specific spelling characters from national minorities’ languages and which are not included in the Lithuanian alphabet. Lithuanian laws did not find an effective solution for this original names spelling problem.
- Article 12. More measures should be taken for supporting both the promotion and protection of national minorities in the fields of education and research. More aid and facilities are needed in national minority schools in Lithuania.
- Article 13. Lithuanian rules for undertaking matriculation exams and school registrations did not consider the point of view of national minorities. Therefore, the accreditation of national minorities schools in Lithuania is slower and more complicated than the accreditation of a non-national minority school.
- Article 14. As stated in previous reports by the EFHR, national minorities schools in Lithuania are lacking support by the Government due to the 2011 educational reform. Therefore, the attendance in national minority schools in decreasing.
- Article 15. More facilities must be provided to national minorities in order to ensure their right to vote as there is a lack of electoral material translated to Polish and Russian. This situation has been reported by the OSCE/ODIHR in the years 2012 and 2016.
- Article 16. The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania did not bear in mind national issues when they settled electoral boundaries in 2012. Thus, the chances of national minorities for voting representatives in elections were restricted since then.