May 10, 2019, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued its Concluding observations on the combined 9th and 10th periodic reports of Lithuania (concluding observations). The document opens with positive changes in Lithuanian legal and policy frameworks, in particular, the accreditation of the Seimas Ombudsman’s Office, adoption of three action plans (integration of foreigners, non-discrimination and anti-trafficking) and the integration program for Roma.
At the same time, the concluding observations contain a list of concerns and recommendations. Among others, these refer to:
- The lack of comprehensive statistical data on social and economic situation of persons belonging to national minorities. The Committee recommends that Lithuania should collect such statistics disaggregated by sex, age and other relevant indicators, in order to acquire the necessary empirical data to design policies and measures aiming at enhancing the equal enjoyment of rights under the Convention.
- The insufficiency of sources allocated for the functioning of the Seimas Ombudsman’s Office and the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman. The Committee recommends that Lithuania must ensure sufficient funding to the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, so that it can effectively and independently fulfil its mandate, and to the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, so that it can take up its preventive and education competences.
- The absence such prohibited grounds of discrimination as “colour” and “descent” in the text of Criminal Code. The Committee recommends that Lithuania should amend the Law on Equal Treatment and the Criminal Code to introduce “colour” and “descent” as prohibited grounds of discrimination, in order to bring them in line with article 1(1) of the Convention.
- The lack of policies directed against hate speech and incitement of hatred. The Committee recommends that Lithuania should intensify its public campaigns to combat hate speech, incitement to hatred and hate crimes, to address prejudice and negative sentiments towards national minorities and migrants and to promote tolerance and understanding towards these groups, in cooperation with the civil society and representatives of the most affected communities. Also, it should strengthen the training of journalists on how to avoid the use of hate speech and stereotypes towards communities, with the involvement of the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics.
- A low level of reporting of hate speech and hate crimes, as well as the lack of their registration and effective investigation. The Committee recommends that Lithuania should take measures to encourage and to facilitate the reporting of hate speech and hate crimes (e.g. by raising public awareness about access to legal aid and available legal remedies, and by ensuring that the perpetrators are adequately prosecuted and punished), to build capacity of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges, to collect statistics on investigated cases of hate crimes and incitement to hatred from politicians and from the media, and to enhance the data collection system.
- Necessity to bring the provisions on reparations of victims of racially motivated crimes in line with EU requirements. The Committee recommends that Lithuania should include compensation to victims of discrimination and incitement to hatred falling under articles 169, 170 and 171 of the Criminal Code in the draft Law on the Compensation for Victims of Violent Crimes.
- Difficult economic and social situation of Roma. The Committee recommends that Lithuania should intensify its efforts towards the integration of Roma into society, within the framework if the Action Plan for the Integration of Roma into Lithuanian Society for 2015-2020, actively combat discrimination against Roma in all spheres (in particular employment and housing), provide trainings to the law enforcement and judicial officers and to journalists on Roma issues and undertake awareness-raising campaigns. The Committee also recommends that Lithuania should continue promoting education for Roma children, creating opportunities for young Roma (e.g. by providing them with vocational trainings adapted to the needs of the employment market), facilitating the access of Roma to adequate housing. Lastly, it should increase its efforts to provide Roma women with access to adequate health care.
- The lack of the law on national minorities. The Committee recommends that Lithuania must accelerate the drafting and the adoption of a comprehensive law on national minorities and ensure that representatives of the different national minorities are consulted in the drafting process.
- Inadequacies of asylum system and integration of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, and the lack of concrete measures to combat statelessness. The Committee recommends that Lithuania should ensure that border guards allow persons seeking asylum to enter its territory, register them, promptly refer them to asylum authorities and grant them access to a lawyer if they request so, conduct effective and impartial investigations, expand the capacity of reception centres and the development of community-based accommodation for asylum-seekers, provide sufficient housing opportunities, undertake integration measures (including in the field of education, training and employment), combat xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments and consider increasing the duration and amount of financial support. Also, the Committee recommends that Lithuania should undertake concrete measures, including legislative, to reduce and to prevent statelessness and to facilitate the naturalization procedure for stateless persons, particularly for persons born in Lithuania. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that Lithuania must improve its identification mechanism and data collection on stateless persons.
March 2019, the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) and the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights submitted their shadow report on Lithuania’s observance of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (see p. 24-25). Very positively, most of recommendations from this report are reflected in the Committee’s concluding observations. This proves the importance on the shadow reporting for the formation of objective picture by the monitoring bodies, however, it also underlines the urgency of certain issues, in this case – those affecting human rights and undermining minority protection in Lithuania. The EFHR hopes that Lithuanian authorities will undertake steps to implement the recommendations and that the next reporting cycle will be remarked by progressive and positive developments.
EFHR publishes the translations of the concluding observations in English, Lithuanian, Russian and Polish to ensure that all groups of Lithuanian society, including national minorities, can access them.