ECRI 5th report on Lithuania (excerpts on historical memory & Anti-Semitism), 2016

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FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Common topics

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2. Hate speech6

6 This section covers racist and homo/transphobic speech. For a definition of “hate speech” see Recommendation No. R (97) 20 of the Committee of Ministers to the member States on “hate speech”, adopted on 30.10.1997

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– Racist hate speech

18. Public expressions of racism in Lithuania are often linked to nationalistic and antisemitic extremists. In 2014, the Lithuanian Jewish Community warned that antisemitic attitudes were still widespread in the country and that more needed to be done, in particular in the field of education, to promote respect for cultural diversity.9

9 Baltic Times 2014.

19. The problem of ultra-nationalist marches taking place to mark the two Lithuanian Independence Days on 16 February and 11 March persists. Sympathy for wartime Nazi-collaborators is often expressed during these events. In 2015, the Lithuanian Nationalist Youth Union organised such a march in Kaunas, during which some of the participants were seen wearing swastikasymbols. The march took place near the historical site of the Kaunas massacre, during which some 10,000 Jews were murdered in October 1941.10 In 2011, swastika flags were hoisted on three occasions on 20 April, the birthday of Adolf Hitler, by neo-Nazi sympathisers.

10 JTA 2015.

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– Measures taken by the authorities

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– Criminal law, administrative law and civil law responses

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30. The authorities informed ECRI, that in the 2011 cases of displaying swastika flags (see § 19), the perpetrators were fined and subsequently placed under observation by the security services.

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– Condemnation of hate speech and counter speech

42. In spite of previous ECRI recommendations, the Lithuanian authorities have not yet taken any effective steps to ban or dissolve ultra-nationalist events during which Nazi-collaborators are praised or related symbols displayed. The authorities indicated to ECRI that such events are unfortunate public expressions by a very small extremist minority, which should, nevertheless, be permitted within the context of diverging historical interpretations of the country’s struggle for independence, consistent with freedom of expression and assembly. The authorities informed ECRI, however, that in the run up to Independence Day celebrations, several high-ranking state officials, including the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament, have made public speeches in which they rejected racism and promoted tolerance.

43. ECRI recommends that the Lithuanian authorities, while respecting the right to celebrate the country’s national struggle for independence, take effective measures to prevent or punish any public praise for Nazi- collaborators and persons who engaged in genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity, or the public display of symbols associated with such persons, organisations or crimes.

– Activities to promote tolerance

44. Concerning antisemitism, the Jewish community, while acknowledging the government’s commitment to tackling this issue, points to a lack of clear guidelines and coordination between relevant ministries to promote respect for diversity through activities in the field of education.29 Furthermore, there have been no awareness-raising activities conducted by the authorities in the context of property restitution to Jewish persons or organisations in order to avoid antisemitic sentiments, as recommended by ECRI in its last report.30

29 Baltic Times 2014. The Lithuanian authorities informed ECRI that in autumn 2014, the government and representatives of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, as well as the American Jewish Committee, decided to set up a commission for Lithuanian Jewish culture and history.

30 § 141 of ECRI’s 4th report on Lithuania. The Law on Good Will Compensation for the Immovable Property of Jewish Communities was adopted in 2011.

45. ECRI recommends that the authorities develop, jointly with the Jewish community, an awareness-raising strategy to combat antisemitism, in particular in the context of property restitution.

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3. Racist and homo- / transphobic violence

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– Racist violence

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50. It seems, however, that attacks against members of historical minorities are more frequent than official data suggests. [..] Similarly, in 2012 no cases of antisemitic violence were reported by the Lithuanian authorities.39 However, the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism reported an alleged attack on a young Jewish man wearing traditional clothing, who was severely beaten and injured by a group of youths in northwest Lithuania.40

39 Ibid.: 64.

40 Quoted in: FRA 2013a: 39

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Document data: CRI(2016)20 Adopted on 18 March 2016 Published on 7 June 2016 Link: https://rm.coe.int/fifth-report-on-lithuania/16808b587b Also available in French and Lithuanian

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