2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (excerpts), 2020

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

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E. DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL

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PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place to address the issue of communal property restitution, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government has made some progress on the resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. A philanthropic foundation created in 2011 to receive government compensation for Communist and Nazi seizures of Jewish community-owned property distributed funds to individuals and to Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects. According to an agreement between the government and the Jewish community, the foundation was to disburse 36 million euros ($39.6 million) by 2023. In 2013 and 2014, the foundation distributed a one-time payment of 870,000 euros ($1.2 million in 2013-14 dollars) to individual survivors. The foundation’s board allocated the remaining funds to support Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects. As in 2018 the foundation received 3.6 million euros ($4.0 million) for this purpose, which brought the total received as of January to 21.6 million euros ($23.8 million). Jewish and ethnic Polish communities continued to advocate for private property restitution because there has been no opportunity to submit individual claims since 2001, when the country’s existing restitution law stopped allowing citizens who resided in the country to apply for private property restitution. Despite changes to the citizenship law in 2011 that made it easier to reacquire the country’s citizenship, the government did not reopen the application period for these communities and others who had been excluded from filing claims based on citizenship.

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Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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G. STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNHCR as of 2018, 3,320 stateless persons lived in the country. The law permits persons born on the territory or legally residing there for 10 years and who are not citizens of any other country to apply for citizenship. Applicants must possess an unlimited residence permit, knowledge of the Lithuanian language and constitution, and the ability to support themselves.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

ELECTIONS AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

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Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.

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Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

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ANTI-SEMITISM

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.

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NATIONAL/RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITIES

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.

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Section 7. Worker Rights

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D. DISCRIMINATION WITH RESPECT TO EMPLOYMENT AND OCCUPATION

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NGOs reported that workers in the Romani, LGBTI, and HIV-positive communities faced social and employment discrimination (see section 6). Non-Lithuanian speakers and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and workplace access.


Document data: 11.03.2014. Link: https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/lithuania/

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