Information on the access of national minorities to the new media (excerpts), 2009

Question 7

What is the number of households with access to cable TV? Are any channels/programmes in languages spoken by persons belonging to national minorities transmitted via the cable network?

[..]

Analysis

[..]

Although sometimes patchy, the data provided in the States’ responses indicates divergent practices as regards the presence of minority-language channels/programmes in cable networks: some States report the carriage of such channels/programmes by cable networks35 and others state that no such channels/programmes are carried,36 whereas a third group of States indicates that relevant/official/specific information is not available to them.37

35 Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden.

37 Lithuania (despite information provided), Romania, Sweden (information provided is based on “a search at the Internet”).

[..]

Question 9

What is the status of possible plans as regards digitalisation of public service media and are there any specific concerns related to minorities and their access to digital media? Are there, for example, gaps in the coverage of the digital television network that particularly affect areas with compact minority population?

[..]

Analysis

[..]

Some concerns were expressed about possible interruptions to reception due to technical or geographical complications. Technical difficulties could include the cost/availability of decoder equipment,45 [..]

45 Lithuania.

[..]

Information and communication technologies (ICT)

Question 10 What instruments have been developed to promote the active use of new communication technologies by minorities?

[..]

Possible best practices

In this context, a number of best practices can be identified, including the promotion of access to, and knowledge of, computers and Internet, in the education sector. [..]. Similarly, the Latvian response mentions a cooperative project involving governmental authorities, a Roma NGO and Microsoft to “support Roma training in the field of new technologies”.55

55 The Lithuanian authorities also mention a project to provide computer classes for the Roma.

[..]

Question 14

Describe what measures have been taken (if any) by public authorities when developing on-line public services (use of the Internet to facilitate participation in public affairs and democratic processes (e-democracy) at national as well as local and regional levels) to enable effective participation by persons belonging to national minorities?

[..]

Analysis

[..]

States’ responses indicate a tendency to ensure that the content of official/public authorities’ websites is (at least partly) provided in the languages of national minorities (at national level when the content relates to minorities66 and at least at geographical levels where it is most relevant).67 [..]

67 Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovak Republic.


Document data: 09.03.2009; DH-MIN(2009)003 Link: https://rm.coe.int/16800974a8

Visit report by the Special Rapporteur on racism (excerpts on integration), 2008

Summary

[..]

− State authorities should highlight their strong political will and commitment to fight all forms of racism and discrimination as well as their vigilance and sensitivity to the dynamics of multiculturalism and identity changes faced by its society;

− The Government should promote a profound process of multiculturalism based on the recognition and respect for the cultural and religious diversity of its different communities, old and recent, and the strengthening of the unity of the nation. Education, in particular the writing and teaching of history based on this logic, should play a key role

[..]

− The Government should extend and reinforce its National Programme for the Integration of Roma in the Lithuanian Society, aiming at both promoting and respecting their cultural identity and at eradicating their social and economic marginalization, in particular poor housing conditions, the high number of dropouts and poor achievement of Roma children at school, and the difficulties that the Roma have in accessing employment. The programme should also have a strong component that focuses on non-Roma citizens, sensitizing Lithuanian society at large to Roma history and
traditions, in order to eliminate the stigma and negative stereotypes with which the Roma are recurrently associated;

[..]

I. GENERAL BACKGROUND

[..]

B. Demographic, ethnic and religious composition

11. Lithuania has historically been a multicultural society with a core national identity. According to the 2001 census, Lithuania has a population of around 3.5 million, 83.5 per cent of which is of Lithuanian origin. Other large ethnic groups are Poles (6.7 per cent), Russians (6.3 per cent) and Belarusians (1.2 per cent) and Ukrainians (0.7 per cent). A number of smaller communities are also present, including Jews, Latvians, Tatars, Germans and Roma.1

1 National Census, 2001.

[..]

13. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in Lithuania, as 2.7 million Lithuanians (79 per cent of the population) identify themselves with this religious denomination. During communist rule, Catholicism was severely persecuted and became a symbol of national identity. Other sizeable religious groups are Russian Orthodox (4.1 per cent) and Protestants (1.9 per cent). Atheists amount to 9.5 per cent of the population. The Jewish and Muslim communities are numbered in the low thousands. A small but active community of Karaïtes, a group of ethnic Turkic adherents of Karaïte Judaism, is located in the city of Trakai.2

2 Ibid.

[..]

II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK, PUBLIC POLICIES AND VIEWS OF STATE OFFICIALS

A. The legal and institutional framework to combat racism and racial discrimination

[..]

Law on National Minorities and the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad

30. The general provisions of the Constitution are also complemented by the Law on National Minorities, which recognizes notably that “the cultural heritage connected with a national (ethnic) minority is an integral part of the cultural heritage of the Republic of Lithuania”. This Law, similarly to the Law on Equal Treatment, establishes a general prohibition on discrimination based on national or ethnic origin whilst defining positive actions to advance minority cultures. In particular, it ascertains the State obligation to promote the national consciousness and self-expression of minorities “to foster and develop the culture, language, customs and traditions of their nation or ethnic group and to preserve their national/ethnic identity” (art. 3.2).

31. The Law on National Minorities establishes a particular set of rights for persons belonging to national minorities, which includes the right to the State’s support in developing their national culture and education; the right to use the language of their national minority; the right to be taught the minority language or to receive instruction in this language; the right to receive and impart information and ideas in the minority language; the right to manifest one’s religion or belief and to establish religious communities and associations; the right to use minority symbols
and celebrate minority holidays. Furthermore, the Law also establishes the principle that in areas inhabited by a large number of persons belonging to a national minority, these persons may request to address State institutions in their minority language. Implementation of the Law is entrusted to the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad.

32. The Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad is responsible for the protection of rights of persons belonging to national minorities, safeguarding of their interests, attending to their needs and care for the preservation of national identity and heritage.5 The Department is directly supported by an advisory Council of National Minorities, gathering
representatives of some 20 communities, who make recommendations to the Department, the Seimas and the Government as a whole. The Department is also responsible for promoting Lithuanian culture abroad, particularly by supporting activities developed by the Lithuanian diaspora, which has some 1.5 to 2 million members worldwide.

5 See the State party report, CERD/C/461/Add.2, para. 7.

33. Apart from policy consultation, one of the roles of the Department is to provide support, including funding, to initiatives developed by minority communities in Lithuania. A number of cultural centres that promote minority cultures are being supported by the Department around the
country. In particular, the Special Rapporteur visited the Roma community centre in the outskirts of Vilnius, the Jewish Tolerance Centre in Vilnius, the Karaïte Society in Trakai and a multicultural centre in Visaginas. In this regard, the Department is designed to promote a predominantly cultural strategy to promote integration and multiculturalism and foster minority
cultures, thus complementing the legal measures that have been established to fight racism and discrimination.

B. Policies and measures to combat racism and racial discrimination

34. The Government’s approach to national minorities was summarized by the Director of the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad as an attempt “to build a new Lithuanian State with the minorities that live in Lithuania”. In particular, this Department ruled
out any possibility of fostering integration by assimilation, emphasizing the importance of national minorities maintaining and promoting their cultural traditions within a multicultural State.

[..]

37. As concerns the promotion of tolerance and intercultural dialogue, the Special Rapporteur was also informed that Lithuania, through its Ministry of Culture, has put in place a strategy that focuses on four main principles: the promotion of minority cultures; the implementation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Convention on Cultural Diversity; the coordination of the European programme on dialogue among cultures; and the preparation of activities for 2009, when Vilnius will be the European capital of culture. For this particular celebration, the Ministry of Culture has planned a number of activities that emphasize the role of multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue as cornerstones of Lithuanian culture. Three broad principles are followed while implementing cultural policy: every member of society has the right to participate; Lithuanians and national communities have the right to preserve and foster their national culture; conditions are created to spread Lithuanian culture internationally and to familiarize Lithuanians with other nations’ cultures.6

6 Ibid., para. 347.

[..]

C. Perceptions and reactions of State officials and government agencies

[..]

43. Officials at the Ministry of Interior also expressed the view that an important policy that contributed to creating peaceful relations and tolerance between ethnic communities in Lithuania was the zero-option citizenship law after the restoration of independence. According to this law,
every individual who was living in Lithuania before the restoration of independence in 1990 (except former members of the Soviet military forces) was granted the option to become a Lithuanian citizen. This policy has virtually eliminated the problem of statelessness and managed
to grant national minorities the full set of rights that stems from citizenship.

[..]

III. VIEWS OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND COMMUNITIES CONCERNED

[..]

B. Views of the Roma community

[..]

58. The Special Rapporteur asked Roma representatives for their views concerning the Programme for the Integration of Roma into Lithuanian Society, implemented by the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad. The general perception was that the
programme was a positive step, particularly due to the formal recognition by State institutions of the difficult situation faced by the Roma community. Local leaders described the actions and projects designed by the department on a positive note and as important means to redress the
situation. However, two major criticisms regarding the programme were raised. First, the programme was seen as insufficient to tackle the structural problems that the community faces, particularly regarding access to jobs. In particular, Roma leaders pointed out that the actions developed by the Department can only be successful if complemented by an engagement of the Vilnius municipal authorities, which are directly responsible for a number of practical issues concerning the Kirtimai settlement (e.g. land, access to basic services, schooling, etc). Second, Roma representatives felt that the community was not satisfactorily consulted or involved in the
design and implementation of the programme and hence could not voice its major concerns and suggestions, which would have an impact on the effectiveness of State actions.

59. One of the reasons why the Programme for the Integration of Roma into Lithuanian Society was criticized was its virtually exclusive focus on actions within the Roma community and a lack of attention to broader initiatives that need to take place at the heart of Lithuanian society to combat prejudice and further tolerance and respect. Ultimately, the issue that was constantly highlighted by Roma leaders in their discussions with the Special Rapporteur was the broad question of cultural mentality and acceptance by the Lithuanian society of the Roma as a distinct community that is the bearer of social and cultural traditions that need to be preserved.
Their main demand, therefore, is that actions to improve the conditions of living of Roma citizens be linked to the promotion of tolerance and acceptance of cultural diversity within Lithuanian society.

60. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the new Roma Integration Programme for the period 2008-2010, which aims to focus on some of the problems outlined by the community, with a special emphasis on issues of employment, professional training, social exclusion and the
building of tolerance towards the Roma community

61. The Special Rapporteur noted with interest that one of the most popular singers in Lithuania today is a Roma. Although Roma communities in Europe have historically found in music one of the few avenues for expression and broad participation in society, which has not
had a meaningful impact on the reversal of their marginalization and exclusion, the Special Rapporteur expressed his conviction that the success of a Roma musician as a national symbol in mainstream popular music in Lithuania could be an opportunity for authorities, society at large
and the Roma community to deepen this expression of acceptance of diversity and engage in a profound discussion aimed at fostering new opportunities for educational, cultural and professional inclusion of Roma within Lithuanian society.

[..]

E. The multicultural experience of Visaginas

69. The Special Rapporteur also visited the city of Visaginas, in the northeast of the country, which is considered as a successful experiment of multicultural integration. Although a small city, Visaginas has 47 different nationalities represented and only 14 per cent of its population is
ethnically Lithuanian. Around half of the population is of Russian origin, many of whom moved to Visaginas to work in the construction and maintenance of a nuclear power plant that operates close to the city.

70. Due to the multicultural character of the city, language issues come to fore. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur was informed by the Vice-Mayor of ongoing efforts to improve access by persons of non-Lithuanian origin to the full range of State services. This includes, for example, the possibility of addressing municipal institutions in Russian, including the Municipal Council. Ethnic minorities are also represented in the local political system – only a quarter of the members of the Municipal Council are ethnic Lithuanians. According to local authorities, despite the potential problems that would arise due to linguistic diversity, the actual experience is quite
positive and encouraged most of the Visaginas population to become proficient in several foreign languages.

71. In Visaginas, the Special Rapporteur also visited the local community centre where national minorities develop an array of cultural activities, particularly involving children. In the community centre, the Special Rapporteur met representatives of the Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar and Jewish communities. They explained that the centre focuses on three main strategies. First, Sunday schools are made available for children belonging to minorities. Whereas the Russian community, due to its larger size, is able to have Russian-language education in regular schools, smaller minorities organize after-school lessons for their children. So far, classes for seven
different minorities are available, not only for linguistic proficiency but also focusing on social studies, history and traditions of each minority. The second strategy is to go further than classes and also to meet the cultural needs of minorities through the creation of national associations that
organize year-long activities and events, such as special celebrations organized by the Muslim community during Ramadan and music lessons for traditional folkloric music. Finally, the centre also serves as a means to enhance communications and consultation between the minorities and
the national Government, particularly through the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad.

72. The underlying message expressed both by local authorities and community leaders in Visaginas was that the different ethnic communities managed to become well integrated in the fabric of the local society whilst not only preserving but also strengthening their own particular identities. In this sense, Visaginas is an important test of the strength of Lithuania’s
multiculturalism and the way it will meet its future challenges. Some Sri Lankan migrants had recently moved to the city for work, which points to the tendency of non-European migration in the future. Furthermore, the nuclear power plant, which is one of the main sources of income in the city, is scheduled to be deactivated in 2009, which has created some uncertainty and fears regarding the city’s future welfare. Although the existing network of intercultural relations in Visaginas offers a solid basis to tackle these challenges, constant vigilance by authorities and civil society will be required in the future. In this regard, Visaginas’ successful experience in
overcoming the challenges of globalization in times of more difficult economic conditions could serve as an example for other parts of the country as well as the region itself.

IV. ANALYSIS AND ASSESSMENT OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

[..]

76. Apart from institutions operating on the legal realm, the Special Rapporteur was also encouraged by the work of other government bodies that focus on social and cultural policies towards vulnerable groups. In particular, he wants to highlight the central role played by the Department of National Minorities and its director to protect and promote the cultural traditions of national minorities. Despite the limited amount of funding, it has managed to develop creative and innovative policies to address the needs of minorities and promote multiculturalism, being clearly recognized by minority communities as a legitimate interlocutor. The Ministries of
Education and Culture, in the Special Rapporteur’s view, also show a positive and creative contribution to the promotion of multiculturalism. It is especially relevant to highlight the Ministry of Culture’s activities in the realm of Vilnius’s selection as the European “Capital of Culture” in 2009, when a number of events to illustrate Lithuania’s diversity will be organized.

[..]

79. The Roma community in Lithuania, as in many European countries, is a particularly vulnerable group, and subject to profound discrimination – not sanctioned by laws, but deeply rooted in the minds of many citizens – and thus requires concerted efforts by authorities at the national and local level. Apart from the provision of basic rights, especially good housing conditions, education and health, Lithuanian authorities should focus on broader actions that target not only the community itself, but society as a whole. One of the central causes of the marginalization of Roma citizens is intolerance and a lack of acceptance by society at large, which can only be redressed through a national strategy to promote cultural diversity and
acceptance of multiculturalism. This strategy would also include activities that promote Roma culture as an enriching component of the national culture and deepen social and economic interactions between the Roma community and the population at large.

80. Lithuania, like several Eastern European and in particular Baltic countries, is currently at a turning point in history. Its society is profoundly marked by the historic legacy of Soviet domination and occupation, which affected, albeit to different degrees, all Baltic countries. The central challenge it faces is to build a democratic, egalitarian and interactive society, taking into account both the necessity to reassert the continuity of its national identity – shaken and eroded by occupation but deeply rooted in past history – and the recognition and respect for the rights of its minorities, comprising not only historically discriminated-against communities such as the Roma, but also the Russians and other minorities that arrived during the occupation. This new identity tension, with its political and cultural expressions, requires political vision, legal vigilance and cultural creativity to foster among communities a long-lasting sense of belonging and living together. Two principles should guide this process: respect for the historical truth and non-discrimination against minorities. History and geography are both central in this context. National and regional factors are particularly relevant as far as the Russian communities are concerned. The full respect of their rights – in terms of citizenship, language, culture and the eradication of any form of discrimination – is closely linked to their involvement and participation in the process of construction of a new multicultural nation that is fully respected by all countries in the region. As Lithuania’s economy becomes more exposed to the world, a steady influx of new waves of migrants, mostly non-European, will start. A mounting challenge that Lithuania faces is therefore to prepare its society for the arrival of different peoples bearing their own ethnicity, traditions, cultures and customs. The promotion of multiculturalism is therefore the most appropriate way to transform this challenge into an opportunity of enriching the Lithuanian society with more diversity and intercultural dialogue.

V. RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

81. State authorities in the executive, legislative and judiciary powers should highlight their strong political will and commitment to fight all forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia in Lithuanian society and their vigilance about new challenges that arise from growing migration, multiculturalism and identity changes. It is especially important to firmly condemn any racist or xenophobic action or discourse, including by political parties and the media.

82. Lithuania has a strong heritage of multiculturalism that stems from the multi-ethnic Grand Duchy of Lithuania and continues to exist today. State authorities and civil society alike should build on these plural traditions to strengthen all actions against racism and discrimination and to promote a democratic multiculturalism that includes new minorities into Lithuanian society.

[..]

87. The Government should also develop comprehensive programmes of multicultural training and qualification in public institutions, particularly for law enforcement officials.

88. The role of the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad should be strengthened, both in terms of mandate and resources. The Department should expand its activities to promote cultural expressions of minority communities and rely on its distinctive vision of multicultural integration. In particular, besides working with traditional minorities, the department should be given the capacity to have a more specific focus on new religious and ethnic communities and their integration into Lithuanian society.

89. As an integral part of the focus on new minorities, the Government should engage in efforts to prevent the emergence of Islamophobia as well as discrimination and prejudice against other religions, particularly those that were not historically present in Lithuania.

90. The Government should extend and reinforce its National Programme for the Integration of Roma in the Lithuanian Society, aiming at both promoting and respecting their cultural identity and at eradicating their social and economic marginalization, in particular poor housing conditions, the high level of dropouts and poor attainment of Roma children at school and the difficulties of Roma to access employment. The Programme should also have a strong component that focuses on non-Roma citizens, sensitizing Lithuanian society at large to Roma history and traditions, in order to eliminate the negative stigma and stereotypes with which Roma are recurrently associated. Furthermore, as many of the actions that are required to improve the living conditions in Roma settlements need to take place at the municipal level, Vilnius authorities should work in close collaboration with the national Government to follow its overarching priorities and legal obligations to grant the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights to the Roma community.

91. In parallel with a political and legal strategy, the Government and civil society should adopt an intellectual, ethical and cultural strategy that addresses the deepest roots of racism, xenophobia and intolerance and is built around the promotion of reciprocal knowledge of cultures and values, the interaction among the different communities and the link between the fight against racism, xenophobia and discrimination and the long-term construction of a democratic, equalitarian and interactive multicultural society.

92. The process of building a multicultural society in Lithuania should be based on two principles: respect for the historical truth and non-discrimination against minorities. Due to historical and geographical factors, a focus on national and regional dynamics is also central. The success of this initiative will also depend on the active involvement and
participation of minorities in the construction of a new multicultural nation that is fully respected by all countries in the region.

[..]


Document data: A/HRC/7/19/Add.4 07.02.2008 Link: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/7/19/Add.4&Lang=E

Visit report by the Special Rapporteur on racism (excerpts on language), 2008

I. GENERAL BACKGROUND

A. Historical and political context

4. Lithuania has existed as an independent political entity and internationally recognized nation for many centuries, with the first reference to Lithuania as a nation dating back to 1009. Lithuanian statehood first emerged with the creation of the Kingdom of Lithuania in 1253, which extended into modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. In the late fourteenth century, when Lithuania and Poland shared the same ruler, the Christianization of the country took place, influencing particularly the upper classes. Apart from
Christianity and family links among royalty, a number of political factors made Lithuania and Poland converge, culminating in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that lasted until 1795. Polish influence in Lithuanian cultural and social life became stronger during this period. Polish
became an official language in 1697, used particularly by the upper classes and the nobility.

5. Lithuania fell under Imperial Russia in 1795, shortly before the Napoleonic wars. After the French army’s withdrawal from the Baltics, Tsar Nicholas I put forward a policy of Russification of the region. The Lithuanian language and the Latin alphabet were banned in schools.
Furthermore, with the widespread use of Polish by the upper classes, Lithuanian became relegated to being a language for the poor and lower middle classes.

[..]

D. International human rights instruments

[..]

17. At the European level, Lithuania has yet to become a party to other legal instruments that are relevant for questions of racism and discrimination, including Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights on general non-discrimination, the European Convention on Nationality, the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Local Public Life at Local Level and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.4

4 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Third report on Lithuania, adopted on 24 June 2005.

[..]

II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK, PUBLIC POLICIES AND VIEWS OF STATE OFFICIALS

A. The legal and institutional framework to combat racism and racial discrimination

Constitutional provisions

21. The general legal provision of equal treatment is established by article 29 of the Constitution, which states that “all persons shall be equal before the law, the court and other State institutions and officers” and that “a person may not have his or her rights restricted in any way, or be granted any privileges, on the basis of his or her sex, race, nationality, language,
origin, social status, religion, conviction or opinions”.

[..]

23. Particular rights of national communities are also established by the Constitution. Under article 37, citizens belonging to ethnic communities are granted the right to foster their language, culture and customs. Article 45 establishes that “ethnic communities shall independently administer the affairs of their ethnic culture”.

[..]

Law on National Minorities and the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad

30. The general provisions of the Constitution are also complemented by the Law on National Minorities, which recognizes notably that “the cultural heritage connected with a national (ethnic) minority is an integral part of the cultural heritage of the Republic of Lithuania”. This Law, similarly to the Law on Equal Treatment, establishes a general prohibition on discrimination based on national or ethnic origin whilst defining positive actions to advance minority cultures. In particular, it ascertains the State obligation to promote the national consciousness and self-expression of minorities “to foster and develop the culture, language, customs and traditions of their nation or ethnic group and to preserve their national/ethnic identity” (art. 3.2).

31. The Law on National Minorities establishes a particular set of rights for persons belonging to national minorities, which includes the right to the State’s support in developing their national culture and education; the right to use the language of their national minority; the right to be taught the minority language or to receive instruction in this language; the right to receive and impart information and ideas in the minority language; the right to manifest one’s religion or belief and to establish religious communities and associations; the right to use minority symbols
and celebrate minority holidays. Furthermore, the Law also establishes the principle that in areas inhabited by a large number of persons belonging to a national minority, these persons may request to address State institutions in their minority language. Implementation of the Law is entrusted to the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad.

[..]

B. Policies and measures to combat racism and racial discrimination

[..]

36. The Ministry of Education relies on a strategy, based on constitutional requirements, to promote education in the minority language. An explicit policy decision in this regard was that “the mother tongue of minorities should not be relegated to second place”, as expressed by the Minister herself. Under the Law on Education, in municipalities with a substantial national minority, upon the community’s request, education is granted in the minority language. In 2006/07, in terms of language instruction, the number of secondary schools was the following: 64 Polish and 17 Polish-Lithuanian; 44 Russian and 20 Lithuanian-Russian; 13 Polish-Russian
schools; 5 Lithuanian-Russian-Polish schools; and 1 Byelorussian. Additionally, there is a Jewish and a German school that combine instruction in Lithuanian with Jewish or German language courses, history and culture. In this period, 4.5 per cent of the student population were
studying in Russian, and 3.4 per cent in Polish. Funding at minority schools is substantially higher than for Lithuanian schools, on the order of 10 per cent more per student.

[..]

C. Perceptions and reactions of State officials and government agencies

[..]

42. Several of the Special Rapporteur’s interlocutors in State institutions remarked on the importance of putting the issue of racism and discrimination in its historical context. It was pointed out that Lithuanian national identity – particularly language and culture – was severely
curtailed during the Soviet occupation. According to these statements, the Lithuanian policy was now to rely on a radically opposite policy, one that actively recognizes the rights of national minorities and that promotes their traditions.

[..]

III. VIEWS OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND COMMUNITIES CONCERNED

[..]

E. The multicultural experience of Visaginas

[..]

70. Due to the multicultural character of the city, language issues come to fore. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur was informed by the Vice-Mayor of ongoing efforts to improve access by persons of non-Lithuanian origin to the full range of State services. This includes, for example, the possibility of addressing municipal institutions in Russian, including the Municipal Council. Ethnic minorities are also represented in the local political system – only a quarter of the members of the Municipal Council are ethnic Lithuanians. According to local authorities, despite the potential problems that would arise due to linguistic diversity, the actual experience is quite
positive and encouraged most of the Visaginas population to become proficient in several foreign languages.

71. In Visaginas, the Special Rapporteur also visited the local community centre where national minorities develop an array of cultural activities, particularly involving children. In the community centre, the Special Rapporteur met representatives of the Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar and Jewish communities. They explained that the centre focuses on three main strategies. First, Sunday schools are made available for children belonging to minorities. Whereas the Russian community, due to its larger size, is able to have Russian-language education in regular schools, smaller minorities organize after-school lessons for their children. So far, classes for seven
different minorities are available, not only for linguistic proficiency but also focusing on social studies, history and traditions of each minority [..]

[..]

IV. ANALYSIS AND ASSESSMENT OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

[..]

80. Lithuania, like several Eastern European and in particular Baltic countries, is currently at a turning point in history. Its society is profoundly marked by the historic legacy of Soviet domination and occupation, which affected, albeit to different degrees, all Baltic countries. The central challenge it faces is to build a democratic, egalitarian and interactive society, taking into account both the necessity to reassert the continuity of its national identity – shaken and eroded by occupation but deeply rooted in past history – and the recognition and respect for the rights of its minorities, comprising not only historically discriminated-against communities such as the Roma, but also the Russians and other minorities that arrived during the occupation. This new identity tension, with its political and cultural expressions, requires political vision, legal vigilance and cultural creativity to foster among communities a long-lasting sense of belonging and living together. Two principles should guide this process: respect for the historical truth and non-discrimination against minorities. History and geography are both central in this context. National and regional factors are particularly relevant as far as the Russian communities are concerned. The full respect of their rights – in terms of citizenship, language, culture and the eradication of any form of discrimination – is closely linked to their involvement and participation in the process of construction of a new multicultural nation that is fully respected by all countries in the region. [..]

[..]


Document data: A/HRC/7/19/Add.4 07.02.2008 Link: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/7/19/Add.4&Lang=E

Visit report by the Special Rapporteur on racism (excerpts on international law), 2008

I. GENERAL BACKGROUND

[..]

A. Historical and political context

[..]

10. After the restoration of its independence on 11 March 1990, Lithuania engaged in a rapprochement with its Western neighbours, both on economic and political grounds. On the economic front, far-reaching economic reforms started, including privatization, to move the
country towards an open economy integrated in global markets. Lithuania gained membership in both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) in 2004. EU membership in particular led to the implementation of several reforms aimed at adapting internal legislation to EU directives. This process had an important impact in policies aimed at the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

[..]

D. International human rights instruments

16. Lithuania is party to most of the major international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).3 Most notably, Lithuania has also recently ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

3 Lithuania is also a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol, the Convention on the
Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two Optional Protocols. It has also signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocols. Lithuania is not a party of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

17. At the European level, Lithuania has yet to become a party to other legal instruments that are relevant for questions of racism and discrimination, including Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights on general non-discrimination, the European Convention on Nationality, the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Local Public Life at Local Level and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.4

4 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Third report on Lithuania, adopted on 24 June 2005.

[..]

II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK, PUBLIC POLICIES AND VIEWS OF STATE OFFICIALS

[..]

B. Policies and measures to combat racism and racial discrimination

[..]

37. As concerns the promotion of tolerance and intercultural dialogue, the Special Rapporteur was also informed that Lithuania, through its Ministry of Culture, has put in place a strategy that focuses on four main principles: the promotion of minority cultures; the implementation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Convention on Cultural Diversity; [..]

38. The Minister of Social Security and Labour highlighted the importance of implementing EU directives on race, equality of chances and labour market. In what concerns the labour market, these new directives will allow for NGOs and other associations to file formal complaints that lead to judicial proceedings in cases of discrimination [..]

C. Perceptions and reactions of State officials and government agencies

[..]

40. [..] Many authorities, including the Minister of Justice, attributed an important role to the process of adapting Lithuanian legislation to the requirements of EU membership, in particular the internalization of the acquis communautaire, as positive steps that helped improve the legal and institutional framework in many areas, including racism and discrimination.

[..]

44. Some voices within Lithuanian State institutions expressed a more nuanced view concerning racism and discrimination in the country. In particular, the Office of the General Prosecutor acknowledged that discrimination exists in Lithuania, adding that it has been trying to
interpret existing legislation in order to face this challenge. In particular, the concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the report presented by Lithuania (CERD/C/ LTU/CO/3) are taken into account when interpreting domestic legislation. According to the Office of the General Prosecutor, this includes the CERD recommendation that Lithuania adapt its legislation in order to introduce in its criminal law a provision that makes committing an offence with a racist motivation or aim an aggravating circumstance that allows for a more severe punishment (ibid., para. 7). The Special Rapporteur
noted with interest that the Office of the General Prosecutor can initiate inquiries concerning incitement to racial hatred rather than just reacting to formal complaints. The Deputy General Prosecutor highlighted a number of concrete examples of grave issues that were the focus of his Office’s attention, including attacks against African students as well as a Chinese immigrant that were not duly registered as racist crimes, and emphasized the need to amend the Criminal Code following CERD’s recommendation.

[..]

III. VIEWS OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND COMMUNITIES CONCERNED

A. Concerns in response to State policies and measures

[..]

53. Although many civil society representatives expressed a positive assessment concerning the existing legal and institutional framework, they pointed to a number of areas where improvements could take place. In particular, a transposition of the full provisions of the European Union Race Directive was mentioned as a desired outcome that would guarantee
additional protection to vulnerable groups and facilitate litigation of racism cases. Some NGOs also expressed their belief that Lithuania should make a declaration under article 14 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, allowing for individual petitions to CERD, in order to strengthen the legal mechanisms to fight racism and discrimination [..]

[..]

V. RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

[..]

85. The Government should develop best practices and general guidelines for the prosecution of cases of incitement to racial hatred, developing clear criteria for the threshold of evidence that is required to be presented and for the investigative conduct of law enforcement conditions. Whilst developing these guidelines, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the Government fully apply the prohibition to incite racial, religious or ethnic hatred established by article 25 of the Constitution, article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

86. As already pledged by a number of State authorities, including in the discussions of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Lithuania should proceed to make the voluntary declaration under article 14 of the Convention to recognize the competence of that Committee (CERD) to receive and consider individual communications of violations within its jurisdiction.

[..]

93. Civil society in Lithuania should further strengthen and reinforce its monitoring role for human rights violations, particularly in the realm of racism and discrimination. In particular, NGOs or alliances of NGOs should strive to offer potential victims with legal counsel and access to international instruments, both at the international and regional levels. This includes developing closer communication channels with treaty bodies, especially the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and special procedures, to bring to these mechanisms’ attention allegations of violations taking place in the country.


Document data: A/HRC/7/19/Add.4 07.02.2008 Link: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/7/19/Add.4&Lang=E

Visit report by the Special Rapporteur on racism (excerpts on media), 2008

II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK, PUBLIC POLICIES AND VIEWS OF STATE OFFICIALS

A. The legal and institutional framework to combat racism and racial discrimination

[..]

The Law on Equal Treatment and the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson

[..]

29. The Ombudsperson informed the Special Rapporteur that a considerable part of her activities also refer to awareness-raising, particularly dissemination of information to people concerning their rights and training of public officials regarding non-discrimination. In this regard, the Office of the Ombudsperson has organized training courses for police officers, border security guards, the fire department, journalists and lawyers. In terms of awareness-raising, it is of particular importance to note that the year of 2007 has been declared Year for Equal Opportunities for All in Lithuania and that a number of activities in this realm have been organized by the Office of the Ombudsperson.

[..]

C. Perceptions and reactions of State officials and government agencies

[..]

48. Authorities also referred to the role of the Seimas-appointed Inspector of Journalist Ethics to examine cases of hate speech contained in the media, including Internet sites. The Special Rapporteur met with the inspector to collect his views on this issue. The Inspector has the duty to investigate complaints of violations of professional ethics by journalists, editors and publishers, which includes cases of incitement to racial hatred published in the printed, audio-visual or digital media. The Inspectorate reaffirmed the view that there is no widespread discrimination in Lithuanian journalism and that very few cases of hate speech are brought to his attention. However, he highlighted some issues where the action of the Inspectorate is important. In particular, he referred to cases of journalistic articles regarding criminal cases that make an explicit reference to ethnic background when the perpetrator is a member of a minority community. He also recalled a recommendation issued by his Office requesting Lithuanian newspapers not to publish the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed that had originally appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

[..]

V. RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

81. State authorities in the executive, legislative and judiciary powers should highlight their strong political will and commitment to fight all forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia in Lithuanian society and their vigilance about new challenges that arise from growing migration, multiculturalism and identity changes. It is especially important to firmly condemn any racist or xenophobic action or discourse, including by political parties and the media.

[..]


Document data: A/HRC/7/19/Add.4 07.02.2008 Link: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/7/19/Add.4&Lang=E

Visit report by the Special Rapporteur on racism (excerpts on education and employment), 2008

Summary

[..] However, the Special Rapporteur found areas of concern, particularly regarding historical minorities like people of Russian descent and some vulnerable groups, notably Romas and non-European new migrants. In particular, he noted with concern the profound discrimination faced by the Roma community, particularly in the fields of employment, education and housing. [..]

− The Government should promote a profound process of multiculturalism based on the recognition and respect for the cultural and religious diversity of its different communities, old and recent, and the strengthening of the unity of the nation. Education, in particular the writing and teaching of history based on this logic, should play a key role;

[..]

The Government should extend and reinforce its National Programme for the Integration of Roma in the Lithuanian Society, aiming at both promoting and respecting their cultural identity and at eradicating their social and economic marginalization, in particular poor housing conditions, the high number of dropouts and poor achievement of Roma children at school, and the difficulties that the Roma have in accessing employment. [..]

[..]

II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK, PUBLIC POLICIES
AND VIEWS OF STATE OFFICIALS

A. The legal and institutional framework to combat racism and racial discrimination

[..]

The Law on Equal Treatment and the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson

24. The broad provisions established in the Constitution are specified in the Law on Equal Treatment approved on 18 November 2003, entering into force on 1 January 2005. The purpose of the Law is to “ensure the implementation of human rights laid down in the Constitution” and “to prohibit any direct or indirect discrimination based upon age, sexual orientation, disability, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs” (art. 1.1). The Law makes explicit reference to Lithuania’s human rights obligations laid down in both international and national instruments and spells out the specific responsibilities of State and municipal institutions, educational
institutions, employers and consumer service providers.

[..]

28. Until September 2007, the Office of the Ombudsperson had received 20 complaints of discrimination based on ethnic origin, an increase relative to previous years. The majority of these cases concern discrimination by administrative State institutions and in the realm of employment.

29. The Ombudsperson informed the Special Rapporteur that a considerable part of her activities also refer to awareness-raising, particularly dissemination of information to people concerning their rights and training of public officials regarding non-discrimination. In this regard, the Office of the Ombudsperson has organized training courses for police officers, border security guards, the fire department, journalists and lawyers. In terms of awareness-raising, it is of particular importance to note that the year of 2007 has been declared Year for Equal Opportunities for All in Lithuania and that a number of activities in this realm have been
organized by the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Law on National Minorities and the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad

[..]

31. The Law on National Minorities establishes a particular set of rights for persons belonging to national minorities, which includes the right to the State’s support in developing their national culture and education; the right to use the language of their national minority; the right to be taught the minority language or to receive instruction in this language; the right to receive and impart information and ideas in the minority language; [..]

[..]

B. Policies and measures to combat racism and racial discrimination

[..]

36. The Ministry of Education relies on a strategy, based on constitutional requirements, to promote education in the minority language. An explicit policy decision in this regard was that “the mother tongue of minorities should not be relegated to second place”, as expressed by the Minister herself. Under the Law on Education, in municipalities with a substantial national minority, upon the community’s request, education is granted in the minority language. In 2006/07, in terms of language instruction, the number of secondary schools was the following: 64 Polish and 17 Polish-Lithuanian; 44 Russian and 20 Lithuanian-Russian; 13 Polish-Russian
schools; 5 Lithuanian-Russian-Polish schools; and 1 Byelorussian. Additionally, there is a Jewish and a German school that combine instruction in Lithuanian with Jewish or German language courses, history and culture. In this period, 4.5 per cent of the student population were
studying in Russian, and 3.4 per cent in Polish. Funding at minority schools is substantially higher than for Lithuanian schools, on the order of 10 per cent more per student.

[..]

38. The Minister of Social Security and Labour highlighted the importance of implementing EU directives on race, equality of chances and labour market. In what concerns the labour market, these new directives will allow for NGOs and other associations to file formal complaints that lead to judicial proceedings in cases of discrimination. The Minister also emphasized the advocacy role played by her Ministry in order to raise awareness among the population, particularly employers, regarding existing norms and legislation on non-discrimination. A particular project that was mentioned concerned the integration of refugees in the labour market, where targeted actions to promote tolerance towards incoming
refugees and asylum-seekers are being developed. Finally, the Ministry stressed that the Government of Lithuania’s social policy is based on the cross-cutting concept of social solidarity, which is closely connected to a vision of tolerance and respect for diversity.

[..]

III. VIEWS OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND COMMUNITIES CONCERNED

[..]

B. Views of the Roma community

54. The Special Rapporteur visited the largest Roma settlement in Lithuania (Kirtimai), in the outskirts of Vilnius, to receive first-hand information concerning the situation of the Roma community. In the settlement, he visited a Roma Community Centre that is funded by the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad and that functions as
preparatory school for Roma children living in the area. The Special Rapporteur met with local community leaders, visited households and had discussions with a number of families in order to hear their concerns regarding their present situation.

[..]

56. The Roma community have denounced the widespread prejudice and discrimination that they face in various realms of social life in Lithuania. The main concern expressed by Roma leaders and families was discrimination in employment. According to some research-oriented
NGOs, the unemployment rate among Roma citizens is several times higher than in the rest of the population. Individual cases of discrimination in employment were heard by the Special Rapporteur, particularly cases where Roma citizens were refused employment once the employer
discovered their ethnic origin.

57. In education, the Roma community also has the lowest attainment rates, which was considered by local leaders as a matter of serious concern, especially when one considers that almost 50 per cent of Roma citizens are youth.7 At the Kirtimai settlement, courses are offered for Roma children to prepare them to start mainstream school as well as additional classes for
pupils that are already attending schools. Although the existence of such a preparatory school in Kirtimai is seen as a very positive development, members of the community mentioned that Roma children are often subject to prejudice once they start regular schools, pointing to the lack
of multicultural training for both teachers and pupils in these schools. Roma children have higher dropout rates than any other minority, as well as poorer educational achievement.

7 See ENAR Shadow Report 2006.

58. The Special Rapporteur asked Roma representatives for their views concerning the Programme for the Integration of Roma into Lithuanian Society, implemented by the Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad. The general perception was that the programme was a positive step, particularly due to the formal recognition by State institutions of the difficult situation faced by the Roma community. Local leaders described the actions and projects designed by the department on a positive note and as important means to redress the
situation. However, two major criticisms regarding the programme were raised. First, the programme was seen as insufficient to tackle the structural problems that the community faces, particularly regarding access to jobs. In particular, Roma leaders pointed out that the actions developed by the Department can only be successful if complemented by an engagement of the Vilnius municipal authorities, which are directly responsible for a number of practical issues concerning the Kirtimai settlement (e.g. land, access to basic services, schooling, etc). Second, Roma representatives felt that the community was not satisfactorily consulted or involved in the
design and implementation of the programme and hence could not voice its major concerns and suggestions, which would have an impact on the effectiveness of State actions.

[..]

60. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the new Roma Integration Programme for the period 2008-2010, which aims to focus on some of the problems outlined by the community, with a special emphasis on issues of employment, professional training, social exclusion and the
building of tolerance towards the Roma community.

61. The Special Rapporteur noted with interest that one of the most popular singers in Lithuania today is a Roma. Although Roma communities in Europe have historically found in music one of the few avenues for expression and broad participation in society, which has not had a meaningful impact on the reversal of their marginalization and exclusion, the Special Rapporteur expressed his conviction that the success of a Roma musician as a national symbol in mainstream popular music in Lithuania could be an opportunity for authorities, society at large and the Roma community to deepen this expression of acceptance of diversity and engage in a profound discussion aimed at fostering new opportunities for educational, cultural and professional inclusion of Roma within Lithuanian society.

[..]

D. Views of the Jewish and Karaïte communities

[..]

66. The Jewish community expressed its satisfaction with some recent actions by the Government. One of the initiatives pointed out by the community was a broad review of school textbooks, which took place 10 years ago, aiming to eliminate embedded prejudices and correct distortions concerning the history of Lithuanian Jewry, particularly during the Holocaust, and the issue of local collaborators. [..]

[..]

E. The multicultural experience of Visaginas

[..]

71. In Visaginas, the Special Rapporteur also visited the local community centre where national minorities develop an array of cultural activities, particularly involving children. In the community centre, the Special Rapporteur met representatives of the Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar
and Jewish communities. They explained that the centre focuses on three main strategies. First, Sunday schools are made available for children belonging to minorities. Whereas the Russian community, due to its larger size, is able to have Russian-language education in regular schools,
smaller minorities organize after-school lessons for their children. So far, classes for seven different minorities are available, not only for linguistic proficiency but also focusing on social studies, history and traditions of each minority. [..]

[..]

IV. ANALYSIS AND ASSESSMENT OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

[..]

79. The Roma community in Lithuania, as in many European countries, is a particularly vulnerable group, and subject to profound discrimination – not sanctioned by laws, but deeply rooted in the minds of many citizens – and thus requires concerted efforts by authorities at the national and local level. Apart from the provision of basic rights, especially good housing conditions, education and health, Lithuanian authorities should focus on broader actions that target not only the community itself, but society as a whole. One of the central causes of the marginalization of Roma citizens is intolerance and a lack of acceptance by society at large, which can only be redressed through a national strategy to promote cultural diversity and
acceptance of multiculturalism. This strategy would also include activities that promote Roma culture as an enriching component of the national culture and deepen social and economic interactions between the Roma community and the population at large.

[..]

V. RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR

[..]

90. The Government should extend and reinforce its National Programme for the Integration of Roma in the Lithuanian Society, aiming at both promoting and respecting their cultural identity and at eradicating their social and economic marginalization, in particular poor housing conditions, the high level of dropouts and poor attainment of Roma children at school and the difficulties of Roma to access employment. The Programme should also have a strong component that focuses on non-Roma citizens, sensitizing Lithuanian society at large to Roma history and traditions, in order to eliminate the negative stigma and stereotypes with which Roma are recurrently associated. Furthermore, as many of the actions that are required to improve the living conditions in Roma settlements need to take place at the municipal level, Vilnius authorities should work in close collaboration with the national Government to follow its overarching priorities and legal obligations to grant the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights to the Roma community.

[..]


Document data: A/HRC/7/19/Add.4 07.02.2008 Link: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/7/19/Add.4&Lang=E