The largest and most populous of the Baltic states, Lithuania is a generally maritime country with 60 miles of sandy coastline, of which only 24 miles face the open Baltic Sea. Lithuania's major warm-water port of Klaipeda lies at the narrow mouth of Kursiu Gulf, a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad. The Nemunas River and some of its tributaries are used for internal shipping (In 2000, 89 inland ships carried 900,000 tons of cargo, which is less than 1% of the total goods traffic). Between 56.27 and 53.53 latitude and 20.56 and 26.50 longitude, Lithuania is glacially flat, except for morainic hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands no higher than 300 meters. The terrain is marked by numerous small lakes and swamps, and a mixed forest zone covers 30% of the country. The growing season lasts 169 days in the east and 202 days in the west, with most farmland consisting of sandy- or clay-loam soils. Limestone, clay, sand, and gravel are Lithuania's primary natural resources, but the coastal shelf offers perhaps 10 million barrels' worth of oil deposits, and the southeast could provide high yields of iron ore and granite. According to some geographers, Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, lies at the geographical center of Europe.
The first written mention of Lithuania occurs in 1009 AD, although many centuries earlier the Roman historian Tacitus referred to the Lithuanians as excellent farmers. Spurred by the expansion into the Baltic lands of the Germanic monastic military orders (the Order of the Knights of the Sword and the Teutonic Order) Duke Mindaugas united the lands inhabited by the Lithuanians, the Samogitians, Yotvingians, and Couranians into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) in the 1230s-40s. In 1251 Mindaugas adopted Catholicism and was crowned King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253; a decade later, civil war erupted upon his assassination until a ruler named Vitenis defeated the Teutonic Knights and restored order.
From 1316 to 1341 Vytenis' brother and successor, Grand Duke Gediminas, expanded the empire as far as Kiev against the Tatars and Russians. He twice attempted to adopt Christianity in order to end the GDL's political and cultural isolation from western Europe. To that purpose, he invited knights, merchants, and artisans to settle in Lithuania and wrote letters to Pope John XXII and European cities maintaining that the Teutonic Order's purpose was to conquer lands rather than spread Christianity. Gediminas' dynasty ruled the GDL until 1572. In the 1300s through the early 1400s, the Lithuanian state expanded eastward. During the rule of Grand Duke Algirdas (1345-77), Lithuania almost doubled in size. The 1385 Kreva Union signed by the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila (ruled in 1377-81 and 1382-92) and the Queen of Poland Jadwyga intensified Lithuania's economic and cultural development, orienting it toward the West.
Lithuania's independence under the union with Poland was restored by Grand Duke Vytautas. During his rule (1392-1430) the GDL turned into one of the largest states in Europe, encompassing present-day Belarus, most of Ukraine, and the Smolensk region of western Russia. Led by Jogaila and Vytautas, the united Polish-Lithuanian army defeated the Teutonic Order in the Battle of Tannenberg (Grunewald or Zalgiris) in 1410, terminating the medieval Germanic drive eastward.
The 16th century witnessed a number of wars against the growing Russian state over the Slavic lands ruled by the GDL. Coupled with the need for an ally in those wars, the wish of the middle and petty gentry to obtain more rights already granted to the Polish feudal lords drew Lithuania closer to Poland. The Union of Lublin in 1569 united Poland and Lithuania into a commonwealth in which the highest power belonged to the Sejm of the nobility and its elected King who also was the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Mid-16th century land reform strengthened serfdom and yet promoted the development of agriculture owing to the introduction of a regular three-field rotation system. The 16th century saw a more rapid development of agriculture, growth of towns, spread of ideas of humanism and the Reformation, and book printing. The emergence of Vilnius University in 1579 and the Lithuanian Codes of Law (the Statutes of Lithuania) stimulated the development of culture both in Lithuania and in neighboring countries.
The Polish-Lithuanian Republic was weakened by the rising domination of the big magnates, and the 16th-18th century wars against Russia and Sweden over Livonia, Ukraine, and Byelorussia. The end of the 18th century witnessed three divisions of the Commonwealth by Russia, Prussia, and Austria; in 1795 most of Lithuania became part of the Russian empire. Attempts to restore independence in the uprisings of 1794, 1830-31, and 1863 were suppressed and followed by a tightened police regime, increasing Russification, the closure of Vilnius University in 1832, and the 1864 ban on the printing of Lithuanian books in traditional Latin characters.
Because of his proclamation of liberation and self-rule, many Lithuanians gratefully volunteered for the French Army when Napoleon occupied Kaunas in 1812 during the fateful invasion of Russia. After the war, Russia imposed extra taxes on Catholic landowners and enserfed an increasing number of peasants. A market economy slowly developed with the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Lithuanian farmers grew stronger and an increase in the number of intellectuals of peasant origin led to the growth of a Lithuanian national movement. In German-ruled East Prussia, also called Lithuania Minor, Königsberg or Kaliningrad, Lithuanian publications were printed in large numbers and then smuggled into Russian-ruled Lithuania. The most outstanding leaders of the national liberation movement were J. Basanavicius and V. Kudirka. The ban on the Lithuanian press finally was lifted in 1904.
During WW I, the German Army occupied Lithuania in 1915, and the occupation administration allowed a Lithuanian Conference to convene in Vilnius in September 1917. The conference adopted a resolution demanding the restoration of an independent Lithuanian state and elected the Lithuanian Council, a standing body chaired by Antanas Smetona. On February 16, 1918, the council declared Lithuania's independence. The years 1919-20 witnessed Lithuania's War for Independence against three factions--the Red Army, which in 1919 controlled territory ruled by a Bolshevist government headed by V. Kapsukas; the Polish Army; and the Bermondt Army, composed of Russian and German troops under the command of the Germans. Lithuania failed to regain the Polish-occupied Vilnius region.
In the Moscow Treaty of July 12, 1920, Russia recognized Lithuanian independence and renounced all previous claims to it. The Seimas (parliament) of Lithuania adopted a constitution on August 1, 1922, declaring Lithuania a parliamentary republic, and in 1923 Lithuania annexed the Klaipeda region, the northern part of Lithuania Minor. By then, most countries had recognized Lithuanian independence. After a military coup on December 17, 1926, Nationalist party leader Antanas Smetona became president and gradually introduced an authoritarian regime.
Lithuania's borders posed its major foreign policy problem. Poland's occupation (1920) and annexation (1922) of the Vilnius region strained bilateral relations, and in March 1939 Germany forced Lithuania to surrender the Klaipeda region. Radical land reform in 1922 considerably reduced the number of estates, promoted the growth of small and middle farms, and boosted agricultural production and exports, especially livestock. In particular, light industry and agriculture successfully adjusted to the new market situation and developed new structures.
The inter-war period gave birth to a comprehensive system of education with Lithuanian as the language of instruction and the development of the press, literature, music, arts, and theater. On August 23, 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact pulled Lithuania first into the German sphere of influence and then brought Lithuania under Soviet domination following the Soviet-German agreement of September 28, 1939. Soviet pressure and a complicated international situation forced Lithuania to sign an agreement with the U.S.S.R. on October 10, 1939, by which Lithuania was given back the city of Vilnius and the part of Vilnius region seized by the Red Army during the Soviet-Polish war. In return, some 20,000 Soviet soldiers were deployed in Lithuania.
On June 14, 1940, the Soviet Government issued an ultimatum to Lithuania, demanding the formation of a new Lithuanian government and permission to station additional Red Army troops. Lithuania succumbed to the Soviet demand, and 100,000 Soviet troops moved into the country the next day. Arriving in Kaunas, the Soviet Government's special envoy began implementing the plan for Lithuania's incorporation into the U.S.S.R. On June 17 the alleged People's government, headed by J. Paleckis, was formed. Rump parliamentary elections were held one month later, and Lithuania was proclaimed a Soviet Socialist Republic on August 3. Totalitarian rule was established, Sovietization of the economy and culture began, and Lithuanian state employees and public figures were arrested and exiled to Russia. During the mass deportation campaign of June 14-18, 1941, about 7,439 families (12,600 people) were deported to Siberia without investigation or trial; 3,600 people were imprisoned and more than 1,000 massacred.
A Lithuanian revolt against the U.S.S.R. quickly followed the outbreak of the war against Germany in 1941. The rebels declared the restoration of Lithuania's independence and actively operated a provisional government, without German recognition, from June 24 to August 5. Lithuania became part of the German occupational administrative unit of Ostland. People were repressed and taken to forced labor camps in Germany. The Nazis and local collaborators deprived Lithuanian Jews of their civil rights and massacred about 200,000 of them. Together with Soviet partisans, supporters of independence put up a resistance movement to deflect Nazi recruitment of Lithuanians to the German army.
The Red Army forced the Germans out of Lithuania in 1944 and reestablished control. Sovietization continued with the arrival of communist party leaders to create a local party administration. The mass deportation campaigns of 1941-52 exiled 29,923 families to Siberia and other remote parts of the Soviet Union. Official statistics state that more than 120,000 people were deported from Lithuania during this period, while some sources estimate the number of political prisoners and deportees at 300,000. In response to these events, an estimated several tens of thousands of resistance fighters participated in unsuccessful guerilla warfare against the Soviet regime from 1944-53. Soviet authorities encouraged immigration of other Soviet workers, especially Russians, as a way of integrating Lithuania into the Soviet Union and of fomenting industrial development.
Until mid-1988, all political, economic, and cultural life was controlled by the Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP). The political and economic crisis that began in the U.S.S.R. in the mid-1980s also affected Lithuania, and Lithuanians as well as other Balts offered active support to Gorbachev's program of social and political reforms. Under the leadership of intellectuals, the Lithuanian reform movement "Sajudis" was formed in mid-1988 and declared a program of democratic and national rights, winning nationwide popularity. Inspired by Sajudis, the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet passed constitutional amendments on the supremacy of Lithuanian laws over Soviet legislation, annulled the 1940 decisions on proclaiming Lithuania a part of the U.S.S.R., legalized a multi-party system, and adopted a number of other important decisions. A large number of LCP members also supported the ideas of Sajudis, and with Sajudis support, Algirdas Brazauskas was elected First Secretary of the Central Committee of the LCP in 1988. In December 1989, the Brazauskas-led LCP split from the CPSU and became an independent party, renaming itself in 1990 the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party.
In 1990, Sajudis-backed candidates won the elections to the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet. On March 11, 1990, its chairman Vytautas Landsbergis proclaimed the restoration of Lithuanian independence, formed a new Cabinet of Ministers headed by Kazimiera Prunskiene, and adopted the Provisional Fundamental Law of the state and a number of by-laws. The U.S.S.R. demanded revocation of the act and began employing political and economic sanctions against Lithuania as well as demonstrating military force. On January 10, 1991, U.S.S.R. authorities seized the central publishing house and other premises in Vilnius and unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the elected government by sponsoring a local "National Salvation Committee." Three days later the Soviets forcibly took over the TV tower, killing 14 civilians and injuring 700. During the national plebiscite in February more than 90% of those who took part in the voting (76% of all eligible voters) voted in favor of an independent, democratic Lithuania. Led by the tenacious Landsbergis, Lithuania's leadership continued to seek Western diplomatic recognition of its independence. Soviet military-security forces continued forced conscription, occasional seizure of buildings, attacking customs posts, and sometimes killing customs and police officials.
During the August 19 coup against Gorbachev, Soviet military troops took over several communications and other government facilities in Vilnius and other cities, but returned to their barracks when the coup failed. The Lithuanian Government banned the Communist Party and ordered confiscation of its property.
Despite Lithuania's achievement of complete independence, sizable numbers of Russian forces remained on its territory. Withdrawal of those forces was one of Lithuania's top foreign policy priorities. Lithuania and Russia signed an agreement on September 8, 1992, calling for Russian troop withdrawals by August 31, 1993, which took place on time.
Lithuania is a multi-party, parliamentary democracy. President Valdas Adamkus, who took office in February 1998, is the head of state. The president is elected directly for 5 years, is also commander in chief overseeing foreign and security policy, and nominates the prime minister and his cabinet and a number of other top civil servants. The next presidential election is scheduled for December 2002.
The parliament (Seimas) has 141 members that are elected for a 4-year term. About half of the members are elected in single constituencies (71), and the other half (70) are elected in the nationwide vote by party lists. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas. The last parliamentary elections took place in October 2000.
All major parties have declared their support for Lithuania's membership in NATO and the European Union (EU). The government's stated goal is to receive an invitation to join NATO in 2002, to complete negotiations with the EU in 2002, and join the EU in 2004.
Since 1991, Lithuanian voters have shifted from right to left and back again, swinging between the Conservatives, led by Vytautas Landsbergis, and the Labor (former communist) Party, led by former president Algirdas Brazauskas. This pattern was broken in the October 2000 elections when the Liberal Union and New Union parties won the most votes and were able to form a centrist ruling coalition with minor partners. President Adamkus played a key role in bringing the new centrist parties together. The leader of the center-left New Union (also known as the Social Liberal party), Arturas Paulauskas, became the Chairman of the Seimas. The government of liberal Rolandas Paksas got off to a rocky start and collapsed within 7 months. In July 2001, the center-left New Union party forged an alliance with the left-wing Social Democratic Party and formed a new cabinet under former president Algirdas Brazauskas.
The cabinet of Algirdas Brazauskas is made up mostly of nonparty technocrats and has emphasized the need for financial discipline. The government remains focused on NATO and EU membership goals.
The Soviet era brought Lithuania intensive industrialization and economic integration into the U.S.S.R., although the level of technology and state concern for environmental, health, and labor issues lagged far behind Western standards. Urbanization increased from 39% in 1959 to 68% in 1989. From 1949-52 the Soviets abolished private ownership in agriculture, establishing collective and state farms. Production declined and did not reach pre-war levels until the early 1960s. The intensification of agricultural production through intense chemical use and mechanization eventually doubled production but created additional ecological problems. This changed after independence, when farm production dropped due to difficulties in restructuring the agricultural sector.
The transportation infrastructure inherited from the Soviet period is adequate and has been generally well maintained since independence. Lithuania has one ice-free seaport with ferry services to German, Swedish, and Danish ports. There are operating commercial airports with scheduled international services at Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipeda. The road system is good. Border facilities at checkpoints with Poland were significantly improved by using EU funds, but long waits are still a frequent phenomenon. Telecommunications have improved greatly since independence as a result of heavy investment. The Telecom company will operate as a monopoly until the end of 2002, but there are a number of cell phone companies to provide competition.
The economy of independent Lithuania had a slow start, as the process of privatization and the development of new companies slowly moved the country from a command economy toward the free market. By 1998, the economy had survived the early years of uncertainty and several setbacks, including a banking crisis, and seemed poised for solid growth. However, the collapse of the Russian ruble in August 1998 shocked the economy into negative growth and forced the reorientation of trade from Russia toward the West. Since the Russia crisis, the focus of Lithuania's export markets has shifted from East to West. In 1997, exports to former Soviet states were 45% of total Lithuanian exports. Today, exports to the East are only 19% of the total, while exports to EU members and candidates are 71%. The government of 1999, which was led by Prime Minister Kubilius, managed to control raging budget deficits in the midst of the crisis, and all successor governments have maintained that fiscal discipline. Privatization is now largely complete, with 75% of the economy now in private hands. The one exception is the energy sector, with gas company privatization behind schedule and energy company privatization stalled altogether.
The year 2001 was a good one for the Lithuanian economy. The 5.9% growth in GDP went beyond even the most optimistic expectations, despite the slower developments in the neighboring markets after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. The growth in Lithuania was mainly driven by private consumption and exports. Growth was strongest in construction, financial intermediation, and processing and light industries. Inflation was low, the growth of the external account deficit stabilized, and the state finances improved noticeably with a fiscal deficit of 1.5% of GDP. Exports continued to be the driving force of Lithuania's economic growth. Recently, they surpassed the pre-crisis levels ($3.7 billion in 1998 versus $4.6 billion in 2001). The contribution of domestic market oriented sectors, especially construction, also was increasing.
Lithuania's economic situation has continued to improve during the first two quarters of 2002. During the first and second quarters of 2002, GDP grew at 4.4% and 6.9%, respectively. Economic growth continued, and inflation was low. Progress also was achieved in the areas of privatization and deregulation. Weaknesses remain in public policy development and structural and agricultural reforms.
Manufacturing is Lithuania's largest economic sector, making up 23% of the GDP. It is followed by wholesale and retail sales, which comprise 15 and 8.4%, respectively. The privatization of major state enterprises is expected to be completed in the next couple of years. In 2001, the private sector contribution to GDP increased from about 72% to about 75%. The share of employees in the private sector rose to about 70%. Recently, the Government of Lithuania completed banking sector privatization. 89% of this sector is now controlled by foreign capital. The privatization of the national gas and power companies "Lietuvos Dujos" (Lithuanian Gas) and "Lietuvos Energija" (Lithuanian Energy) also is underway. The privatization of the national airline is temporarily on hold, while the privatization of "Lithuanian Railways" is postponed until about 2003.
Inflation continues to be low. Annual inflation in 2001 stood at 2.0%, however, at the end of the second quarter of 2002, 0.5% annual deflation was recorded. The deflation has been the result of sharp competition among retail trade chains and appreciation of the local currency against the U.S. dollar.
The minimum wage has not changed since June 1998 and stands at $107.50 per month, well below the poverty threshold. The average wage has hardly changed since the economic recession in 1999 and stands at $241 per month.
Exports to the United States make up 3.1% of all Lithuania's exports, and imports from the United States comprise 3.4% of total imports to Lithuania. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Lithuania reached 1.3 billion Litas at the end of June 2002, which represented an increase of 17% compared to the same period in the previous year. As of September 30, 2002, the United States was the third- largest investor (10.2%) in Lithuania, behind Denmark and Sweden. In the second quarter of 2002, the current account deficit stood at 8.5% of GDP; 87% of it was financed by foreign direct investment.
On February 2, 2002, the government re-pegged the Litas from the U.S. dollar to the Euro at the rate of 3.4528 Litas for 1 Euro. The re-peg, which went on smoothly, reflects a change in trade orientation and is to help Lithuania prepare for the European Monetary Union. However, with the appreciation of local currency against the U.S. dollar, production costs of our enterprises have been decreasing, and competitiveness increasing.
Traditionally, Lithuania has been a Roman Catholic country. Although severely affected by Soviet repression, the Roman Catholic Church remains the dominant and the most influential denomination. However, Lithuania in the past has had two small but active Protestant denominations, the Evangelical Reformed (Calvinist) and the Evangelical Lutheran. In addition, Orthodox Christianity as well as Judaism have roots at least as old as those of Roman Catholicism. In 1991 a Western poll found that 69 percent of respondents in Lithuania identified themselves as Roman Catholics (in 1939 the percentage was 85), 4 percent identified themselves as Orthodox, and 1 percent professed Evangelical Christian beliefs. New in this self-identification was a large category--25 percent--who did not profess any religion. Lithuanian journalists have also noted that twenty-one out of the 141 new members of parliament elected in 1992 left out "so help me God" from the oath when sworn in as deputies.
In 1992 Lithuania's Roman Catholic Church consisted of two archdioceses (Vilnius and Kaunas) and four dioceses (Kaisiadorys, Panevezys, Vilkaviskis, and Telsiai). The church is presided over by Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius in Kaunas. For thirty years, Sladkevicius, then a bishop, was held by Soviet authorities in internal exile. The church has 688 parishes, two theological seminaries (one reestablished in 1990), and several con-vents and monasteries. There is also one Uniate, or Eastern-Rite Catholic, congregation.
The archeparchy (archdiocese) of the Russian Orthodox Church has forty-five parishes and two monasteries. Archbishop Chrisostom and his archeparchy are under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow. The Old Believers (see Glossary) have fifty-one congregations. The Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church under Bishop Jonas Kalvanas has thirty-three congregations, and the Evangelical Reformed Church (Calvinist) has eight. Other Christian denominations include Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Pentecostals. The non-Christian religious groups include Jews (two communities), Muslims (four communities), Krishna followers (two communities), and one Karaite group.
Traditionally, most Roman Catholics in Lithuania were either Lithuanians or Poles, and the Orthodox and Old Believer adherents were predominantly Russians. This division has not changed, although currently it is no longer possible to assume religious affiliation on the basis of ethnic identity. The Calvinist and Evangelical Lutheran groups are very small--an estimated 15,000 Calvinists and 35,000 Lutherans. The younger Protestant denominations are even smaller but are intensely active. Generally, Lithuanian society in the 1990s is secularized, although, as in many postcommunist countries, younger people are searching for some sort of spiritual fulfillment.
The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest continuously surviving Lithuanian institution. As such, it has played a dominant role in the development of Lithuanian society, especially crucial during those long stretches of time when Lithuanians had no state of their own. At first highly influenced by the Polish community, the church under Bishop Motiejus Valancius in the nineteenth century promoted Lithuanian language and publications, which prepared the country for the national awakening of the 1880s. Because Russian imperial authorities had forbidden the publication of Lithuanian books in the Latin alphabet, Valancius had them printed in German-ruled, Protestant East Prussia and then smuggled into Lithuania. The bishop also organized a network of secret Lithuanian schools. In 1918 the church supported the establishment of Lithuania as an independent and democratic republic. Years later, it endorsed land reform, and in the 1930s the bishops opposed and restrained Smetona's authoritarian rule. Under Soviet rule, the church served as a focal point of resistance and dissident activities. Its theological outlook, however, has been conservative.
Protestants also have contributed significantly to Lithuania's cultural development. The first book printed in Lithuanian was a Lutheran catechism, published by Martynas Mazvydas in East Prussia in 1547. Protestant Lithuanians from this region published the literature of national awakening. Later, Protestants--both Lutheran and Calvinist--supplied political leadership out of proportion to their numbers in the population.
In Lithuania between the two world wars, the Roman Catholic Church and other denominations had a constitutionally guaranteed monopoly over registration of marriages, births, and deaths. Religious education in public schools was compulsory. Although there was no established religion, all denominations received some state support in rough proportion to their size. The Soviet authorities totally separated churches not only from the state but also from individual support. On June 12, 1990, Lithuania's newly elected independent parliament adopted an act of restitution of the Roman Catholic Church's condition status quo ante but promised compensation for the losses suffered under Soviet rule and pledged cooperation on a parity basis. The constitution of 1992 guarantees "freedom of thought, religion, and conscience" to all and "recognizes traditional churches and religious organizations of Lithuania." Other religious organizations have to pass a test to ensure that their teachings do not "contradict the law and morality." All recognized churches are guaranteed the rights of legal persons and can govern themselves without state interference. Religious teaching in public schools is allowed if parents desire it. Religious marriage
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
Crime increased dramatically in Lithuania in the 1990s. The number of reported crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 1990 was 992. This number increased to 1,197 in 1991, to 1,507 in 1992, and to 1,612 in 1993. Both violent crimes and crimes against property increased substantially over this period. So far, law enforcement bodies, such as the Ministry of Interior, have been ineffective in combating this problem because information about their repressive activities during the Soviet period has discouraged public support. The law enforcement bodies have difficulty combining respect for the rule of law with aggressive intervention against crime, and criminals have expanded their activities.
The Ministry of Interior is responsible, along with local police forces, for fighting crime in Lithuania. Retraining, cooperation with foreign and international police forces, and a concentrated effort to rebuild public support have been emphasized to achieve a more effective police force. The Ministry of Interior was expected to claim 20 percent of the state budget in 1995, according to a parliamentary deputy. In August 1994, the cabinet decried widespread corruption in the customs service. A commodity exchange president claimed later that year that 70 percent of imports into Lithuania were sold on the black market.
While violent crime continued to increase in 1994, property crime decreased. Overall crime dropped 19 percent in the first quarter of 1994 compared with the same period in 1993. Premeditated murder and attempted murder increased about 59 percent, and theft increased about 83 percent.
Organized crime is a serious problem in Lithuania. It en-.gages in violent crime as well as in smuggling aliens, drugs, radioactive materials, and weapons. The son of Georgi Deka-nidze, head of the notorious Vilnius Brigade, an organized crime ring, was to be executed in 1995 for the murder of a journalist who had been investigating organized crime. Dekanidze reportedly threatened in November 1994 to blow up the Ignalina nuclear power plant if his son were executed.
The Office of the Procurator General is an independent institution responsible for enforcing the penal code and ensuring that detention of criminal suspects is based on reliable evidence of criminal activity. A magistrate must approve detention after seventy-two hours, and the right to counsel is guaranteed by law. Shortages of qualified attorneys limit this right in practice, however. Capital punishment is still legal but is rarely used.
As of year 2001, the crime rate in Lithuania was low compared to other industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Lithuania. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Lithuania will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2001 was 10.83 per 100,000 population for Lithuania, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2001 was 5.04 for Lithuania, compared with 1.48 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2001 was 119.88 for Lithuania, 2.71 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2001 was 11.6 for Lithuania, 15.40 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2001 was 509.91 for Lithuania, 187.93 for Japan, and 740.80 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2001 was 724.03 for Lithuania, 1198.13 for Japan, and 2484.64 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2001 was 166.77 for Lithuania, compared with 28.37 for Japan and 430.64 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 1548.06 for Lithuania, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4160.51 for USA.
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1995 and 2001, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 13.57 to 10.83 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 20.2%. The rate for rape decreased from 5.41 to 5.04, a decrease of 6.8%. The rate of robbery increased from 76.68 to 119.88, an increase of 56.3%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 8.08 to 11.6, an increase of 43.6%. The rate for burglary increased from 201.68 to 509.91, an increase of 152.8%. The rate of larceny decreased from 741.05 to 724.03, a decrease of 2.3%. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 206.43 to 166.77, a decrease of 19.2%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 1252.9 to 1548.06, an increase of 23.6%.
A unified national police force under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry is responsible for law enforcement. The State Security Department is responsible for internal security and reports to Parliament and the President. The police committed a number of human rights abuses.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, problems remained in some areas. Police at times beat or otherwise physically mistreated detainees and misused detention laws. The Government made some progress in holding the police accountable for abuses.
The Constitution specifically forbids torture; however, at times police beat or otherwise physically mistreated detainees. Press reports indicated that incidents of police brutality had decreased, and that victims were more willing to bring charges against police officers.
The Office of Inspector General (established in 1999) and the Internal Investigation Division at the Police Department investigate, on the orders of the Minister of Interior, abuses committed by the police. Prosecutors and the Parliament controller carry out independent investigations. During the first half of the year, the controllers investigated 86 complaints (37 of them deemed justified) about the activities of Interior Ministry personnel and the police (63 such complaints were found to have merit during the first half of 2000). In five cases of alleged police brutality, criminal charges were filed against police officers (compared with four such cases in 2000), and in a number of other cases, the controllers proposed to relevant institutions that they take action or amend laws. However, according to the Ministry of Interior, from January 2000 to July 2001, no police officers were convicted for abuse of power.
Noncommissioned military personnel committed human rights abuses by hazing recruits, despite efforts to end the practice, which was inherited from the former Soviet armed forces; however, as living conditions improved for military personnel, human rights violations committed by noncommissioned officers declined. From January to July, five criminal cases were filed for breach of discipline involving violence, compared to four cases in 2000. The Seimas Controller investigated two complaints of abuse of power in the armed forces and rejected them (in the same period of 2000, two out of seven investigated complaints were rejected). According to the Ministry of National Defense, most trauma inflicted on conscripts is psychological rather than physical. The Ministry believed that a lack of professionalism among noncommissioned officers--rather than ethnic, regional, or social factors--was a primary factor in cases of hazing, and it continued to work to improve their skills and judgment. In 1999 the Parliament approved a disciplinary statute for the armed forces, and the military police created by a 1998 law are charged with maintaining discipline. The disciplinary statute sets procedures for the investigation of disciplinary offences, provides for the right to appeal, and lists the types of punishments.
The authorities did not engage in indiscriminate or widespread monitoring of the correspondence or communications of citizens; however, with the written authorization of a prosecutor or judge, police and security service personnel may engage in surveillance and monitoring activities on the grounds of national security. Except in cases of hot pursuit or the danger of disappearance of evidence, police must obtain a search warrant signed by a prosecutor before they may enter private premises.
It is assumed widely that law enforcement agencies have increased the use of a range of surveillance methods to cope with the expansion of organized crime. In July in the case of Juozas Valasinas v. Lithuania, the ECHR found that officials in his correctional institution were reading his correspondence without the approval of the court. During the first half of the year, the Parliament controller confirmed a violation of prisoner's correspondence rights. Pursuant to a change in the law, since April prisoners' complaints to courts, the Parliament controller, and human rights groups have not been censored, and censorship of their private correspondence has been subject to stricter control by prison authorities.
Over the last few years, irregular immigration decreased dramatically due to improved border control, stricter laws against human smuggling, and more effective detention and return of migrants to their countries of origin. During the year, the border police detained 107 illegal immigrants (compared with 100 in 2000). Over the same period, the border police reported 998 illegal border crossings, compared with 1,101 in 2000. During the year, the Border Police Department was reorganized into the State Border Protection Service under the Interior Ministry, which reduced the number of administrative personnel and military conscripts employed by the service.
However, illegal immigration from Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka increased during the year. The Government continued its efforts to stop illegal migrants by negotiating readmission agreements with Russia and Belarus, the two countries used by most migrants to reach Lithuania, but no progress had been made by year's end.
There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.
The information available on Lithuania's defense establishment indicates that Lithuania's "security structure" includes armed forces run by the Ministry of Defense; a domestic police force subordinate to the Ministry of Interior; and a Parliamentary Defense Service that protects the parliament and the president of the republic. The chief of the Internal Security Agency insists that the agency--successor to some of the KGB's functions--has no security force, although he thinks that there ought to be a budget to establish a force to deal with criminal and subversive elements. Under Soviet rule, the KGB had its own army and also controlled the border guard.
The Home Guard is organized on the Scandinavian model and protects borders, strategic facilities, and natural resources. Lithuania's military structure also includes civil defense forces, which provide administrative control of hazardous facilities, transportation, and special rescue services. The national security service is part of the Ministry of Interior and is responsible for the fight against organized crime.
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observes these prohibitions; however, there were instances of prolonged pretrial detention.
Under the law, police temporarily may detain suspects for up to 48 hours, based upon reliable evidence of criminal activity and approval by an investigator or prosecutor. Pretrial detention applies only in the case of felonies and when it is impossible to prevent flight or to allow unhindered investigation. A local judge, acting on a prosecutor's request, may order longer pretrial detention, which can last up to 6 months and may be extended by a district judge using the same procedure for periods not to exceed 18 months in total. On average detainees awaited trial for 5 months. In August there were no persons whose summary pretrial detention exceeded 18 months; however, there were 28 persons whose summary preverdict detention exceeded 18 months. Their detention was extended by court every month. Bail in theory is available, but it is not used widely. It is expected that the parole and probation system will start to work when the new Criminal Code enters into force. The Constitution provides for the right to an attorney from the moment of detention.
In June the amended 1997 Law on the Prevention of Organized Crime entered into force. Under the law, the court no longer may restrict certain freedoms (for example, personal contacts, contact places, and change of residence without prior notice) without "sufficient evidence" that a person is related to an organized crime group and is able to commit felonies.
In previous years, the ECHR ruled against the Government in several cases involving various breaches of conventions, laws, and regulations concerning arbitrary detention. In October the ECHR ruled that the Government had restricted the right to freedom of Arminas Grauzinis, convicted for hooliganism (he was released after serving his term). The ECHR also found that the Government unlawfully held Algis Grauslys, accused of financial swindling, and also stated that his right to investigation of action within a reasonable period of time was breached. In November 2000, the court also announced that it would try the case of businessman Arvydas Stasaitis, charged with large-scale financial crime, who complained that his entire period of detention (1996-2000) may have been unjustified.
The Constitution prohibits forced exile, and the Government does not use it.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice.
The Constitution and the 1994 Law on Courts provide for a four-tier court system: The Supreme Court; the Court of Appeals; district courts; and local courts. The local courts are tribunals of first instance for all cases that are not assigned to some other court by law. The Constitution also provides for a Constitutional Court and specialized courts for administrative, labor, family, and other purposes.
The Constitutional Court, at the request of the President, members of the Parliament, the Government, or the judiciary, reviews the constitutionality of laws and other legal acts, as well as that of actions by the President and the Cabinet.
The main function of administrative courts is to investigate the legality and validity of administrative acts and conflicts in public administration and taxation. Administrative courts may perform judicial review of documents regulating the implementation of laws, except decisions by the Cabinet of Ministers. The creation of administrative courts in 1999 was a significant part of the reform of the judicial system; however, the reform remained incomplete. The Ministry of Justice continued to move towards a system of specialization of judges in district and local courts according to the types of cases.
There are no special family courts, but judges in the district courts hear juvenile criminal cases and cases related to children's rights (e.g., domestic adoption and paternity matters). The juveniles' criminal justice implementation program (1999-2002) works to make the juvenile punishment system more humane.
If the ECHR determines that Lithuanian courts have violated the European Convention on Human Rights, the Supreme Court Chairman may order a retrial of a case by the Supreme Court.
In July a new Civil Code entered into force that complies with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and takes into account the jurisprudence of the ECHR. A new Criminal Code was scheduled to enter into force simultaneously with a Code of Criminal Procedure, which remained under preparation at year's end.
The Law on Commercial Arbitration provides for the establishment of arbitration institutions. The law provides for private dispute resolution by an arbitration tribunal, either organized by a permanent arbitration institution or by the parties themselves.
The Prosecutor General exercises oversight responsibility for the whole judiciary through a network of district and local prosecutors who work with investigators to prepare evidence for the courts.
The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforces this right. The Constitution provides for the right to legal counsel for defendants. In practice the right to counsel is abridged by the shortage of trained lawyers, who find it difficult to cope with the burgeoning numbers of criminal cases brought before the courts. The law provides for legal assistance for indigent persons, but in practice such legal assistance is not always available. By law defense advocates have access to government evidence and may present evidence and witnesses. The courts and law enforcement agencies generally honor routine, written requests for evidence. By law a judge may decide to hold a closed trial in a limited number of circumstances.
The parliamentary ombudsman reported that there were many cases of prolonged pretrial detention without a judge's decision in violation of the law. According to the ombudsman, in a typical case, judges and prosecutors wrongly interpret the law to mean that pretrial detention can be extended automatically when a case is submitted to a court of law. For example, the pretrial detention of Parliamentarian Audrius Butkevicius, a former Minister of Defense who was charged in 1997 with several counts of corruption allegedly on the basis of false information from the State Security Department, was prolonged without the decision of a judge. In 1999 the Supreme Court rejected Butkevicius's appeal of his 1998 conviction. Butkevicius's lawyers appealed to the ECHR, and in September 2000 the Court agreed to review the case; but it had not been resolved by year's end. Butkevicius was released on March 20, 2000, after serving two-thirds of his 51/2-year jail term. He resumed his seat in the Parliament. However, the court decided that he had not completed the sentence at least 65 days before election day, and he was not allowed to be a candidate for the parliamentary elections in October 2000.
In October the ECHR found that the Government had denied the right of Henrikas Daktaras to an unbiased trial because the Chairman of the Supreme Court assumed the role of prosecutor in this case. In a separate development, Daktaras was released from prison a short time later, after serving more than 5 out of 71/2 years for extortion and victim intimidation.
In November the ECHR found that the Government had violated the right of former Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius to a speedy trial. Slezevicius was accused of abusing his position as Prime Minister when he withdrew his personal funds from a Lithuanian bank just before it failed. The criminal case against Slezevicius, which was started in 1996, had not reached trial after 4 years because of legal deficiencies and was dropped in April 2000.
In November 2000, the ECHR agreed to hear the case of former Kaunas police commissioner Satsys Sipavicius. Sipavicius spent 10 months in custody before his trial on charges of abusing his powers in a major smuggling case. He was sentenced to the 10 months served for neglecting his duties and released in court. Sipavicius complained that the charges against him suddenly were changed and that he had not had sufficient time to prepare a defense against the new charges.
In March approximately 11,500 farmers signed a letter to the ECHR stating that they had not received a fair court hearing on their complaint that the Government did not pay them subsidies that it was obliged to pay by its own regulations.
The prison department faulted a slow justice system that cannot bring cases to trial expeditiously for the pretrial detention problems. The Government continued to address concerns that periods of detention were excessive. The Prosecutor General continued to monitor the investigation of cases, and additional and better-qualified judges were hired. During the year, prosecutors began to monitor pretrial detention conditions.
Government rehabilitation of over 50,000 persons charged with anti-Soviet crimes during the Stalin era led to reports in 1991 that some persons who allegedly were involved with crimes against humanity during the Nazi occupation had benefited from this rehabilitation. A special judicial procedure was established in 1997 to examine each case in which an individual or organization raised an objection that a rehabilitated person may have committed a crime against humanity. During the first 8 months of the year, the Supreme Court overturned the rehabilitation of 28 persons (18 were overturned in 2000), thus making them ineligible for social welfare benefits.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
As of year 2001, prison conditions were poor and life threatening. During the year, 27 prisoners died (13 of natural causes, 13 by suicide, and 1 was killed, apparently by another prisoner) compared with 33 prison deaths in 2000. From January to October, prisoner complaints constituted a quarter of all complaints received by the Parliament controllers. The majority of complaints by detainees in police detention facilities were found to be justified. During the first half of the year, the Parliament controller investigated 53 complaints about abuses by Prisons Department personnel and found that 15 complaints were valid. During the year, there were 273 self-inflicted injuries (often to escape abuse from guards or fellow inmates), compared with 239 in 2000. The number of criminal offenses committed in correctional institutions increased from 30 in 2000 to 34 during the year. Due to limited resources, 9 out of 14 correctional institutions were overcrowded, especially pretrial detention facilities. In 2000, as a result of the funding shortfall and overcrowding, Parliament passed a law on amnesty that reduced the number of prisoners and detainees from 15,000 to 12,730, while the sentences of 4,851 prisoners were reduced. At year's end, there were 11,566 prisoners, including 489 women, 295 juvenile men, and 4 juvenile women. The prisoner figure included 1,811 detainees, of whom 126 were women, and 170 were juveniles. Women and men are held separately; juveniles are held separately from adults; and pretrial detainees are held separately from convicted criminals.
Few prisoners were involved in meaningful activities: 30 percent of them perform paid labor, and 12 percent are involved in education. The law states that every prisoner must work, but jobs are few, and only those on good behavior and those willing to work receive this opportunity. As means of promoting future social integration, convicts can choose to work at nine companies and four production outlets set up at correctional institutions. They manufacture furniture, shoes, and electric appliances (mostly for the domestic market). The law also allows the employment of prisoners for cleaning prison premises as a disciplinary sanction, and allows the employment, as prison general service workers, of criminals convicted for the first time or for minor offense or for gross offenses for up to 3 years. These prisoner-workers live separately from other inmates and enjoy freedom of movement on the prison grounds. In October the director of Vilnius maximum security prison said that 93 prisoners (out of 1,579) worked as cooks, plumbers, and electricians.
The conditions in the poorly maintained police detention facilities also had not much improved (in 1999, the Parliament controller found that hygiene was poor and that individual's rights were violated in 40 out of 49 facilities).
Following a visit to confinement facilities in early 2000, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture stated in October that a significant number of detainees reported mistreatment, abuse, violence, and even some cases of torture (mostly in the early phases of the detention process). Their living conditions were described as inhuman and degrading. The committee noted the significant role that public prosecutors and judges play in fighting torture and abuse and welcomed the fact that detainees have the right to inform a close relative of their situation, the right of access to a lawyer, and the right to health care.
The Government is attempting to reform the prison system with international assistance; however, progress has been very slow. The Prison Department at the Justice Ministry manages the correctional system. Funding covered only minimal needs (approximately $0.60 or 2.23 litai) for 3 meals per prisoner per day; during the year, the budget allotted 4.55 percent less money for running 14 correctional institutions than in 2000. In September 2000, the Parliament adopted a new Criminal Code, which is expected to enter into in force in 2003; together with the Code of Criminal Procedure and Code of Penal Enforcement, it aims to reduce the number of punishments that involve incarceration. The Government is reconstructing 2 additional correctional facilities, which are scheduled to house approximately 550 prisoners starting in 2004. The Government also was improving the living conditions of prisoners who committed offenses in correctional institutions and those sentenced for life.
In July the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) awarded compensation to former prisoner Juozas Valasinas, who was sentenced in 1994 to 9 years in prison for taking part in the theft of firearms. The court ruled that the Government had violated the confidentiality of his correspondence and conducted degrading body searches. The court also found that Valasinas' needs and health were protected at the correctional institution, and the general conditions there conformed to the circumstances of his case. In order to investigate this case, representatives of the court visited Lithuania in May 2000.
The Government permits visits to prisons by independent human rights monitors, and there were such visits during the year.
The Penal Code provides for a sentence of from 2 to 10 years' imprisonment for the incitement of racial or national hatred or incitement of violence against foreigners. This law has been used to discourage racial and national hatred, such as in the Lietuvos Aidas case. In November the State Security Department launched an investigation into activities of a group of young persons in Mazeikiai (North Lithuania) suspected of desecrating a Jewish cemetery, studying Nazi ideology, and attempting to create a pro-Nazi organization. However, in its report on minority rights in 10 European Union candidate states, the Open Society Institute stated that Lithuania does not have a comprehensive antidiscrimination law that expressly prohibits discrimination in specific areas of public activity.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law in Lithuania can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Lithuanian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lithuania are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Prison conditions in Lithuania are primitive, a legacy of the Soviet period, but have not been the subject of international concern or criticism to the same extent as in Russia and other former Soviet republics. Human rights organizations are active in the country, and their right to exist and operate is not challenged by the government. Lithuania, as part of its accession to the Council of Europe, submitted to an intensive investigation of its human rights practices and respect for democratic values. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, José Ayala Lasso, visited Lithuania in 1994 and stated that human rights and democratic values are respected in Lithuania. He suggested, however, that Vilnius needs to ratify conventions concerning racial discrimination, torture, and protocols on capital punishment, refugees, and persons without citizenship.
Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, reportedly is common, especially in connection with alcohol abuse by husbands. Official statistics on the incidence of abuse of women in the home are not reported separately from other categories of assault. Institutional mechanisms for coping with this problem are developing slowly, and the law does not criminalize specifically domestic violence. If such violence takes place in the home, the victim must file a complaint. Few such complaints are filed, because women prefer to avoid publicity and are not confident that the courts will punish their assailants. Seven women's shelters provide assistance to victims of violence. The law specifically prohibits rape. According to one sociological survey published in 1997, 20 percent of women reported experiencing an attempted rape, while another 33 percent reported having been beaten at least once in their lives. During the first 6 months of the year, 70 rapes were registered, compared with 183 during the full year 2000. Persons convicted of rape generally receive sentences of from 3 to 5 years in prison.
Prostitution is illegal but not prohibited under the Criminal Code. The penalty for prostitution is limited to a fine of $75-125 (300-500 litai) for a first offense. Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution is a problem.
The Constitution provides for equal rights for men and women; however, women continued to face discrimination. The Law on Equal Opportunities entered into effect in 1999. The Office of the Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men was established in May 2000, and the Parliament appointed lawyer Ausrine Burneikiene as ombudsman. The Ombudsman's Office is an independent agency, accountable to the Parliament, which oversees the implementation of the law and investigates complaints concerning violations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The ombudsman also has some enforcement powers in this regard, and the new Criminal Code contains criminal sanctions for discrimination or harassment.
Official policy specifies equal pay for equal work. Women make up about one-half of the employed population, and in the first quarter of the year, they received on average pay that was 82.2 percent that of male employees. Women are underrepresented significantly in some professions, business, and the managerial sector as a whole. Significant inequalities in society based on gender continued, and conservative views about the role of women persisted. In 1999 the Ministry of Education and Science abolished preferential university entrance criteria; since then the equal opportunities ombudsman has followed closely admission examinations to universities and found no violation of equal opportunity.
During the first 6 months of the year, the ombudsman received 33 complaints and initiated 8 investigations (during the same period in 2000, there were 41 complaints). Most of the complaints concern discrimination against men due to problems in legislation, and discrimination against women in the workplace. The ombudsman submitted amendments to the Labor Code and, together with women's organizations, launched a public awareness campaign late in the year. In 2000 the Government established a commission to coordinate policy on equal opportunities. During the year, the number of registered violations of the equal opportunities law by state institutions decreased substantially. However, enforcement of the law in private businesses remained a problem.
The Government is committed to children's rights and welfare; it amply funds a system of public education and medical care. The Government provides compulsory, free, and nearly universal education for children through the age of 15 or ninth grade. In 1999 the proportion of children in this age group not attending school was 4 percent. In 2000 the Government launched the "yellow bus" program to provide school transportation for children in the countryside. The Government provides low-cost health care for all children. The new Civil Code (which entered into force in July) addresses relations between parents and children; however, the Government's commitment to children's rights is not fully reflected in its legislation and policy.
In 2000 the Government established an ombudsman for children's rights, and appointed Grazina Imbrasiene as its head. The ombudsman controls the implementation of relevant laws, oversees local children's rights protection services, and investigates complaints. From January to July, the ombudsman received 68 complaints, mostly about the violation of foster family rules, improper activities of children's rights protection services, family matters, and violence against children. During the year, the ombudsman called for streamlining the children's rights protection system and mobilizing central government and local authorities to cope with growing juvenile delinquency and spreading drug addiction. In March the Government eliminated the Children's Rights Office in the Ministry of Social Security and Labor and divided its functions among the ombudsman's office and other services of the Ministry, including an adoption service. In 2000 the Ministry identified 36,856 children in abusive and dysfunctional families, a 44 percent increase since 1995. In July the head of a working team set up by the President in 2000 to improve the protection of children's rights called for the establishment of a central agency to oversee children's rights policy and coordinate central and local governments' efforts to combat child abuse; however, such an agency had not been created by year's end.
The introduction of stricter adoption procedures reduced the number of adoptions during 2000; however, they increased during the year, from 159 to 180, of which one-quarter were adoptions by foreigners. The system of state subsidies to foster families rather than to families adopting children increasingly was criticized. Approximately 7,000 children lived in institutions, and approximately 8,000 are in foster homes. In August the Parliament adopted a law on defending children against parental violence, which gives authorities the right to remove children from the family and place them in the care of a temporary guardian. The Government continued to replace the Soviet-style orphanage schools with residential homes, which permit children to attend regular schools.
Child abuse was a problem, as was child abuse in some state-run correctional institutions for children that housed approximately 130 children who committed crimes. In December "a punishment cell" was eliminated in one of these care houses, and a psychologist's post and a relaxation room were set up.
Child abuse in connection with alcohol abuse by parents also was a serious problem. The prevalence of authoritarian values in family upbringing discouraged more active measures against child abuse; however, the press reported increases in cruelty to children, including sexual abuse, intentional starvation, beatings, and killings. Authorities reported that three children were killed by their parents during the first 6 months of the year, and six were killed during 2000. The penalties for violence and cruelty against underage persons are prison terms of 1 to 2 years. The Ministry of Social Security and Labor started collecting information on child abuse.
The Penal Code provides for up to 3 years' imprisonment for sexual abuse and from 1 to 4 years' imprisonment for exploiting children in the production of pornography. There is no official data on the exploitation of children in pornography cases. During the first half of the year, the police registered 14 cases of sexual abuse of children (compared with 49 cases in 2000). In August the Minister of Social Security and Labor set up a commission to implement the national program against commercial sexual exploitation of children and sexual abuse. A government-run children's rehabilitation center provides special care for sexually abused children.
In February the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child criticized the widespread use of corporal punishment in families.
It is believed that several thousand children live "on the street." Approximately 60 local children's rights protection services across the country routinely identify these children and, if they do not have parents or if their parents abused their parental obligations, place them in foster homes or care institutions. In November the Ministries of Social Security and Labor, Education and Science, and Interior established an interdepartmental task force group charged with developing an "integrated settlement of problems of socially neglected children."
Trafficking in girls for the purpose of prostitution was a problem.
The legal minimum age for employment of children without parental consent is 16 years; with the written consent of parents it is 14 years. Complaints about the infringement of child labor regulations are referred to local prosecutors who investigate and take legal action to stop violations. Child labor problems appeared to be rare.
The Government has not ratified ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor.
The Constitution specifically prohibits forced or bonded labor by children; however, girls were trafficked for the purpose of prostitution.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The Criminal Code prohibits trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution was a problem.
The country primarily is a country of origin, and to a lesser extent a transit country, and destination for trafficking in women and girls. Germany, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria were major destinations, based on the statistics of women subsequently deported from these countries to Lithuania. Women from Lithuania are trafficked mostly to Western Europe and the Middle East. Women and girls from Belarus, Russia (Kalingrad District), Latvia, and the Lithuanian countryside are trafficked to the major cities in Lithuania. From 1997 to 2000, approximately 80 percent of the 110 young females returned to Lithuania (who passed through the NGO Missing Persons Families' Support Center) were victims of trafficking, and approximately one-quarter of them were under 18. Some victims were trafficked farther to Western Europe and elsewhere.
A number of women, some underage, have been enticed or forced into prostitution and sold abroad by organized crime figures. Traffickers particularly target the socially most vulnerable groups: Young females from poor, asocial, or unstable families. Many are lured by deceptive offers of jobs such as household helpers, bar dancers, or waitresses. Women also are tricked into prostitution through false marriage advertisements. Victims' compliance is ensured via threats and the withholding of their documents. Their families often are unaware of their predicament and believe that they have been kidnaped. However, it is difficult to determine what percentage were enticed or coerced and how many departed voluntarily.
A 1998 law criminalizes trafficking in persons for purposes of sexual abuse: The penalty is 4 to 8 years' imprisonment. The penalty is increased from 6 to 12 years if the crime was repeated, premeditated, and committed by a dangerous criminal or against juveniles. Additional punishment, such as confiscation of property, may also be applied. During the year, the police investigated 14 cases of trafficking in persons (4 cases in 2000). In 2000 two cases had reached the courts: In one case the suspect fled; in the other, the court ordered the trafficker committed to psychiatric care. In the former case, a young woman was lured abroad by the promise of better pay in foreign hotels and bars but was forced to work as a prostitute in Spain. She was the first victim to sue the traffickers and to speak out about the problem in public. Several other victims were witnesses in the case.
NGO experts consider government efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and search for missing persons to be inadequate. A limited number of police agents are involved in investigating trafficking cases. An interministerial commission is scheduled to coordinate the implementation of the antitrafficking program for 2002-04, and a higher level committee will deal with a broader range of trafficking-related issues. Five officers from the Office of Criminal Business Investigation at the Organized Crime Investigation Service of the Police Department and the Ministry of Interior are directly involved in antitrafficking activity. These services also exchange relevant information with the Border Police, Customs, the Prosecutor General's Office, Special Investigation Service, State Security Department, and the Ministry of Defense. In July 2000, the border police were instructed to pay more attention to young persons, particularly females, traveling abroad. Since 2000 the Government has collected statistics on deported persons. There is no direct evidence that government authorities or individual members of government forces facilitate, condone, or otherwise are complicit in human trafficking activities. However, the customs and border guards are believed to be very corrupt, and human right groups blame them for neglecting the fight against trafficking.
There are no specific government assistance programs for victims of trafficking; however, the police offer protection for witnesses. Government agencies and NGO's encourage victims to file civil suits or to seek legal action against traffickers. There has been no prosecution of trafficking victims for violations of other laws, such as those governing immigration or prostitution, but the law does not guarantee safety for victims in this regard.
In October the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched an information campaign to raise awareness and help prevent trafficking in women. According to the IOM, approximately 9 percent of Lithuanian youth have directly or indirectly been exposed to the trade in women and trafficking of persons abroad to work as prostitutes.
The Pedagogic Psychology Center of the Education Ministry conducts preventive work among potential victims of sexual abuse and trafficking. The Ministry prepared informational material on sexual abuse against children for teachers and parents. Problems of trafficking are discussed during ethics and religion classes in the schools. Over the past several years, a number of antitrafficking campaigns were carried out by NGO's, such as the Missing Persons Families' Support Center and Praeities Pedos (Footsteps of the Past), and the media. Starting in 1997, the support center has organized annual conferences on trafficking, sponsored and supported by the Government, the European Union, local and foreign associations, and NGO's. Praeities Pedos made an antitrafficking video, which was shown in schools across the country, and carried out several research projects on trafficking in women.
The Government and foreign donors provided financial assistance for the support center, which has branches in several cities in addition to Vilnius. In June the support center opened a shelter and helps victims to access legal and psychological services via a network of volunteers, monasteries, and orphanages. The support center is the only NGO providing assistance and counseling for victims of trafficking. The NGO Demetra provided medical assistance in Vilnius for women engaged in prostitution.
During 1998, the nature of Lithuania's substance abuse problem was characterized by an increased demand for imported, instead of locally produced, narcotic substances. Although illegal narcotics trafficking continues to be the main narcotics issue for the country, there has been a significant increase in the demand for narcotics by young people in Lithuania, especially among students. Whereas young Lithuanians formerly preferred a home-grown opium-based product known as "compote," police confiscations in 1998 show a trend toward imported heroin, marijuana, hashish and cocaine. Lithuania became a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention in June 1998.
Lithuanian authorities have identified 74 organized groups involved in illegal narcotics activity, primarily the transit of opiates and cannabis products from Southwest Asia and Caucasian countries to Scandinavia and Western Europe, as well as lesser amounts of illegal drugs from South and Central America through Lithuania to Western Europe. Additionally, amphetamine factories in Poland produce products that are smuggled through Lithuania to Scandinavia. As a result, the Lithuanian Government has determined that control of the border area is critical to stopping the flow of illegal narcotics, and the majority of counternarcotics officers are currently assigned to the border regions and not to urban areas. The Lithuanian police suffer from a lack of experience and training in countering these multiple threats.
The Lithuanian Government's Action Plan for the Period 1997-2000 declared the prevention of drug abuse a priority, and the health program approved by the Lithuanian Parliament targets a reduction in drug demand by 70 percent and in drug supply by 80 percent by the year 2010. A drug prevention program, including a plan of activities for drug control and drug prevention, is under development and should be completed by December 1998. Separate laws on the prevention of money laundering and control of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances were passed in January 1998.
In 1998, police confiscated increased quantities of imported substances like heroin (316 grams compared with 88 grams in 1997), marijuana (three kilograms compared with 600 grams in 1997), hashish (four kilograms compared with 15 grams in 1997) and cocaine (ten kilograms compared with one kilogram in 1997) during counternarcotics operations.
Compared to 1997, narcotics-related crimes fell by less than one percent during the first ten months of 1998, but such crimes have increased by almost 25 percent since 1996. Lithuanian police authorities made an effort in 1998 to focus on longer-term operations targeting organized crime groups, perhaps thereby sacrificing short-run statistical results.
The USG is unaware of any official narcotics-related corruption in Lithuania.
Lithuania became a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention in June 1998. In addition, Lithuania is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, as well as the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Lithuania and the U.S. signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which was approved by the U.S. Senate in the fall of 1998, and was recently ratified by the US. Lithuania signed an extradition treaty with the U.S. in 1924, which is still in force, but outdated. The U.S. and Lithuania anticipate beginning negotiation of a new extradition treaty in 1999.
The Lithuanian Government continues to work with a variety of European and U.S. institutions to strengthen law enforcement bodies and drug control programs in an effort to improve border security and anti-smuggling efforts. However, the implementation and ultimate impact of these programs continues to be hampered by a lack of resources. The USG has offered training to Lithuanian law enforcement agencies in illegal-narcotics-related areas, such as land and maritime border control, anti-money laundering and combating organized crime.
The USG will continue to assist Lithuania to meet the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and support Lithuania's inclusion in programs aimed at the Baltic region.
Internet research assisted by Melissa Francescut