In its international relations, Lithuania promotes universality, indivisibility and interdependency of human rights, which form core values of our societies. Fundamental freedoms and human rights issues are not exclusively internal affairs of individual countries - this is one of the key aspects of international relations. The effective implementation of human rights and freedoms strengthens peace, security, democracy and prosperity, prevents aggression, humanitarian crises, corruption and crime. It is therefore necessary to promote and strengthen the multilateral, both international and regional, human rights mechanisms and to contribute to the efficiency of their activities.
Participating in international and regional human rights organizations activities, Lithuania contributes to:
- the aim to prevent and address human rights violations, fight impunity and seek for accountability,
- the development of international or regional human rights law,
- ensuring monitoring of the implementation of international or regional human rights provisions,
- promotion of international cooperation on various human rights issues.
European Union (EU)
Since becoming a member of the European Union in 2004, Lithuania actively participates in implementing and shaping EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. An important part of this policy is a human rights policy. A common EU position on human rights is expressed in bilateral relations and in multilateral forums - the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, the Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. The European Commission and EU Member States provide financial support to a number of national, regional and global projects on human rights and democracy in third countries.
EU has confirmed its operational guidelines in the following priority areas:
- universal prohibition of death penalty,
- fight against torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment,
- dialogues with third countries on human rights,
- protection of children in armed conflicts,
- support for human rights defenders,
- protection of the rights of the child,
- protection and promotion of the freedom of religion,
- protection and promotion the rights of LGBTI persons,
- promotion of international humanitarian law,
- protection of the freedom of expression online and offline
- fighting violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them.
EU created European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on the 1 of March, 2007, which is the EU’s center of fundamental rights expertise. The Agency helps to ensure that the fundamental rights of people living in the EU are protected. Main functions of FRA are:
- to collect, analyze and disseminate information and data on the protection of the rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights by EU institutions and by Member States,
- to give recommendations, conclusions and opinions, prepare annual reports on the fundamental rights situation in the EU,
- to cooperate with non-governmental organizations,
- to raise awareness on the need to protect and promote human rights.
Human Rights Working Group of the EU Council (COHOM) is one of the main EU policy making formats in human rights field involving all European Union Member States, which deals with human rights in foreign policy. Responsible for shaping EU’s positions and policies in that area, COHOM monitors the implementation of related instruments. Lithuania supports human rights protection and promotion established in EU laws and guidelines to the highest standards.
United Nations (UN)
Since 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declared by the United Nations General Assembly, human rights protection became one of the most important areas of the United Nations activities. UN is a global forum, where fundamental freedoms and human rights issues are discussed. The international community and UN institutions have established international human rights standards and special instruments, aimed at the promotion and protection of human rights through international conventions in all Member States.
United Nations human rights bodies and mechanisms:
- The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which deals with human rights issues.
- Human Rights Council, which replaced Human Rights Committee in 2006.
- High Commissioner for Human Rights - the main UN human rights official in the human rights area, supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- UN Treaty bodies:
- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (established 4 January 1969);
- Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (3 January 1976);
- Human Rights Committee (CCPR) monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (23 March 1976) and its optional protocols;
- Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and its optional protocol (3 September 1981);
- Committee against Torture (CAT) monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (26 June 1987);
- Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2 September 1990) and its optional protocols (12 February 2002);
- Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1 July 2003);
- The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) established pursuant to the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) (22 June 2006) visits places of detention in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
- Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (3 May 2008);
- Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) monitors implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (23 December 2010);
The treaty bodies meet in Geneva, Switzerland.
Karolina Bubnytė-Širmenė, official representative of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Court for of Human Rights, is representing the interests of the Government of Lithuania under procedure of individual complaints.
Lithuania is actively contributing to the work of these committees, with number of independent experts being elected to these committees:
- Prof. Dalia Leinartė, has been the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and is currently serving her third term as a member (2013-2016, 2017-2020 and 2021-2024);
- Prof. Dainius Pūras, has served as a member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2007-2011) and as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (2014-2020);
- Prof. Jonas Ruškus has been re-elected in 2018 for a second term (2018-2022) to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (his previous term in the Committee – 2014-2018) and currently is serving as the Vice Chair of the Committee.
- Special procedures (special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and working groups). Lithuania has issued a standing invitation to all special procedures to evaluate human rights situation in Lithuania in 2001.
- Henrikas Mickevičius has been appointed in 2015 as the member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
- Other United Nations agencies whose activities may also be related to the protection of human rights
Lithuania supports international efforts aimed at strengthening the efficiency of all United Nations human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council. Lithuania presented its candidature to the Human Rights Council at the elections to be held in 2021, for the term of 2022-2024.
United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review
During Universal Periodic Review sessions, Lithuania is actively involved in presenting recommendations and assessing the overall human rights situation in other countries.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism was established in 2008. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. The human rights situation of each UN Member State is reviewed every 4-5 years.
The human rights situation in Lithuania was reviewed for the first time under UPR mechanism in October 2011. Second UPR cycle of Lithuania was reviewed in 2016. The third UPR cycle has started in 2017 and will continue until 2021.
Council of Europe (COE)
The Council of Europe promotes human rights through international conventions. It monitors member states' progress in various human rights areas and makes recommendations through independent expert monitoring bodies. During its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of COE in November 2001 – May 2002 Lithuania emphasized the importance of shaping and enforcing standards of human rights protection in Europe on a non-discriminatory basis. Like the preceding Chairs, Lithuania showed its determination to seek de jure abolition of death penalty in all member states and drew attention to significance of freedom of the media in developing democracies. Next Lithuanian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers will be in May – November 2024.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) brings together 324 parliamentarians from the parliaments of the Council of Europe's 47 member states.
Main human rights documents adopted by the Council of Europe are:
- Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,
- European Social Charter,
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities,
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
- Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention).
The Council of Europe has established effective procedures for monitoring implementation of these Conventions. All citizens of the Council of Europe countries have a right to defend their rights under the provisions of Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the European Court of Human Rights.
The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent and impartial non-judicial institution established in 1999 by Council of Europe to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the 47 Council of Europe member states. The current Council of Europe Commissioner for human Rights is Dunja Mijatović (since 2018). Last visit to Lithuania by the Council of Europe Commissioner for human Rights (at that time Commissioner was Nils Muižnieks) took place in 2016.
The European Court for of Human Rights (The Court) was set up in 1959. It monitors respect for the human rights of 800 million Europeans in the 47 Council of Europe member States that have ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Convention). The Court rules on individual or State applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1998 it has sat as a full-time court and individuals can apply to it directly. The Court judgements are binding on the countries concerned. The Court’s case-law makes the Convention a powerful living instrument for meeting new challenges and consolidating the rule of law and democracy in Europe. Lithuania’s judge at the Court - Egidijus Kūris (since 2013). Karolina Bubnytė--Širmenė, official representative of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, is representing the interests of the Government of Lithuania in the Court.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Founding documents of the European Security and Cooperation Organization (OSCE) established a broad concept of security that includes military-political, economic-environmental and human dimensions. OSCE autonomous institutions monitor the implementation of the OSCE human dimension commitments in the OSCE participating States, in particular, on fair elections, freedom of the media and on issues of ethnic minorities, evaluates its impact in the context of conflict prevention and crisis management and provides diverse technical support. Unlike the United Nations and the Council of Europe, the OSCE does not enact international legal norms, but politically binding commitments.
OSCE Human Dimension autonomous institutions consist of:
- Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
- High Commissioner on National Minorities
- Representative on Freedom of the Media