Back CPT publishes report on Lithuania

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its periodic visit to Lithuania, which took place from 5 to 15 September 2016, together with the response of the Lithuanian Government. Both documents have been made public at the request of the Lithuanian authorities.
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CPT publishes report on Lithuania

The 2016 periodic visit to the country confirmed the positive conclusion reached by the CPT during previous visits, namely, that the majority of persons detained by the police are treated in a correct manner.

The CPT, however, reiterates its long-standing recommendation to guarantee that the safeguards against ill-treatment (i.e. the rights of access to a lawyer and to a doctor and the right to have the fact of one’s detention notified to a relative or another third party) are ensured to all persons obliged to remain with the police as from the very outset of their deprivation of liberty.

In their response, the Lithuanian authorities state that the latest amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure provide that a detained person has a right to meet with a lawyer in private as early as before the first interrogation; a detained person must also be immediately provided with an opportunity to contact a family member, close relative or another person of his/her choice.

The CPT acknowledges the efforts of the Lithuanian authorities to reduce the prison population. Still, the Committee regrets that, despite repeated previous recommendations, the official minimum standards of living space per adult sentenced prisoner remain unchanged.

The CPT also regrets to note the extent of inter-prisoner violence at Alytus and Marijampolė Prisons and concludes that the situation in this respect had become even worse as compared with previous CPT’s visits to these establishments. As previously, several major factors could be seen as contributing to the phenomenon of inter-prisoner violence: accommodation in cramped large-capacity dormitories, the existence of an informal prisoner hierarchy, the abundance of illicit drugs and smuggled mobile telephones and, last but not least, the low number of custodial staff, insufficient to ensure the safety of prisoners.

In the response to the CPT’s call to put in place an effective strategy to tackle inter-prisoner violence, the Lithuanian authorities give information about plans to introduce a dynamic security model in the penitentiary system.

The CPT’s delegation received a number of allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment and of excessive use of force by prison staff at Alytus and Marijampolė Prisons. In these two establishments, the delegation also heard (as during previous visits) allegations of physical ill-treatment by members of special intervention units (both those belonging to the Prison Department and those run by the Public Security Service of the Ministry of the Interior) in the context of large-scale cell searches.

The CPT’s delegation noted that staffing levels were generally too low in the prisons visited. The CPT calls upon the Lithuanian authorities to take urgent steps to increase both custodial staff levels and presence at penitentiary establishments. For this, a recruitment strategy should be developed based on proper funding and enhanced conditions of service, including attractive salaries.

In their response, the Lithuanian authorities state that following recent legislative amendments salaries for prison staff have increased by 15 per cent on average as of December 2017.

The CPT notes that there had been no significant changes to the legislative framework governing both civil involuntary and forensic psychiatric hospitalisation and treatment since the 2008 visit and thus most (if not all) recommendations made by the CPT after that visit remain unimplemented. The CPT calls upon the Lithuanian authorities to speed up the pace of legislative reform and ensure that the new Mental Health Care Act enters into force as soon as possible.

The CPT’s delegation was impressed by the high standard of refurbishment in Rokiškis Psychiatric Hospital, representing a huge improvement as compared with the situation observed during the 2008 visit. On the other hand, living conditions on the closed wards of Vilnius Mental Health Centre were relatively poor.

Regarding placement in a social care institution, the CPT recommends that the relevant legislation be amended so as to ensure that residents of social care establishments have an effective right to bring proceedings to have the lawfulness of their placement decided by a court, that they are duly informed of this right, and that in this context, they enjoy the rights to a lawyer and to be heard by the judge concerned. The need for continued placement of legally incompetent persons should be automatically reviewed by a court at regular intervals or residents themselves should be able to request at reasonable intervals that the necessity for continued placement be considered by a judicial authority.

The response of the Lithuanian authorities points to various plans for legislative amendments (including a new version of the Mental Health Care Act) that should address the CPT’s concerns regarding the conditions and legal safeguards offered to psychiatric patients as well as residents of social care institutions.