Through the Government of Lithuania's foreign policy on human rights Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates cooperation with international human rights bodies as well as engages in a dialogue on the human rights situation in Lithuania and other countries. Fundamental human rights and freedoms issues are not just a sovereign country's internal affairs - 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 institutions activities, Lithuania contributes to:
- the aim to prevent human rights violations,
- the development of international or regional human rights law (conventions),
- ensuring monitoring of the implementation of international or regional human rights provisions,
- promotion of international cooperation on various human rights issues.
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 human rights issues are discussed. The international conventions and institutions have established international human rights standards system and special instruments, aimed at the protection of human rights 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.
- Independent Expert Committees set up on the basis of International Conventions with the aim to monitor the implementation of the Conventions: the Human Rights Committee; the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (prof. Dalia Leinart, an expert from Lithuania, was elected as a member of the Committee in 2012); the Committee against Torture; the Committee on the Rights of the Child (prof. Dainius Pūras, an expert form Lithuania, was a member of the Committee from 2007 till 2011), the Committee on Migrant Workers and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- 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. UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Doudou Diene, was the first to review human rights situation in Lithuania. The UN Special Rapporteur has visited Lithuania from 16 September till 19 September 2007, and presented his report on human rights situation in Lithuania to the Human Rights Council during its’ seventh session in 19 March 2008.
- Other United Nations agencies whose activities may also be related to the protection of human rights (e.g. International Labour Organisation) which coordinate their activities with the main human rights institutions.
Strengthening United Nations as a centre for collective security and international law able to respond flexibly to changing threats of the modern world is of great importance to Lithuania. Therefore, Lithuania supports the efforts aimed at strengthening the efficiency of all United Nations human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council.
Council of Europe (COE)
One of the main objectives of the Council of Europe is the protection of human rights. Council of Europe establishes and develops human rights standards, evaluates threats to human rights and tries to find ways to avoid or prevent them.
Main human rights documents adopted by the Council of Europe are:
- Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, ratified by all member States of the Council of Europe and thus undertaking high commitments to their citizens,
- 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.
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 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was established in 1993 to regularly monitor situation in the member states regarding racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and other related intolerance. ECRI evaluations are carried out every 4-5 years. ECRI published its fourth report on Lithuania, in 2011.
The Commissioner’s for Human Rights mandate was established in 1999 to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in accordance to commitments undertaken by member states of the Council of Europe. The Commissioner visited Lithuania in 2003 and 2006. After his last visit, in 2007, a Memorandum was submitted to the Government of Lithuania reviewing the situation, implementation of the recommendations delivered after first visit and new recommendations.
Lithuania seeks the effectiveness of the mechanisms of the Council of Europe aiming to ensure protection of human rights. These mechanisms have already demonstrated their great potential and Lithuania pursues their further spread to the Eastern European countries, thus contributing to strengthening of democracy, prosperity, security and stability.
European Union (EU)
Since becoming a member of the European Union in 2004, Lithuania participates in 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 for the operations of the Office of the UN High Commissioner Human Rights, provides funding 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,
- situation of children in armed conflicts,
- support for human rights defenders around the world,
- protection of the rights of the child,
- protection and promotion of the freedom of religion,
- protecting and promoting the rights of LGBTI persons,
- international humanitarian law,
- violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them.
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was established on the basis of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and started its functions on the 1 of March, 2007. Main functions of FRA are:
- to collect, analyse and disseminate information and data on the protection of the rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights by EU institutions and by Member States while implementing Community law,
- to give recommendations, conclusions and opinions, prepare annual reports on the fundamental rights situation in the EU, with a specific focus on racism and xenophobia,
- to cooperate with non-governmental organizations,
- to inform society.
Lithuania supports the compliance to the highest standards on human rights and freedoms in EU law, institution activities and external policy. Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively involved in the Human Rights Working Group of the EU Council (COHOM) to discuss on the common EU position on human rights in bilateral relations and in multilateral forums - UN General Assembly's Third Committee, Human Rights Council, OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Founding documents of the European Security and Cooperation Organization (OSCE) establish a broad concept of security that includes military-political, economic and human dimensions. The latter has become one of the most important activities of the OSCE. OSCE monitors human rights and freedoms situation in the Member States, in particular, on fair elections, freedom of the press 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 consists of:
- Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
- High Commissioner on National Minorities
- Representative on Freedom of the Media
- President’s special or personal representatives on specific issues
In recent years, considerable attention was given to the fight against anti-Semitism, racism, islamophobia and related intolerance, fight against human trafficking, and improvement of the situation of Roma in Europe. Also, the OSCE is particularly well known for election observation missions.
Lithuania is interested in maintaining this function of the OSCE, as well as to ensure its cooperation with the Council of Europe in the field of the human dimension. Our aim is to keep these issues in the focus of the OSCE.