Changing Attitudes: Increasing Police Participation in Tackling Homophobic and Transphobic Crimes 2014 11-2015 03

Although legal responsibility for committing hate crimes is included in the Lithuanian Penal Code and hate crimes committed on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is an aggravating circumstance there still are important challenges for effectively combating hate crime in Lithuania.

The main aim of the project is to start a dialogue with police authorities for cooperation in tackling homophobic and transphobic crimes. While governmental authorities may agree there is a problem, the actual practitioners of law enforcement, i.e. police authorities and police forces that are subordinate to police authorities have shown very little if any interest and recognition of the issue at all. Therefore this project will be the first step taken towards cooperating with police forces and working together with the law academics and other community-based NGOs will serve as a good and effective starting point for such cooperation.

Therefore this project seeks to:

1) Establish a relationship and long term cooperation with police authorities and police forces in tackling hate crimes and dealing with their outcomes efficiently and objectively;

2) Create and develop an exchange platform among human rights NGOs (ones that deal with the topic of hate crime), police authorities and the academics working in the area of law and hate crime in particular;

3) Ensure the successful continuation of LGL work in the area of hate crime prevention, monitoring and practical work together with victims of hate crimes.

The following key activities took place during the project’s duration:

Round table discussion “Hate crimes: the situation and the search for effective responses”

On December 17th, 2014, LGL organized a round table discussion “Hate crimes: the situation and the search for effective responses” to bring together politicians, representatives from the government, responsible institutions and non-governmental organizations, and individuals working in the field of human rights. The round table discussion was created in order to discuss the status of hate crimes in Lithuania, the practical aspects of victim protection, and the potential for collaboration between responsible government institutions and the non-governmental sector. The event was organized to examine the issue of hate crime prevention on both the general level and with respect to the LGBT* (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

The discussion was moderated by lawyer and lecturer at Vilnius University, Prof. Dr. Andrius Bitinas, and introductory presentations were made by Jūratė Guzevičiūtė, the director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute’s rights program; Sigita Rukšėnaitė, head advocacy coordinator of LGL; Julija Šlekonytė, legal assistant at lawyer Diana Gumbrevičiūtė’s office.

Round table discussion “The potential for collaboration between NGOs and responsible institutions in the field of hate crimes”

On January 28th, 2015, LGL organized the second round table discussion between representatives of responsible institutions and non-governmental organizations, those working in the field of human rights, and scholars. The round table discussion, “The potential for collaboration between NGOs and responsible institutions in the field of hate crimes,” aimed to discuss the problematic nature of the pre-trial investigations of hate crimes for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, lawyers, – the situation, needs and possibilities if academics are paying sufficient attention to hate crimes, and what the topical issues are in this field; the potential for collaboration between responsible institutions, scholars, and non-governmental organizations, the changes brought forth by the Directive 2012/29/EU on minimum rights for victims’ across the EU and the practical aspects of their implementation in Lithuania.

The discussion was moderated by lawyer and lecturer at Vilnius University, Prof. Dr. Andrius Bitinas, and introductory presentations were made by Alina Mickevič, junior researcher at the Lithuanian Rights Institute; Jūratė Guzevičiūtė, the director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute’s rights program; Sigita Rukšėnaitė, head advocacy coordinator of LGL.

International conference “Expression of Opinion on the Internet: Human Rights, Ethics, and Legal Practice”

On March 26th, 2015, the conference organized by the Lithuanian Human Rights Centre, “Expression of Opinion on the Internet: Human Rights, Ethics, and Legal Practice,” took place at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania. Attorneys, public prosecutors, journalists, scholars, and representatives from state and non-governmental institutions read reports and participated in discussions. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, LGL’s human rights policy coordinator, contributed to the conference’s discussion about hate speech and the bounds of the freedom of speech.

Drawing upon the expertise and experiences of foreign partners, conference participants analyzed and compared the current limitations on the freedom of speech, as well as their developments and compatibility with human rights standards. Additionally, they discussed hate crimes and the problems related to restricting the freedom of speech. The discussions also raised questions about where the freedom of expression of opinion ends and hate speech begins, how to distinguish one from the other, and what form of accountability people should be held to.

The European Economic Area Grants’ NGO Programme in Lithuania, the Swedish International Liberal Centre, TEO LT, LGL/ILGA-Europe and the Embassy of Sweden in Lithuania also contributed to organizing the conference.