Country Listing

Lithuania Table of Contents


Crime and Law Enforcement

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.

Penal Code and Prisons

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.

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, Josť 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.

Data as of January 1995