Two weeks ago, more than two years after the traumatic experiences of two underage refugees from Afghanistan, justice was finally carried out by the Supreme Court of Lithuania — for violating the rights of the minors, Lithuania will be forced to pay more than 6,000 euros.
"These days there is a lot of talk about refugees that come to Europe and, at the same time, to Lithuania, and as such it is heartening that the Supreme Court reminded the state of its duty to observe its international commitments and to respect human rights," commented Jūratė Guzevičiūtė, the legal director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.
Faced with abuse in Lithuania
Both Afghan nationals were detained by the State Border Guard while crossing the Lithuanian border in April of 2013. The youths claimed they were 14 and 17 years old and that they've come here seeking protection from threats they faced in their own country.
Even though national and international law provides that asylum seekers are exempt from criminal liability for illegal border crossing, Lithuania did not follow these rules. The young men were detained and held in prison together with adult men for three months, where they faced abuse and humiliation.
HRMI and the Red Cross
Representing the interests of the Afghan nationals, the Human Rights Monitoring Institute together with the Lithuanian Red Cross Society filed a claim in November 2013 to have the detention and the sentencing of the children be declared unlawful and to obtain compensation for the psychological harm the two suffered as a result of the state's actions.
Even though the regional court ruled that the state had not acted unlawfully, the decision of the Supreme Court of Lithuania rectified this mistake. The court held that the authorities did not give due and timely consideration to their status as refugees — both were supposed to be afforded special protection.