The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published its report on its December 2021 periodic visit to Lithuania, together with the response of the Lithuanian authorities.
During the visit, the Committee visited local police headquarters; arrest houses in Vilnius and Kaunas; prisons in Marijampolė, Pravieniškės, and Alytus; three foreigner registration centres; and Vilnius Republican Psychiatric Hospital. The delegation examined the treatment and conditions of detention of persons held in police and prison establishments as well as the situation of persons in foreigners’ registration centres. The delegation also reviewed the use of means of restraints and legal safeguards offered to involuntary patients in the context of civil psychiatry.
No allegations of mistreatment by police
The CPT delegation had heard no allegations of ill-treatment of persons detained by the police; most of the persons interviewed stated that the police had treated them in a correct manner. Most detained persons met by the delegation confirmed that they had been able to exercise the right of notification of custody and benefited from access to a lawyer from the very outset of deprivation of liberty.
Material conditions of detention at the local police headquarters visited were satisfactory, and at the arrest houses in Vilnius and Kaunas they were very good. In Marijampolė and Pravieniškės Prisons, the delegation received hardly any allegations of physical ill-treatment of prisoners by staff. However, the situation was very different and concerning in Alytus Prison. Here a number of credible allegations were received, including of punching, kicking and hitting with truncheons. As regards the detention of foreign nationals, the delegation did not receive any allegations of physical ill-treatment which would have occurred in the three visited foreigner registration centres.
Regarding the use of means of restraint in Vilnius Republican Psychiatric Hospital, the CPT noted improvements both in the regulatory framework and in practice. Remaining shortcomings include, inter alia, lack of monitoring of the use of mechanical restraint and the absence of systematic debriefings with the patients after such measures are imposed.
Although access to primary healthcare in the prisons visited was generally ensured, the healthcare teams remained under-resourced. Access to specialist care was a matter of a serious concern, mainly due to significantly reduced operational capacity at the Prison Hospital.
CPT calls on Lithuanian authorities to modernise prisons
The Committee also noted that much-anticipated plans to construct several new prisons have so far not been implemented and called upon the Lithuanian authorities to take all possible measures to significantly speed up the process of modernising prison facilities, and especially its conversion to cell-type accommodation.
The Committee is equally highly concerned to note that no significant progress has been made in reducing the scale of inter-prisoner violence, which has been repeatedly criticised by the CPT during its previous visits. During the 2021 visit, the CPT delegation once again received many credible allegations of inter-prisoner violence, including beatings and violence of a sexual nature, as well as extortion, psychological pressure, and coercion to commit new crimes.
Efforts by the Lithuanian authorities have been insufficient
Based on the findings of the 2021 visit, the Committee concluded that efforts to address these deeply rooted problems have, so far, been ineffective and the situation remained unacceptable. For this reason, the CPT has decided to set in motion the procedure provided for in Article 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
The Committee also recommended that detained foreign nationals be better informed about the legal framework applicable to them and that steps be taken to improve their access to translation, legal assistance, and avenues for complaints.
In their response, the Lithuanian authorities set out the measures taken or envisaged to implement the recommendations made by the Committee in the report, including further modernisation of the prison system, latest amendments to the Code of Execution of Sentences, integration of violence prevention measures in prisons, etc.