Article 19 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (as amended) explicitly guarantees the right to life, stipulating that: "The right to life of a human being shall be protected by law." Article 21 of the Constitution provides as follows:
The person of the human being shall be inviolable.
The dignity of the human being shall be protected by law.
It shall be prohibited to torture, injure a human being, degrade his dignity, subject him to cruel treatment as well as establish such punishments.
Article 36 governs the right of peaceful assembly:
Citizens may not be prohibited or hindered from assembling unarmed in peaceful meetings.
This right may not be limited otherwise than by law and only when it is necessary to protect the security of the State or society, public order, people’s health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of other persons.
The use of force by the police is not specifically regulated under the Constitution. It is, though, stipulated in Article 94(1) that the Government of Lithuania:
shall administer the affairs of the country, protect the inviolability of the territory of the Republic of Lithuania, guarantee State security and public order....
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
1950 European Convention on Human Rights
Police Use of Force
Police use of force in Lithuania is regulated in the 2000 Law on Police Activities (as amended). According to Article 23(1) of the Law, which governs types of coercion and the conditions of its use:
A police officer shall have the right to use coercion when it is necessary to prevent violations of law, to apprehend individuals who have committed said violations, as well as in other cases when protecting and defending the lawful interests of an individual, the society or the State. Coercion which might cause bodily injuries or death may only be used to the extent which is necessary for the fulfilment of the official duties and only after all possible measures of persuasion or other measures have been used with no effect. The type of coercion and the limits of its use shall be chosen by the police officer, taking into account the particular situation, the nature of the violation of the law and the individual characteristics of the offender. When using coercion, police officers must seek to avoid grave consequences.
Paragraph 3 of Article 23 states that: "Mental coercion, within the meaning of this Act, shall be understood as a warning about an intention to use physical coercion, firearms or explosive materials. Demonstration of a firearm and warning shots shall be regarded as mental coercion...." This could be considered akin to a threat of use of force. Paragraph 5 of the same article states that: "Before using physical coercion or a firearm, a police officer must proffer a warning "except in cases when such a delay poses a threat to the life or health of the police officer or another person, or when such a warning is impossible...."
Article 25 of the 2000 law specifically governs the use of firearms. According to paragraph 1, "When other coercive measures are ineffective, the police officer shall have the right to use a firearm as an extraordinary measure." This right applies in the following cases:
1) when defending himself or another person from a started criminal attempt or a criminal attempt which poses a direct threat dangerous to life or health;
2) when apprehending a person who has committed a criminal act and who evades arrest by active actions, if it is impossible to apprehend him in any other way, as well as in cases when the person refuses to fulfil lawful requirements to put down a weapon or another thing with which it is possible to injure an individual, if a threat is posed to the life or health of the police officer or another individual and it is impossible to disarm him in any other way;
3) when repelling an attack on guarded facilities;
4) when it is necessary to free hostages or to prevent an act of terror;
5) in the event of escape from the place of imprisonment or riots therein.
These provisions are considerably more permissive than international law allows.
Article 25(4) of the 2000 law prohibits use of a firearm "in public gathering places, if it endangers innocent people; against women who are obviously pregnant, as well as against persons who are visibly disabled, against minors, if the police officer knows their age or their appearance corresponds to their age, except in cases when said persons resist in a manner dangerous to human life or health or a group of such persons attacks and this attack poses a threat to life or health".
The national parliament's Ombudsmen’s Office is empowered to investigate the activities of officials of state institutions and agencies, including the police force. The Office also conducts inspections of any place where persons are, or may be, deprived of their liberty. It was established under the 1998 Republic of Lithuania Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen.
In addition, according to Article 23(8) of the 2000 Law on Police Activities:
A prosecutor shall be immediately informed about any use of coercion by a police officer which has caused the death or injury of a person.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its Concluding Observations on Lithuania in 2018, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern "about allegations of ill-treatment and excessive use of force in certain facilities, including police detention centres, prisons and psychiatric institutions...."
Yusiv v. Lithuania (2016)
This case concerned alleged excessive use of force by the police. A chamber of the European Court of Human Rights stated that: "any use of physical force by the police which had not been made strictly necessary by the applicant’s own conduct will attain the minimum level of severity and thus be incompatible with Article 3 of the Convention...."
The Court noted that:
the domestic medical examination concluded that the applicant had sustained at least eighteen blows from a hard blunt object, and that his injuries were unlikely to have been caused by falling down.... However, there had not been any assessment as to whether inflicting that number of injuries on the applicant could have been strictly necessary and proportionate in order to suppress his resistance. It further notes the absence of signs of physical injuries to the police officers which would indicate violent actions, such as kicking or biting, on the part of the applicant.... The Court also observes that in the present case the applicant was sixteen years old at the time of his arrest, he was alone against eight police officers, and it was not alleged at any stage of the domestic proceedings that he might have been armed. Therefore, even if the applicant had indeed been swearing at the officers, had fallen to the ground, and had attempted to kick or bite them, the Court is not convinced that it was strictly necessary for several trained police officers to resort to physical force of such severity as in the present case – at least eighteen blows – in order to make the applicant more cooperative....