Lithuania is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, as well as a source and destination country for men subjected to labor trafficking. Lithuanian children and adults are increasingly forced to engage in criminal activities, primarily shoplifting, in Nordic countries, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom (UK). Observers estimate that 40 percent of identified Lithuanian trafficking victims are women and girls subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Lithuanian women are also trafficking victims in France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. Lithuanian women and girls from orphanages and state-run foster homes, as well as women with mental or psychological disabilities, are especially vulnerable. A small number of women from Russia and Belarus are transported through Lithuania en route to Western Europe, where they are forced into prostitution. Some Lithuanian men are subjected to forced labor in the Netherlands, the UK, and the United States, including in agriculture. Men from Bulgaria may be subjected to labor trafficking in Lithuania.
The Government of Lithuania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. While the government investigated and convicted more traffickers in 2013, law enforcement efforts were hampered by inadequate judicial understanding of the crime, resulting in lax punishments for trafficking offenders. The government did not provide adequate training for police; consequently, authorities did not consistently identify victims and refer them to care, and some child victims of trafficking were reportedly treated as criminals. Public funding for care providers did not sufficiently cover assistance costs for victims receiving care.
Recommendations for Lithuania:
Provide effective training of police officers on the identification, referral, and appropriate treatment of victims, including the integration of an anti-trafficking module into the basic training of the police; ensure effective training of investigators and prosecutors on building trafficking cases and working with victim witnesses; improve judicial understanding of trafficking and sensitivity toward child victims of sex trafficking; consider amending the criminal code to remove the inconsistencies between Articles 307(3) and 308(2) and Articles 147 and 157; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including labor trafficking offenses; sustainably fund NGOs to provide victim protection; intensify efforts to identify victims proactively, particularly victims of labor trafficking and children in prostitution; ensure that all victims are offered access to shelter and trafficking-specific assistance, particularly adult male and child victims; and intensify efforts to increase the public’s understanding of human trafficking.
The Government of Lithuania demonstrated some anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but inconsistent articles in the criminal code and inadequate judicial understanding of trafficking hindered prosecutions. Lithuania prohibits all forms of trafficking through Articles 147 and 157 of its criminal code, which prescribe penalties ranging from a fine to 12 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Observers reported concerns with articles in the criminal code that overlap with certain elements of Articles 147 and 157 relating to sex trafficking: Articles 307(3) and 308(2) criminalize “profiting from another person’s prostitution,” but permit offenders to receive a lesser charge compared to Articles 147 and 157. Additionally, Article 307(3) permits a judge to consider whether trafficked children consented to being prostituted, despite Article 157 forbidding the prostitution of children, without regard to “consent.” A government official reported that several trafficking cases were charged under Articles 307 and 308 rather than Articles 147 and 157. Observers reported concerns with judicial understanding of human trafficking; in several cases judges applied lax punishments to convicted traffickers because of bias against child victims of sex trafficking. In one such case, a judge sentenced two men to 150 hours of community service for the sex trafficking of three 14- to 15-year-old girls. The decision was appealed and upheld by the Court of Appeals; the judge in that case made a derogatory comment about the victims’ appearance.
Lithuanian authorities initiated 23 investigations in 2013, compared to 11 in 2012 and 21 in 2010. In 2013, authorities initiated prosecutions of 18 defendants, a continued decrease from 26 in 2012 and 37 in 2011. The government convicted 11 traffickers under Articles 147 and 157 in 2013, compared to seven in 2012 and 17 in 2011. All traffickers convicted in 2013 under Articles 147 and 157 were sentenced to time in prison, with terms ranging from three years and three months’ to 12 years’ imprisonment. The Government of Lithuania did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government did not include trafficking in persons in its basic police training. The government continued to offer an optional annual training for police officers on trafficking prevention and investigation; 20 police investigators attended in 2013. NGOs reported shortcomings in police recognition of trafficking victims among prostituted individuals, and investigators and prosecutors were reportedly reliant on victims’ testimony to prove a trafficking case. All border security guards continued to receive training on identifying victims of trafficking. The government dismantled the anti-trafficking police unit in July 2013, transferring its responsibility to a group in the national police tasked to investigate serious crimes; the government did not provide trafficking-specific training for this unit. The government collaborated with foreign counterparts in five international trafficking investigations.
The Lithuanian government demonstrated some efforts to assist victims of human trafficking, but child victims continued to receive inadequate care. Lithuanian courts officially identified 15 trafficking victims in 2013, compared to 17 in 2012 and 29 in 2011. Authorities identified 47 potential victims of trafficking in investigations started in 2013, compared to 14 potential victims in 2012 investigations. Government-funded NGOs provided support to 129 trafficking victims and at-risk individuals in 2013, compared to approximately 150 individuals in 2012. Although the government had official procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations—such as women in prostitution, street children, and undocumented migrants—observers reported that these procedures were not effective in practice. Observers also reported that authorities did not consistently refer identified victims to care facilities for assistance. The central and municipal governments provided NGOs the equivalent of approximately $114,600 for victim assistance programs, the same amount as the previous year. However, experts reported that NGOs needed to resort to private funding to prevent a reduction in their victim care activities. In 2013, the government extended its funding cycle for NGOs from one year to three to alleviate the perennial gap in funding of NGOs. Government-funded NGOs offered female trafficking victims shelter, medical and psychological assistance, and legal aid. Most of the shelters for female victims of trafficking were mixed-use facilities that also served domestic violence victims. Victims could leave the shelters at will and without a chaperone. NGOs provided assistance to 33 male victims of trafficking in 2013. Government-funded men’s crisis centers had the capacity to provide shelter, though not all police officers were aware of this service. The government did not ensure specialized care for child victims of trafficking, as authorities placed child victims in foster homes and mixed-use shelters.
The government offers foreign victims of trafficking a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement. Foreign victims cooperating with law enforcement can receive temporary residency, but there were no reports that victims received residency this year. In July 2013, the parliament passed legislation that allowed authorities to use video conferencing, e-mail, and statement recording, which could be used to prevent retraumatization of trafficking victims in courtrooms. The law came into effect January 1, 2014, but it has not been used. The government provided legal representation to trafficking victims; however, observers reported that the attorneys were not trained in trafficking and frequently lost victims’ civil cases in court. A senior government official reported that some child victims were treated as criminals by Lithuanian authorities. In one case, a child trafficking victim reported himself to the police, who advised him to return to his traffickers and wait for a police raid; the child was later prosecuted for using illegal drugs with his traffickers while waiting for the police raid.
The Lithuanian government continued some prevention efforts. Although the government had no official interagency anti-trafficking working group in 2013, the General Prosecutor’s office launched its own interagency working group in February 2014. The working group brought together government stakeholders and NGOs to develop standardized criteria to address human trafficking, including standards to identify victims. While the government continued to lack a well-defined and coordinated strategy for trafficking prevention, it collaborated with NGOs on trafficking prevention activities, including conferences, seminars, and awareness campaigns. The government also provided schools with an educational video clip about reporting suspected human trafficking. The national police published information on traffickers’ recruiting methods on its website and internet advertisements. The police advertised and managed an e-mail account that the public could use to report potential human trafficking situations and ask for advice; the police received approximately 50 messages during the reporting period. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided consular officers with training on assisting trafficking victims. The Lithuanian government made some efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.