LITHUANIA: Tier 2
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. Observers estimate 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 Western Europe and Sweden. Lithuanian children and adults are increasingly forced to engage in criminal activities, such as shoplifting, theft, and drug-selling, in Nordic countries and Western Europe. Some Lithuanian men are subjected to forced labor in the United Kingdom and the United States, including in agriculture. Men from Bulgaria may be subjected to labor trafficking in Lithuania. The approximately 4,000 boys and girls institutionalized in state-run orphanages are especially vulnerable. Officials of several orphanages are allegedly complicit or willfully negligent to the sex trafficking of girls and boys under their care.
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. During the reporting period, the legislature strengthened its criminal code, and the Supreme Court intervened to protect victims and advocate for appropriate punishments for convicted traffickers. Authorities initiated more prosecutions and convicted more traffickers than in the previous year. Authorities launched investigations into child sex trafficking rings operating in state-run orphanages, amid reports of children subjected to trafficking or vulnerable to trafficking by complicit officials in the orphanages. Investigators, police, prosecutors, and judges did not receive sufficient training to more consistently apply the anti-trafficking statute or to treat victims appropriately. Victim protection lagged, as public funding for care providers did not sufficiently cover victim assistance costs. Authorities did not proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations or consistently refer them to care. The government lacked a formal inter-ministerial body to coordinate whole-of-government efforts and a methodical system to deliver specialized care to child victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LITHUANIA:
Provide effective training for all police officers on the identification, referral, and appropriate treatment of victims, including by integrating an anti-trafficking module into the basic training for the police; sustainably fund NGOs to provide victim protection; prevent the sex trafficking of children institutionalized in state-run orphanages, including through the prosecution of complicit or negligent orphanage authorities; improve training of investigators and prosecutors on building trafficking cases and working with victim witnesses; improve judicial understanding of trafficking and sensitivity toward victims of sex trafficking; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including labor trafficking offenses; provide all victims access to shelter and trafficking-specific assistance, particularly adult and male child victims; intensify efforts to identify victims proactively, particularly victims of labor trafficking and children in prostitution; and convene a formal inter-ministerial committee to coordinate whole-of-government anti-trafficking efforts.
The government demonstrated progress in law enforcement efforts. Lithuania prohibits all forms of trafficking through Articles 147 and 157 of its criminal code, which prescribe penalties ranging from two to 12 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2014, the legislature amended Articles 307 and 308, which criminalize gaining profit from or involving a person in prostitution; these amendments increased the prescribed penalties and removed a provision that had permitted judges to consider whether children had consented to being prostituted, since Article 157, as well as international law, classify the prostitution of children, without regard to “consent,” as trafficking in persons.
Lithuanian authorities initiated investigations of 24 cases in 2014, compared to 23 in 2013. Authorities initiated prosecutions of 40 defendants, an increase from 18 in 2013. The government convicted 18 traffickers under Articles 147 and 157, compared with 11 in 2013. All but one trafficker convicted in 2014 were sentenced to time in prison, with terms ranging from 18 months to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment. The government collaborated with foreign counterparts in two international trafficking investigations. In March 2015, prosecutors announced an investigation into the director of an orphanage who had allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring inside the institution, offering young boys to pedophiles. In January 2015, prosecutors announced the investigation of a state-run residential institution for children with special needs; allegedly, teenage residents had been subjecting girl residents to sex trafficking. In the latter case, the orphanage’s director defended her institution by saying such activity is common at all Lithuanian orphanages.
The government did not include trafficking information in basic training for police cadets, though authorities did provide or co-sponsor ad hoc trainings attended by 130 law enforcement officials. The national police force designated eight officers to lead trafficking investigations, and the General Prosecutor’s Office designated six prosecutors. Observers reported shortcomings in police recognition of trafficking victims among individuals in prostitution, and investigators and prosecutors were reportedly reliant on victims’ testimony to prove a trafficking case. Observers also noted shortcomings in police ability and willingness to work with trafficking victims, as traumatized victims required more time and patience on the part of law enforcement to build a case. Law enforcement and service providers did not consistently coordinate effectively, further hampering investigations requiring victim testimony. Observers reported concerns with judicial understanding of human trafficking. The government made efforts to sensitize judges to the victimization of children exploited in prostitution. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that a lower court must re-evaluate sentences issued to two men convicted of subjecting three 14- and 15-year-old girls to sex trafficking; the lower-court judge sentenced the men to 150 hours of community service and made a derogatory comment about the victims’ appearance.
The government demonstrated some efforts to assist victims. Lithuanian courts officially identified 30 trafficking victims, compared with 15 in 2013. Authorities identified 47 potential victims from investigations started in 2014, the same as in 2013. NGOs receiving a mix of public and private funding provided support to 133 trafficking victims and at-risk individuals in 2014, compared to 129 individuals in 2013. 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 these procedures were not effective in practice. Observers also reported authorities did not consistently refer identified victims to care facilities for assistance in all parts of the country. The central government provided NGOs 149,400 litas ($50,900) for victim assistance programs, the same amount as the previous year. However, experts reported NGOs needed to resort to private funding to prevent a reduction in their victim care activities. Government-funded NGOs offered female trafficking victims shelter, medical and psychological assistance, and legal aid. Government-funded men’s crisis centers had the capacity to provide assistance, to include finding shelter, though not all police officers were aware of this service. The government did not ensure the provision of specialized care for child trafficking victims, as authorities placed child victims in foster homes and mixed-use shelters.
The government offered foreign victims of trafficking a 30-day reflection period to decide whether to cooperate with law enforcement. Foreign victims cooperating with law enforcement could receive temporary residency. Authorities did not identify any foreign victims in 2014. Lithuanian law permits authorities to use video conferencing and other technologies in the courtroom, which could be used to prevent re-traumatization of trafficking victims, but courts still had limited technical capabilities. The government provided legal representation to victims; however, observers reported the attorneys were not trained on trafficking issues and frequently lost victims’ civil cases in court. The government took steps to prevent victims from being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking. In one case, the Supreme Court exonerated a child trafficking victim who had been prosecuted for using illegal drugs with his traffickers while waiting for a planned police raid.
The government continued some prevention efforts. The government continued to lack an official interagency task force to coordinate whole-of-government efforts, including developing and adequately funding prevention activities. However, a working group established by the General Prosecutor’s Office met five times during the year to develop standards to identify victims and best practices for investigations. Government action to prevent the sex trafficking of boys and girls in orphanages was limited, though in March the Ministry of Social Affairs announced a plan to deinstitutionalize children in protective custody. The government sponsored informational seminars for social workers and presentations at institutions providing social services, such as foster homes and high schools. 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 government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The Lithuanian government made some efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.