POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


THE BACKGROUND OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION IN LITHUANIA

Alvydas Pumputis

The system of protection of human rights has a long history with several stages. It started with ancient Greeks' teaching about religion and human rights, Plato's teaching about traditions as the whole of norms regulating individual's behaviour.

Thomas Acquin analysed the question of a person's rights, their dependence upon God more widely.

In the 17-18 centuries the science of inborn right started to form and its initiator Hugo Grotius tried to prove that these rights cannot be changed even by God.

In the 18 century German philosopher Johan Altazius argued that the individual's status is based on his agreement with the state.1

In Lithuania the content of human rights, the philosophy of its nature were consistently analysed by Mykolas R¸meris and Petras Leonas.

In due course of time the teaching about human rights developed into the system of legal regulations.

Petition of Rights (1628), Habeas Corpus Act (1679), The Bill of British Rights (1688), The Declaration of American Independence (1776). The Bill of the USA Rights (1791) etc.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, confirmed by the General Assembly of the UNO on 10 December, 1948, The European Convention of Human Rights, signed by the ministers of the European countries on 4 November, 1950 in Rome, which came into force on 3 September, 1953 and other international acts belong to the international legal documents being in force at present.

In our country, according to the international legal acts, these questions are being regulated by the Constitution (art. 18-37) and other laws.

In every society as well as in Lithuania, the protection of human rights is determined by certain preconditions:

  1. an independent state. That is one of the most essential preconditions. The citizens must have a possibility to determine the limits of their behaviour by themselves.

    In the case of occupation regime the person's legal status is possible to be defined as subordinate relationship.

  2. the system of democracy. Human rights are determined by the democracy of a political system. Every human being has the right to participate in the government of the State or to be represented in State institutions. The minimal expression of the democracy is the right to participate in election.
  3. legal system. The protection of human rights is based on law. The general norms are proclaimed in the Constitution and other legal acts, implementing the principles of constitutional regulation.
  4. the creation of an independent court system. The idea of human rights protection remains just a declaration not having created the independent court power.
  5. education as a clarifying means of the legal status of a personality. Educational activities stimulate tolerance, respect to each other, encourage to realise not only one's own but other's rights.
  6. the efforts of social institutions in protection of human rights. Every state, in its opinion, creates the most optimal institutional system, which protects and supports human rights.
  7. establishment of institutions inspecting the implementation of human rights. One of such institutions could be the institute of ombudsmen. This institute was established in Sweden in 1809. For some time this institute has been known as a Scandinavian one, but at present it exists in other countries too.

Our task is to find out what place the police take in the system of institutions protecting rights, what is the scope of their activities in this sphere, what relations are between the police and society protecting and defending human rights.

In a society there are groups of people having additional rights ( handicapped people, immigrants, children, etc. ). Specific status of these people demands additional attention of the police and it is natural, that it broadens the content of the police deontology.

In this case, talking about the police and public relationship protecting human rights, we take into consideration both general and specific rights.

Here it is very important to clear up and perceive what the police are . If we understand the police as an institution of power it will be one aspect of human rights protection, but if we understand it as service for people that will be quite another aspect. The European Charter of Police Officers adopted on 25 August, 1993 in Strasbourg emphasizes the latter aspect. The same idea is expressed in the Constitution of Lithuania, article 18, which determines inborn human rights.

The Law on the Lithuanian Police, adopted on 11 December, 1995 declares ÷The Police of the Republic of Lithuania shall be the executive body of State power ensuring law and order÷. But this statement is out of date and the suggestions to alter it are already submitted to the Lithuanian Parliament. Understanding the police activities as a service to people at the same time is an acknowledgement that the police are the institution of tax payers and has to protect and defend their rights.

It is very important what legal norms become the ground of the relationship between the police and individual.

There is quite a natural question: does the tax payer give the police so much that later one could expect their care and protection, or the police organize their activities so, that they could use the tax-payers' money in the most reasonable way, ensure the defence of their legitimate interests.

According to the criminal investigation agencies of the United Nations highly developed countries estimate 2-3 percent of national budget for crime control, developing countries - from 9 to 14 percent.2 While according to the national budget of 1996 approved by the Lithuanian Seimas, 16,3 percent of the national budget is estimated for this purpose, 8,9 percent from this - for the system of interior.3

As we see the Lithuanian tax-payer gives much attention to safeguarding public order and security. The rest depends upon the law enforcement, among them the distribution of the police forces.

The relationship between the public and police manifests itself when the latter accomplish their functions.

The Law on the Lithuanian Police (18-23 articles) determines these functions of the institution:

  1. Prevention of crimes and other law violations;
  2. Investigation and detection of crimes;
  3. Operational activities;
  4. The protection of public order, peace and security, liberties and rights of the citizens;
  5. Traffic surveillance;
  6. Social assistance;

The formulation of the functions, their determination are the objects of the discussion. Operational activities are the method of the realisation of separate functions, not the function itself. Traffic surveillance is the constituent part of the public order and the public safeguarding.

The main functions which dissociate the police from the militia are the prevention of the law violation and social care for the people. While in practice all activities are concentrated into the criminal prosecution.

The major part of inhabitants are not criminals. Their demands to the police, law enforcement and governmental institutions are well-grounded. People demand to protect their liberty, lives, to guarantee their security. All the laws of criminal process protect the rights of suspect, accused, defendant. Of course, this is important. But to protect an honest man is very important too. The police being aback of the crimes, seem to forget that the major part of the public which has not got anything in common with crimes. That part is only a potential victim, but it is treated as a potential criminal.

Conducting only the criminal prosecution the police are loosing their strength which could and ought to be devoted to the preventive activities, to protect a decent man.

While investigating crimes the opinion is being created that this process covers all police activities. Though the effect being reached is very poor. This causes the distrust of the police and the police are not able to disclose the crimes without the assistance of the public. The scientific observations of the USA and Western Europe prove that the police disclose less than 10 percent of crimes individually.

The co-operation with the society leads to the police success of 90 percent.4

The prior police activity should be the protection of citizens from the dangers and this activity is more important than the criminal prosecution.

The most developed police activities should be preventive and social. In the seminar on ˘Police and Human Rights÷ held in Strasbourg on December 6-8, 1995 the stress was laid on the preventive activity as being the highest protection form for the human rights.

The relations of the police and public are being improved by the fact that the police (security, traffic police) accomplish the functions which are not characteristic for the police. The activities are being done nonprofessionally, not paying attention to a man, breaking the norms of ethics and rights.

It worth recalling the functions of the police in the between war period of Lithuania. They were as follows:

  1. Public order defence;
  2. Supervision of the state and national economy;
  3. Supervision of the public morals;
  4. Supervision of the public welfare;
  5. Health care of the citizens;
  6. Defence of the citizens' personality security;
  7. Defence of the property safety of the citizens;
  8. Protection of the citizens from the criminal attempts.5

As you see different understandings are mentioned, different philosophy of the activities is formulated. As if the police are asking - how can we help you? Respect to the public, care for a man is determined by the fact that the police were under the supervision of the Department of the Civil Rights Protection.

The content of the police organisation and functions of the independent Lithuania of 1940 is much closer to the European Charter of Police Officers than the present practice and legal regulation of the police activities.

It manifests that the Lithuanian police are looking forward to a serious reform which should change the relations between the police and an individual.

NOTES

  1. International Protection of Human Rights. Strasbourg, 1995.p.8-11.

  2. The United Nations and the Crime Prevention. Cairo 1995, p.3.

  3. State News. 1995 No 103, 2302

  4. R.Roper ˘Prevention of the Crimes restructuring police and public relations in new democratic Middle and East European countries÷. Scientific Research Works. Vilnius, T.3. P.105-106.

  5. Textbook on Police Matters. Kaunas, 1926. p.5-6


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