Minister of Justice Evelina Dobrovolska: efforts necessary to protect Lithuanian citizens from unfounded decisions from third countries

Date

2021 01 06

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Minister of Justice Evelina Dobrovolska emphasised during her meeting with European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, that unlawful detention and requests for potential extradition of citizens of both Lithuania and the entire European Union may not be tolerated. Such foreign decisions with respect to officials of other countries who carry out their constitutional duty are contrary to the principles of justice and the rule of law.

Dobrovolska initiated an urgent meeting with Reynders as soon as it was publicly released that Russia's Investigative Committee brought charges by default against three judges of Vilnius Regional Court who had pronounced the judgment of the first instance court in the 13 January Case.

The Minister asked that Christine Lambrecht, Minister of Justice of Germany who holds the EU Council Presidency, and Francisca Van Dunem, Minister of Justice of Portugal that will have the EU Council Presidency from January, to ensure proper attention for this issue on the EU agenda. 

In today's meeting, Dobrovolska asked the European Commissioner for Justice to revisit this issue, which is so sensitive for Lithuania, and look for solutions together in order to protect EU citizens.

‘We must create an effective international mechanism to protect all EU citizens, including also citizens of Lithuania, from unfounded decisions of third countries,’ emphasised Minister of Justice Evelina Dobrovolska during the meeting. ‘Such decision of Russia's Investigative Committee, that is, to institute criminal proceedings against the Lithuanian judges who investigated the 13 January Case, means the pressure on our country for political considerations. That is one more slap in the face for our legal system. We will protect our officials and will make consistent effort in the EU Council to look for common methods and efforts to tackle such unlawful and politically motivated situations.’

One more important aspect discussed by the Minister with the European Commissioner was the importance of the digitisation policy for the legal framework of the entire Community. In the pandemic outbreak, the European Commission has proposed a package promoting the transition to the virtual space and remote instruments to be used in the sectors of the judiciary, imprisonment institutions and the whole public administration. 

The Ministry of Justice had initiated solutions to this problem even before. Cooperation of the Ministry of Justice with representatives of the newly elected European Parliament, its consistent work with EU Member States and other European institutions has contributed to the adoption of a resolution of high importance for Lithuania at the European Parliament in November of the last year; this resolution calls for Russia to stop the persecution it commenced against the judges, prosecutors and investigators of the 13 January Case.

On 1 December 2020, the Council adopted its conclusions on the current challenges and the way forward regarding the European Arrest Warrant. At the initiative of Lithuania, these conclusions include provisions on the protection of EU citizens against potentially abusive extradition requests from third countries.

On 13 January 1991, fourteen peaceful citizens were killed and more than 800 persons were injured in Lithuania. After the investigation that lasted many years, the Lithuanian court has sentenced 67 Soviet officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity.