Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Justice system in Lithuania strongly criticised

"It's difficult to say anything good about the justice system in Lithuania.  Its incompetence and inefficiency are shockingly obvious.  Most pre-trial investigations stop at the pre-trial stage because the prosecution is unable to collect enough evidence to pass the case on to court.  Courts often delay cases and adopt decisions that are difficult to understand and justify.  Higher courts don't pay enough attention to the work of lower courts."

Those are the words of Kestutis Girnius (PhD Phil., Harvard), a philosopher, journalist, and professor at the Institute of Political Science and International Relations of Vilnius University.  They appear here (in Lithuanian) in an article he wrote earlier this year about the inefficiency of the justice system in Lithuania.

More criticism of the justice system has recently been expressed by Prof Vytautas Landsbergis, EU parliamentarian.  As the leader of Sajudis, his actions helped contribute to Lithuania regaining its independence and the fall of the Soviet Union.

On the 22 August 2011 broadcast of the television programme Lietuva tiesiogiai (Lithuania Live), Prof Landsbergis called the justice system one of "the most painful areas in the nation" and said that citizens had grounds for their lack of trust in the justice system.  That programme has been posted on YouTube and can be found here (in Lithuanian; from 23:00 to 23:45).

On the 15 February 2012 broadcast of Lietuva tiesiogiai, Landbergis stated that the justice system not pursuing justice was one of the fundamental problems in Lithuania.  He added that it was obvious that the justice system was corrupt and biased and that it was becoming clear that the system was systematically working for its own benefit.  He said that a statement recently released by the council of judges that oversees the work of the court system (which declared that there was a campaign of slander being conducted against the courts of Lithuania and that the foundations of the constitution were being destroyed) was lacking self-criticism and that it was reminiscent of Soviet tactics that branded critics of the regime enemies of the people and enemies of the state.  This part of the interview, which is in two parts, can be found here (in Lithuanian, from 5:00 to the end). 

I'm sorry to say that my personal experiences, stories that I've heard, and stories that I've read have led me to also strongly doubt the justice system here (and that's putting it in very kind terms).  And that sort of brutally obvious failure by one branch of the government helps to explain why there exists such a culture of impunity here in every facet of life, from criminally reckless driving to shady "businessmen" using strong-arm tactics when dealing with average people and bribery when dealing with the government.