Right to Liberty and Security

I. Pre-Trial Detention

 Pre-trial detention is the strictest restrictive measure available in criminal proceedings. It is tantamount to imprisonment before trial, except it may effectively prove to be even harsher as regimes in remand prisons, where detainees are kept, are usually stricter than in correctional facilities. Furthermore, living conditions in remand prisons are quite often poorer than in the usual places of detention. Due to the severance of social ties, high levels of stress and poor material conditions, detainees in remand prisons often suffer great mental or even physical harm; the use of this measure also affects and is harmful to detainees' close ones.[1] 

It is important to understand that while detainees are suspected of committing the crime, they have not yet been convicted and thus must not be treated as criminals. As such, even innocent people are susceptible to suffering the aforementioned ill effects. 

The Code of Criminal Procedure provides that pre-trial detention is an exceptional restrictive measure that may only be used when less severe measures, such as house arrest or bail, would not be able to ensure that the suspect does not abscond or interfere with the pre-trial investigation by destroying evidence or tampering with witnesses.[2] 

Pre-trial detention is the strictest restrictive measure available in criminal proceedings. It is tantamount to imprisonment before trial, except it may effectively prove to be even harsher as regimes in remand prisons, where detainees are kept, are usually stricter than in correctional facilities.

It is important to understand that pre-trial detention may only be used in order to ensure that the suspect takes part in the criminal proceedings, that he does not interfere with the investigation and, in certain cases, to prevent the possible commission of further offences.[3] Pre-trial detention may not be used as a means to prematurely punish the suspect, or to coerce him into giving evidence. The use of pre-trial detention without strictly observing the above requirements is a violation of a person's right to liberty, which is protected by Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Despite the harsh consequences of pre-trial detention and the fact that it should be considered an exceptional measure, statistical data shows the eagerness of Lithuanian courts to order its use. In 2013, prosecutors submitted 4779 requests for ordering or extending pre-trial detention, 4556 of which were granted in full or in part.[4] In 2014, these numbers were 4017 and 3838, respectively. As such, the courts grant more than 95% of all requests for pre-trial detention; meanwhile, the chance of successfully appealing the order is low – pre-trial detention orders are quashed in only about 9% of all cases.[5] 

These numbers have remained fundamentally unchanged since records of the statistical data began in 2010, demonstrating that the all-too frequent and willing use of pre-trial detention is a systemic, deeply-rooted problem. [6]

Some of the underlying causes of the problem were explained in a study of the attitudes of police officers, prosecutors and judges towards detention, carried out in 2013 by HRMI.[7] A significant portion of the specialists participating confirmed that pre-trial detention is sometimes deliberately abused – it is sought and ordered with the full knowledge that it is not really necessary in the circumstances. Sometimes this measure is used to put suspects under pressure. 

The study also revealed that public and media reactions have a huge impact on decisions pertaining to pre-trial detention. The media tends to scandalize refusals to order pre-trial detention and to cast the specialists involved in a negative light. As such, in order to avoid potential outcries, pre-trial detention is sometimes ordered as the "safe" option, since cases of unjustified detention rarely attract public attention.

Findings and Recommendations 

  • The extreme frequency and abuse of pre-trial detention in criminal proceedings is a deeply-rooted and systemic problem which leads to an excessive restriction of the liberty of suspects in criminal cases, possibly resulting in the violation of their rights and serious consequences for them and their kin.
  • With reference to the fact that pre-trial detention is used all-too frequently despite strict regulations, it is recommended to organize training for judges and prosecutors to raise their qualifications by making them aware of the purpose of and proper grounds for pre-trial detention and other restrictive measures, as well as the importance of protecting human rights in criminal proceedings.

[1] Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Pre-Trial Detention: One Man's Story, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCReZ_k-27Q

[2] Code of Criminal Procedure, 14 March 2002, No. IX-785, Art. 122,

http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=494011

[3] Code of Criminal Procedure, 14 March 2002, No. IX-785, Art. 119, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=494011

[4] National Courts Administration, information received on 7 February 2014 and 30 January 2015

[5] National Courts Administration, information received on 7 February 2014 and 30 January 2015

[6] National Courts Administration, information received on 6 June 2012, 3 June 2013, 7 February 2014 and 30 January 2015

[7] Human Rights Monitoring Institute, "Pre-Trial Detention: Police, Prosecutors' and Investigating Judges' Perspectives, 2013, http://www.hrmi.lt/uploaded/Documents/Suemimas%20-%20praktiku%20poziuris_LT_Galutinis.pdf