Attempting to legalize pushbacks of asylum seekers at Lithuania’s borders would green-light torture, Amnesty International said today ahead of this week’s expected vote in the Lithuanian Parliament on a bill that aims to legalize summary returns under domestic legislation.
If passed, amendments to the Lithuanian Law on the State Border and its Protection would effectively enshrine in domestic legislation the ongoing practice of border pushbacks, which forcibly return people to places where they face a risk of torture and other ill-treatment. International law prohibits collective expulsions and the return of anyone to a country where they could face serious human rights violations.
“Rather than taking the urgent steps necessary to stop the widespread use of violence, intimidation and physical ill-treatment against people in the context of pushback operations, this law would effectively green-light torture,” said Nils Muižnieks, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe Regional Office.
Rather than taking the urgent steps necessary to stop the widespread use of violence, intimidation and physical ill-treatment against people in the context of pushback operations, this law would effectively green-light torture.Nils Muižnieks, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe Regional Office
“If they don’t want Lithuanian legislation to once again be censored by the EU Court of Justice or the European Commission, Lithuania’s parliamentarians should soundly reject this outrageous attempt to legalize what is illegal. Lithuania cannot claim to be a rights-abiding country when it circumvents the rule of law.”
The vote, which is expected to take place on Tuesday or Thursday, comes just weeks after Europe’s top anti-torture body, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, published a report that found that authorities in countries including Lithuania have used practices that amount to torture when targeting refugees and migrants who tried to cross Europe’s borders.
Research by Amnesty International published in June 2022 found that border authorities in Lithuania subjected refugees and migrants at their borders to abuses, including cruel and gratuitous attacks with batons or tasers. In addition, many migrants and refugees were pelted with stones and rubber bullets and beaten as they lay on the ground semi-conscious after being subjected to tear gas in an enclosed space.
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