2020.01.14 12:34

Controversial state security bill postponed to allow 'more discussions'

Jūratė Skėrytė, BNS 2020.01.14 12:34

The Lithuanian parliament has postponed the consideration of a controversial bill expanding state security powers until the spring session.

The amendments drafted tabled by President Gitanas Nausėda in late December would increase intelligence powers by allowing administrative detentions, “preventative conversations,” the right to check IDs.

They bill was due to reach Seimas on Tuesday. Rima Baskiene, the first vice speaker of the Seimas, told BNS the president had agreed to the postponement to allow more time for discussions.

Read more: ‘Excessive’ and ‘counter to human rights’: Grybauskaitė slams proposed state security changes

"The president's office has agreed that more discussion is needed [...] so as to leave no doubts," she said.

Antanas Bubnelis, the president's spokesman, told BNS, that "we did not want the good and necessary amendments to fall hostage to the political situation".

"Therefore, we did not object to the amendments being submitted at the start of the spring session," he added.

Read more: Greater state security powers no threat to human rights, intelligence chief says

Under the draft amendments, a person could be summoned by intelligence officials for "a preventive conversation" if there is reason to suspect that he or she "may be related or linked to activities that may increase the risk or pose a threat to Lithuania's national security or the interests of the state".

People who fail to show up could be issued fines.

Nausėda has said the preventive conversations would only be held with people targeted by hostile intelligence in order to warn them.

Critics say, however, the undefined ‘risks to the interests of the state’ are too vague and might be broadly interpreted, leaving room for abuse.

Read more: State security eyes more powers under Lithuanian president's proposals

The amendments would also grant intelligence officials the right to check identity documents and carry out administrative detentions, and obtain information from banks about financial transactions without a court warrant.

Intelligence bodies say the instruments are necessary for effective counterintelligence.

Some politicians say the expansion of intelligence powers must be accompanied by stronger safeguards against abuse. The opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats proposed establishing an intelligence ombudsman.