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2020.03.06 10:10

Lithuanian PM calls for more supervision of intelligence services

Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS2020.03.06 10:10

The Lithuanian prime minister says the country's parliament should adopt laws stepping up public control over intelligence services and law enforcement institutions carrying out criminal intelligence.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis set up a working group to consider legislation limiting the use of intelligence methods and stepping up external control. The measures have been recommended by the parliament's ombudsperson.

Read more: Report calls for tighter oversight of Lithuania's intelligence agency

“The working group should draft bills to ensure people's ability to defend themselves. If they are subject to any measures, they should be informed about those actions and there should be a possibility for legal defence,” Skvernelis told BNS on Thursday. “Also, measures that considerably restrict people rights cannot be applied indefinitely.”

Skvernelis also believes there is a need to establish an ombudsperson institution to oversee the actions of intelligence services and criminal intelligence institutions.

“We need a separate ombudsperson to cover not only intelligence, but also criminal intelligence. It could get the same status as the Seimas ombudsman, but with various requirements regarding reliability, experience and very strict liability for information disclosure,” Skvernelis said.

The working group is expected to submit its proposals by the middle of April. Skvernelis told BNS he hoped the amendments would be adopted during the parliament's autumn session.

There are two intelligence services in Lithuania: the State Security Department (VSD) and the Second Investigation Department under the Ministry of National Defence.

Criminal intelligence in Lithuania is carried out by the police, the Special Investigation Service, the Financial Crimes Investigation Service, the Prison Department, the customs service, the State Border Guard Service, and the VIP Protection Department.

In his report earlier this year, the Seimas ombudsperson said that “the legal regulation does not set a clearly defined maximum time limit” for the use of intelligence methods that do not require prior authorization from a court, and privacy breaches can “last for an unreasonably long period of time”.

Under the existing law, conditions for using intelligence methods that do not require prior authorization from a court are set by the government, but its resolutions remain classified.

In the ombudsman's opinion, the law should allow appealing against intelligence officials' actions in court.

The existing law allows filing appeals with the parliament's Committee on National Security and Defence and the Seimas ombudsman, but they can only make recommendations.

The ombudsman also said in the report that the VSD paid too little attention to assessing its officers' activities in terms of human rights, and recommended setting up “an effective external mechanism for controlling the VSD's activities”.