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2021.01.26 16:30

Brussels vows to shield Lithuanian judges from Russian prosecution

BNS, LRT.lt2021.01.26 16:30

The European Commission has vowed to protect Lithuanian judges after Russia opened a criminal case against those who presided over the so-called January 13 case.

In March 2019, Lithuania sentenced 67 Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian citizens for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the January 1991 crackdown in Vilnius. Most were tried in absentia.

Russia then opened criminal proceedings against the judges, saying the case was politicised. Since then, Lithuania has been calling for support in case Russia lodges requests with Interpol or other legal bodies to seek their arrest.

In a statement on Tuesday, EC Vice-President Věra Jourová said Brussels will take all actions to protect the Lithuanian judges.

"Interpol’s Red Notice system should not be misused for political purposes. In the event of the Russian government issuing such notice, you can count on the European Commission to mitigate any negative effects on the persons involved," Jourová said.

Read more: Russia brings charges against Lithuanian judges in absentia

She has also backed the call for EU member states to promptly notify Lithuania in case Russia issues arrest warrants or extradition requests.

The statement was issued after the EC vice president's meeting with representatives of the Lithuanian Judicial Council.

She also said that the Commission “fully rejects any false claims that attempt to distort the history or paint the victims” of January 1991 Soviet crackdown in Vilnius that left 14 people dead “as perpetrators”.

Jourová added that any attack against the judiciary of an EU member state is an attack against the rule of law in the European Union as a whole.

"Liberty, democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression are the foundations of the European Union and we will defend them against any external interference," she said.