Racism in Lithuania

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Racism in Lithuania appears mainly in the form of negative attitudes and actions towards people who are not considered ethnically Lithuanian, especially if the foreigner is of different race. According to the data provided by the Centre for Ethnic Studies, Roma people, Chechens, refugees and Muslims are regarded with disfavour most of all in Lithuania.[1] anti-Semitist as well as anti-Polish[2] sentiments are also very strong in Lithuania. However, recent research showed that Lithuanians themselves claim to be tolerant.[3] The problem of racism, which is deep in the country, is still not widely admitted, although the Government itself has put some effort to reduce xenophobia in Lithuania. Since the mid-2000s the Law on Equal Opportunities forbids any direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic origin, gender, religion, nationality or belonging to any other group.[1]

Section 170 of the Criminal Code provides, as at 2010:

1. A person who, for the purposes of distribution, produces, acquires, sends, transports or stores the items ridiculing, expressing contempt for, urging hatred of or inciting discrimination against a group of persons or a person belonging thereto on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality, language, descent, social status, religion, convictions or views or inciting violence, a physical violent treatment of such a group of persons or the person belonging thereto or distributes them shall be punished by a fine or by restriction of liberty or by arrest or by imprisonment for a term of up to one year.

2. A person who publicly ridicules, expresses contempt for, urges hatred of or incites discrimination against a group of persons or a person belonging thereto on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality, language, descent, social status, religion, convictions or views shall be punished by a fine or by restriction of liberty or by arrest or by imprisonment for a term of up to two years.

3. A person who publicly incites violence or a physical violent treatment of a group of persons or a person belonging thereto on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality, language, descent, social status, religion, convictions or views or finances or otherwise supports such activities shall be punished by a fine or by restriction of liberty or by arrest or by imprisonment for a term of up to three years.

4. A legal entity shall also be held liable for the acts provided for in this Article.

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Lithuania is a member of the following international instruments aimed to combat racism: Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime (since 2007), Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (since 2000) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (since 1998; individual complaints against Lithuania aren't allowed).

The approximate number of xenophobic acts is not known in Lithuania, but the level of racism varies depending on the region. According to the journalist I. Larionovaitė, Klaipėda should be considered the most racist town in Lithuania,[5] since it is the only city which is not a signatory of a program for refugees, accepted by the Government.

There was one incident where an individual was killed because of his ethnic background. In 2007 a refugee from Somalia Gulaid Abdiaziz Salah legally living in Klaipeda was severely beaten after he had spoken up about the racism in Lithuania to the media. He died in the hospital some weeks later.[6]

The government does not approve of racism[citation needed]. During the municipal elections a right-winged party Jaunoji Lietuva made the following slogan: "Be žydrų ("žydras" = gay in Lithuanian slogan; "žydra" - light blue color) , juodų, raudonų ir be taboro čigonų" (Without gays, blacks and reds, as well as Gypsies from Tabor).[7] The party itself explained that the word "black" stood for money laundering.

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