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Lithuanian parliament passes children's rights protection amendments

VILNIUS - The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Thursday amendments to the Law on the Fundamentals of Protection of the Rights of the Child. 

All 71 lawmakers present voted in favor of the amendments. Seventy-one is the minimum quorum for passing a bill. 

Those voting in favor were lawmakers of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labor Party (LSDLP), the Order and Justice Party, and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance, as well as two conservative MPs and several non-attached members of the parliament. 

The package will take effect in May if signed into law by President Dalia Grybauskaite.  

In late March, the opposition broke the quorum to block the adoption of the amendments over LFGU leader Ramunas Karbauskis' proposal to include the criterion of "significant harm" to a child's health when removing a child from parental care.  

Some lawmakers argue that the amendment will justify a certain level of violence against children, while some family organizations maintain that this will help prevent an unjustified removal of children from their parents. 

The amendments were drafted in response to public discontent sparked by a high-profile case in which children were taken away from their family.

Under the amended law, separation of children from parents against their will can only be used as a last resort when it is necessary to protect a child from a real danger to his or her physical and mental safety, health or life, or significant harm to their health, and there are no other ways to protect them.

It also allows leaving a child aged under six years under the care of family members aged between 7 and 13 years for up to 15 minutes in a safe environment. 

Under the existing law, parents cannot leave such a child under the care of someone aged less than 14 years unless it is objectively necessary.

Russia's taking revenge on Lithuania with its Jan 13 judge probe, formin says

VILNIUS – Russia is taking revenge with its investigation launched against four Lithuanian judges who issued the ruling in the high-profile January 13 case, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius says.

"I could also call it that way as some sort of revenge," the minister told BNS on Wednesday. "It's difficult to evaluate it in some way as this is a deplorable situation."

Russia's Investigative Committee earlier launched an investigation against the judges of Vilnius Regional Court Aiva Surviliene, Virginija Pakalnyte-Tamosiunaite and Arturas Sumskas, and also against Ainora Kornelija Macevicienee, the retired chair of the judicial panel, into alleged unlawful criminal prosecution.

The probe follows the court's ruling in late March when 67 Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the January 13 case and were issued prison sentenced ranging from four to 14 years. The majority of them were sentenced in absentia as Russia and Belarus refused to extradite them.

According to Linkevicius, Russia "should realize that although many years have passed, justice must prevail and that there's no statute of limitations for such cases."

In his words, the judges are advised to refrain from trips to Russia or Russia-friendly countries as "they can expect provocations or various other actions there."

The foreign minister also pledged to turn to international organizations.

"We will take care of that protection as much as possible. (…) Those people related to the case, not only the judges, all of them should act carefully," Linkevicius said.

Russia's Investigative Committee has also charged former Lithuanian prosecutor Simonas Slapsinskas who used to work on the January 13 massacre case, in absentia of "unlawful prosecution of Russian citizens". Now a lawyer, Slapsinskas called it political persecution.

Russia's representatives say the Lithuanian judges ruled that "there is no possibility to precisely identify the actions of which of the defendants led to the most serious consequences", i.e., whose actions led to the death or injury of people.

Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for the Russian the committee, says this way the judges grossly violated the principles of criminal law, stating that all doubts should be viewed in defendants' favor.

Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were wounded when Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of Jan. 13, 1991.

The Soviet government used military force in its attempt to remove the legitimate government in Lithuania after it declared Lithuania's independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990.


Boeing 737 MAX 8 banned from taking off in Vilnius

VILNIUS – A Boeing 737 MAX 8, banned across the EU, could not take off for a flight to Madeira from Vilnius on Tuesday.

"Yes, it's related to the issued European aviation safety directive," Marius Zelenius, head of communication at Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports), told BNS Lithuania.

In his words, the passengers had to get off and wait for a substitute plane. Zelenius could not say their number, adding, however, that the overground service company had to take care of them.

The European Aviation Safety Agency grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft in the European airspace following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines' Boeing 737 MAX 8, killing all 157 people aboard.

Around 350 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes are used worldwide at the moment. Some countries and airlines decided to halt flights using these planes, while others continue operating them and waiting for the results of the investigation into the recent crash, as well for some recommendations from aircraft producer Boeing.

In October, Boeing 737 MAX 9, which belonged to Lion Air, crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people.

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