State of Emergency in Lithuania: legal aspects
On February 24, by a decree of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, a state of emergency throughout the territory of the Republic of Lithuania was introduced. On March 10, by the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania resolution, the state of emergency throughout the territory was extended until April 20. (inclusive), with the possibility of further extension.
Pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article 5 of the Law on a State of Emergency of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – the Law), the maximum duration of a state of emergency is six months.
Among other things, during the state of emergency, the following restrictions on constitutional rights and freedoms are established throughout the territory of the Republic of Lithuania (NEW):
- it is prohibited to photograph, film or otherwise record and/or collect information on companies, equipment and property belonging to the energy sector, important for ensuring national security, movement of Lithuanian and allied military equipment, except when performed by persons ensuring the protection of these objects or with their permission;
- it is prohibited to re-transmit and distribute on the Internet in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania of radio programs, television programs and/or individual programs of entities established, directly or indirectly controlled, financed by the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus, except for certain exceptions;
- it is prohibited to disseminate disinformation and military propaganda, incite war, hatred and discrimination, prompt to violate the sovereignty of the Republic of Lithuania – change its constitutional order, encroach on its independence or violate the integrity of the territory;
- it is prohibited to hold meetings for the purpose of supporting the actions of the Russian Federation and / or the Republic of Belarus in any form or by any means.
Pursuant to paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Law, when introducing a state of emergency the specific emergency measures referred to in Article 28 of the Law must be indicated, which may impose restrictions on the constitutional rights and freedoms of both natural and legal persons. The resolution introduced the following six emergency measures:
- use of the state reserve;
- enhanced protection of companies, facilities and assets important for national security; (NEW)
- strengthening the protection of the state border and covering the state border;
- the transit of foreigners traveling under the a special transit scheme through the territory of the Republic of Lithuania shall be carried out in accordance with special, coordinated conditions; (NEW)
- stricter visa regime for foreigners; (NEW)
- ensuring public order and public peace in the border zone.
In view of the emergency measures introduced, it is assumed that there will be no significant impact on the conduct of commercial activities, but there is a likelihood of some negative effect on the logistics sector due to ensuring public order and public peace in the border zone.
- The measures in the border zone include checks of vehicles and persons and their luggage for the purpose of tracing and seizing illicit firearms, ammunition, blasting agents, radioactive, toxic and other hazardous substances or devices, as well as identifying and detaining offenders, protecting the life, health and property of the population.
- If commercial activities are carried out in the border zone or passing logistic routes, we recommend that employees be warned that they may be stopped for inspection in these territories. It cannot be excluded that inspections may be carried out in shops, warehouses and other infrastructure facilities located in the border zone (if any); therefore we recommend that these facilities have employees capable of properly responding, communicating and acting in emergency situations.
- The resolution provides for the use of the Lithuanian Armed Forces during the state of emergency, which in implementing emergency measures in the border zone shall have the rights set out in paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Statute on the Use of Military Force of the Republic of Lithuania, including but not limited to the right:
- to give mandatory instructions to natural and legal persons,
- to enter the residential and/or non-residential premises, territories, facilities belonging to natural and legal persons and to visually inspect them,
- to temporarily restrict access to a certain territory or premises, to stop works carried out therein, to restrict or to prohibit vehicle traffic in a certain territory,
- to check documents of persons, vehicles, weapons, and other items,
- to carry out an inspection of persons and their personal belongings,
- to stop, to check, and to visually inspect vehicles, the goods and items kept in the vehicles, also persons and their luggage, etc.
- Having regard to the rights granted to the Lithuanian Armed Forces, we recommend that persons working in the border zone be warned about possible actions of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and their presence in the border zone in general, be instructed to always have an identity document with them and not to be afraid of a possible inspection, temporary prohibition to enter a certain territory or suspension of any works there.
Although the measures introduced by the resolution are not expected to have a significant impact on daily activities, it is likely however that, given the geopolitical situation in the region, the extension of the state of emergency could lead to imposing other emergency measures that might significantly affect everyday business operations, such as:
- special distribution (supply) of foodstuffs and other essential goods to the population in the state of emergency territory or evacuated population;
- if necessary, the temporary change of the working regime of companies and other legal entities, reorganisation of their economic activities for carrying out rescue and reconstruction works (these works may be remunerated in accordance with the procedure established by legal acts).
In addition to the above-mentioned measures, there is also a likelihood that during the state of emergency, according to paragraph 2 of Article 15 of the Law on Civil Protection of the Republic of Lithuania, economic operators and other institutions may be required to stockpile civil protection supplies. The Government of the Republic of Lithuania or an institution authorised by it determine the persons required to stockpile supplies, the lists of protection measures, their amount, and the period for which the stocks of such protection measures must be accumulated.
Basic legal acts governing a state of emergency and other relevant legislation:
- Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (https://www.lrs.lt/home/Konstitucija/Konstitucija.htm);
- Law on a State of Emergency of the Republic of Lithuania (https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/TAIS.169562/asr);
- Resolution of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania “On the imposition of a state of emergency” (https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAP/b621a760a04111ec9e62f960e3ee1cb6?positionInSearchResults=0&searchModelUUID=c9bd8085-d265-47be-bed5-29225fdc4daa);
- Law on Civil Protection of the Republic of Lithuania (https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/TAIS.69957/asr);
- Law on the State Reserve of the Republic of Lithuania (https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/TAIS.108263/asr);
- Law on the Approval of the Statute on the Use of Military Force of the Republic of Lithuania (https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/TAIS.99655/asr);
- Law on Public Information of the Republic of Lithuania (https://www.e-tar.lt/portal/lt/legalAct/TAR.065AB8483E1E/asr);
- Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On the approval of the boundaries of the border zone and the boundaries of the state border protection zone as well as the list of residential areas of the Republic of Lithuania assigned to the border zone” (https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/TAIS.299364/asr);
- Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On the approval of the Regulations of the Commandant’s Office for the Protection of Public Order and the Rules for Issuing a Special Permit to Stay in the Territory of a State of Emergency” (https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/TAIS.211948/asr).