The Lithuanian Jewish Community would like to bring the reader’s attention to amendments to the Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights currently being considered by the Lithuanian parliament which would ban retail sales of goods which “distort the historical facts of Lithuania or belittle Lithuania’s history, independence, territorial integrity or constitutional order.”
The LJC finds this expanded language for amending the consumer rights protection law raises real concerns about the possible suppression of the ability of members of society to make use of their basic right to self expression, and also raises questions about the likelihood of suppression of future attempts to restore historical justice. These amendments could exert a disproportionately large and negative influence on possible discussions regarding the role of Lithuanians in carrying out the Holocaust and would further lead towards a single “acceptable” judgment of the events of Lithuanian history, formulated at the state level, which would not serve the purpose of really learning and teaching history, but would instead become a censored interpretation.
The LJC believes the adoption of these amendments would give rise to conflict in society. The LJC calls for a consideration of the real need for these amendments and their objectivity, and calls upon legislators to realize anti-Semitism is not on the decline in Europe at the current time. On the contrary, the example of neighboring state which have adopted laws on “the appropriate” interpretation of history recall the era of institutionalized anti-Semitism. Many expressions of hate are encountered in Lithuania as well, and the LJC believes the adoption of these amendments poses the danger of increasing anti-Semitism in Lithuania.
The LJC points to a 2013 decision adopted by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania in the case “On the Adherence of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Education to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania,” which stated that no specific position or ideology can be declared mandatory and forced on the individual, and that the state must remain neutral regarding beliefs and does not have the right to set some sort of mandatory belief system.
Openness and freedom of speech and expression must remain strong and unifying values in Lithuania. In our country insuring human rights and the battle against hate crimes must be our active concern, just as actively as the calls for fighting for the protection of consumer rights by adopting these amendments.