Human rights in Latvia
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politics and government of
Human rights in Latvia are generally respected by the government, according to the US Department of State and Freedom House. Latvia is ranked above-average among the world's sovereign states in democracy, press freedom, privacy and human development. The country has a large ethnic Russian community, which has basic rights guaranteed under the constitution and international human rights laws ratified by the Latvian government.
However, human rights organisations have reported multiple problems. Especially non-citizens – including stateless persons – suffer from limited or no access to a broad range of rights. Also there were problems with police abuse of detainees and arrestees, poor prison conditions and overcrowding, judicial corruption, discrimination against women, incidents of violence against ethnic minorities, and societal violence and incidents of government discrimination against homosexuals.
Latvia in the international human rights system
As of end-2014, European Court of Human Rights has delivered 100 judgments in cases against Latvia (beginning from 2001); in 83 cases, it has found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights or its protocols.
UN Human Rights Committee has adopted views in four cases involving Latvia, as at December, 2014, in two cases finding violation of ICCPR (Raihman v. Latvia and Ignatāne v. Latvia). In 2001, Latvia has extended a standing invitation to Special Procedures of UN Human Rights Council. In 1990, Latvia has acceded to UDHR in an atypical move, which is understood in jurisprudence as accepting the declaration as binding.
Participation in basic human rights treaties
|UN core treaties||Participation of Latvia||CoE core treaties||Participation of Latvia|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination||Accession in 1992, declaration allowing individual complaints isn't made||European Convention on Human Rights||Ratified in 1997|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights||Accession in 1992||Protocol 1 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1997|
|First Optional Protocol (ICCPR)||Accession in 1994||Protocol 4 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1997|
|Second Optional Protocol (ICCPR)||Accession in 2013||Protocol 6 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1999|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights||Accession in 1992||Protocol 7 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1997|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women||Accession in 1992||Protocol 12 (ECHR)||Signed in 2000|
|Optional Protocol (CEDAW)||Not signed||Protocol 13 (ECHR)||Ratified in 2012|
|United Nations Convention Against Torture||Accession in 1992, declaration allowing individual complaints isn't made||European Social Charter||Ratified in 2002|
|Optional Protocol (CAT)||Not signed||Additional Protocol of 1988 (ESC)||Signed in 1997|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child||Accession in 1992||Additional Protocol of 1995 (ESC)||Not signed|
|Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC)||Ratified in 2005||Revised European Social Charter||Ratified in 2013|
|Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC)||Ratified in 2006||European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment||Ratified in 1998|
|Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families||Not signed||European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages||Not signed|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities||Ratified in 2010||Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities||Ratified in 2005|
|Optional Protocol (CRPD)||Ratified in 2010||Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings||Ratified in 2008|
Latest published documents in reporting procedures
Overviews by human rights organisations
According to Amnesty International, non-citizens – including stateless persons – suffer from limited or no access to a broad range of rights, including the right to participate in political processes, and the right to employment in the civil service and private sector. The majority of them were born or lived almost their entire lives in Latvia. Non-citizens also have restrictions on property ownership.
Amnesty International reported racially motivated attacks against Romani people. Latvia lacks of comprehensive national legislation dealing with all forms of discrimination. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have faced discrimination by verbal abuse. There were reported allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment of detainees by prison staff.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch reported in 2006 the attacks on peaceful lesbian and gay pride activists in Riga on July 22. Earlier, Riga City Council denied an application by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations for “Riga Pride 2006”. The banned march were targeted by crowds of anti-gay protesters. In 2009 the gay march was allowed by Administrative Court of Riga.
According to Freedom House, Latvia has wide civil liberties. Also political rights are in a high level, though the country suffered high-profile corruption scandals during 2007. The government generally respects freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of religion. Academic freedom is respected in law and in practice. Freedom of assembly and association are protected by law and in practice. The highly competitive Latvian mass media are proving to be reliable sources of information and watchdogs against governmental abuses of power.
While the constitutional guarantee of judicial independence is generally respected, corruption in the judicial and law enforcement systems continues to be a problem. Pretrial detentions are long, police use excessive force against detainees, and prisons suffer from overcrowding and inadequate medical care. Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, but they often face employment discrimination.
Alleged discrimination suffered by the Russian-speaking community continues to be debated. Parliament has appointed an ombudsman responsible for protecting the rights of individuals in relation to the government. Two men were sentenced to prison terms in January 2007 for attacking a Rwandan citizen. The case marked the first sentencing under a law prohibiting instigation of racial hatred.
United States Department of State
According to Human Right Report of United States Department of State, Latvia generally respects the human rights of citizens and the large resident noncitizen community. However, there were problems with serious police abuse of detainees and arrestees, poor conditions at police detention facilities, poor prison conditions and overcrowding, judicial corruption, obstacles to due process, official pressure to limit freedom of speech, violence against women, child abuse, trafficking in persons, incidents of violence against ethnic minorities, and societal violence and incidents of government discrimination against homosexuals.
Specific issues of Latvia
After restoration of independence in 1991, many residents of Latvia weren't acknowledged to be its citizens. As at January 2011, so-called non-citizens (more than by 99% — representatives of the ethnic minorities, mostly Russians) exceed 14% of the population. Russian language, being native for more than 37% of residents according to 2000 census, is considered to be foreign language in the Official Language Law; the possibilities to use it in communication with authorities and in public education were significantly reduced after 1991.
Like in many post-socialist countries, a restitution of real estate has taken place in Latvia. Therefore, a considerable part of former tenants of public housing found themselves in private housing, with higher rent. Rent control for such dwellings was, after multiple extensions, phased out in 2007.
Since 2003, conflicts concerning freedom of assembly are often: on various occasions, gatherings of LGBT and counter-meetings, commemorations of Latvian Legion of SS soldiers and counter-meetings, meetings of the Russian School Defense Staff were banned or limited.
Limitations to eligibility and their enforcement were in the focus of several ECtHR judgments in cases against Latvia (Ādamsons v. Latvia, Ždanoka v. Latvia, Podkolzina v. Latvia) and UN Human Rights Committee views in case Ignatāne v. Latvia.
Participation, economic, social and cultural rights in digits
In the local elections of 2009, 79.7% of elected councillors indicated their ethnicity as ethnic Latvians, 65.5% were male. In the parliamentary elections of 2014, 81 of 100 elected MPs were males, 71 indicated their ethnicity as ethnic Latvians. For comparison, in the beginning of 2010 ethnic Latvians were 59.4% of the population (and 71.8% among citizens) and women — 53.9%.
Unemployment rate in the end of December, 2014, was 8.5% according to State Employment Agency, varying between 5.2% in Riga region and 17.8% in Latgale. Ethnic minorities and persons not indicating ethnicity composed 45.5% of the unemployed in the end of December 2014.
Pre-school education and nine-years basic education are compulsory. Secondary education (forms 10-12) is free in public schools. However, according to Ombudsman, the constitutional principle of free education is violated by practice of parents having to buy textbooks. According to 2000 census, 13.9% of those aged 15 and older and giving answers on own education have had obtained higher education. In 2011, 94.6% of basic school (9 years) graduates had continued their studies, as well as 63.6% of secondary school graduates had done.
Human rights legislation and offices
Human rights are granted by Chapter VIII of the Constitution — "Fundamental Human Rights", adopted in 1998 and consisting of 28 articles. It includes both first-generation and second-generation human rights as well as some third-generation human rights: rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities and right to live in a benevolent environment. Article 116 defines goals allowing limitations of certain human rights: these are the rights of other people, the democratic structure of the state, public safety, welfare and morals.
- Since 1990, a committee on human rights exists in the parliament of Latvia (initially it was called Committee on Human Rights and Ethnic Affairs, currently — Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee)
- Since 1996, the Constitutional court exists. Private persons can submit applications concerning their constitutional rights to it since 2001.
- In 1993—1995, the office of State Minister for Human Rights had existed. In 1998, the office of Representative of the Government before International Human Rights Organisations was founded.
- In 1995, National Human Rights Office was created, transformed into Ombudsman's Office since 2007.
- Several NGOs also concern themselves with the state of human rights in Latvia, among them the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and the Latvian Human Rights Committee.
- Democracy Index, 2008: 46 out of 167
- Worldwide Press Freedom Index, 2010: 30 out of 178.
- Worldwide Privacy Index, 2007: 13 out of 37.
- Worldwide Quality-of-life Index, 2005: 66 out of 111.
- Human Development Index, 2008: 44 out of 179.
- Freedom in the World, 2008: Political rights score: 2 and Civil liberties score: 1 (1 being most free, 7 least free).
- Global Corruption Report, 2007: 49 out of 163.
- ECtHR cases involving Latvia and decided on merits by the Grand Chamber:
- Internet censorship and surveillance in Latvia
- LGBT rights in Latvia
- Russians in Latvia
- Latvian nationality law
- Poleshchuk, Vadim (ed.). Chance to Survive: Minority Rights in Estonia and Latvia (PDF). Aleksei Semjonov. Estonia, Moscow, Paris: Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, Foundation for Historical Outlook and Legal Information Centre for Human Rights. ISBN 978-9949-18-818-5. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "2008 Human Rights Report: Latvia". United States Department of State. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- "Map of Freedom 2008". Freedom House. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- "The Economist Intelligence Unit's Index of Democracy 2008" (PDF). The Economist. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Press Freedom Index 2010". Reporters Without Borders. 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
- "The 2007 International Privacy Ranking". Privacy International. 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Statistics of the Human Development Report". United Nations Development Programme. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Country Report 2008 Edition". Freedom House. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- "Amnesty International Report 2009". Amnesty International. 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- "Latvia: Investigate Attacks on Gay Activists". Human rights watch. 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- Violations by Article and by State - 1959-2014
- UN Treaty Body Database: Search: Convention - CCPR, Country - Latvia, Type - Jurisprudence
- Countries having extended a standing invitation to Special Procedures
- Burbergs M., Kučs A. Vispārējai cilvēktiesību deklarācijai – 60 // Jurista vārds, 23.12.2008.
- UN human rights treaties database
- CoE human rights treaties database
- report CCPR/C/LVA/3
- Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee on the third report of Latvia, CCPR/C/LVA/CO/3
- State Report
- Concluding observations
- Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- Report CAT/C/LVA/3-5
- Concluding observations CAT/C/LVA/CO/3-5
- Report CRC/C/LVA/3-5
- Concluding Observations
- State Report
- Concluding comments
- State report
- Conclusions XIX-3 (2010)
- Report to the Latvian Government on the visit to Latvia carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 12 to 17 September 2013
- Response of the Latvian Government to the report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on its visit to Latvia from 12 to 17 September 2013
- 2nd state report on FCNM
- 2nd FCNM Advisory Committee Opinion
- Comments of the government on the 2nd FCNM Advisory Committee Opinion
- Fourth Report on Latvia
- Fourth Report on Latvia (pp. 53—67)
- Gays Without Borders: Baltic Pride Saved After Court Lifts Council Ban
- Neatļauj rīkot gājienu «Rīgas praids 2006»
- Jaunupu sauc pie atbildības, Ulmi – ne
- Cilvēktiesības Latvijā 2004. g. — Rīga: LCESC, 2005. ISBN 9984-9707-7-9. — 35. lpp. Archived January 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Антифашисты возложат венки
- Cilvēktiesības Latvijā 2004. g. — Rīga: LCESC, 2005. ISBN 9984-9707-7-9. — 34.—35. lpp. Archived January 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Choose table PR10. ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT MEMBERS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LATVIA BY AGE, SEX, ETHNICITY AND EDUCATION QUALIFICATION Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia website
- Statistical data on MPs elected in 2014(Latvian)
- Population of Latvia by ethnicity and by nationality, 01.01.2010(Latvian)
- Choose table IE03 POPULATION BY SEX AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia website
- Noteikumi par minimālo mēneša darba algu un minimālo stundas tarifa likmi(Latvian) Минимальная зарплата в Латвии составит 360 евро(Russian)
- Old Age Pension State Social Insurance Agency
- «Pensiju (pabalstu) vidējais piešķirtais apmērs pa mēnešiem», Sociālā apdrošināšana, 2014(Latvian)
- Choose "Short term statistical data", then "Wages and Salaries" and table DS07.(English)
- Bezdarba rādītāji reģionos un pilsētās 2014.gada decembrī salīdzinājumā ar 2014.gada novembri (Latvian)
- See 2. Bezdarbnieka statistiskais portrets(Latvian)
- Latvia//The World Factbook
- VA15, VA17, VA19
- Latvijas Republikas tiesībsarga ziņojums par tiesību iegūt pamata un vispārējo vidējo izglītību bez maksas nodrošināšanu pašvaldības dibinātās izglītības iestādēs(Latvian)
- Choose "Results of Population Census 2000 in brief" and "EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT OF POPULATION "
- See IZ18
- Constitution (Satversme) of the Republic of Latvia
- Constitutional Law "The Rights and Obligations of a Citizen and a Person"//B. Bowring Report of a Second Mission to the Republic of Latvia on behalf of FIDH and Bar of England and Wales HRC, 1994 — see Appendix 4, p. 71 (p. 41 in .pdf document)
- Homepage of the first committee's chairperson in Parliament's website(Latvian)
- Saeima Committees
- About Constitutional court
- Composition of the Cabinet of Ministers in 1993—1994(Latvian)
- Composition of the Cabinet of Ministers in 1994—1995(Latvian)
- Regulations on representing the Cabinet of Ministers before International Human Rights Organisations
- Noteikumi par Valsts cilvēktiesību biroju(Latvian)
- "Worldwide Quality of Life - 2005" (PDF). The Economist. www.economist.com. 2005. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "Global Corruption Report 2007". Transparency International. 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- Public authorities
- Ombudsman’s Office
- Case-law of the Constitutional Court
- Representative of the Government before International Human Rights Organisations
- Human Rights Institute of the University of Latvia
- Intergovernmental organizations
- Human rights in Latvia in the website of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Report on visit to Latvia by CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, 2004
- Memorandum to the Latvian Government by CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, 2007
- ODIHR documents concerning election observation in Latvia
- Other states
- US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Latvia in 2009
- List of main claims and recommendations of international organizations and NGO to Latvia as regards rights of national minorities (compilation by Russian MFA, 2003)
- Report on the situation with human rights in certain states Russian MFA, 2011
- Report on the human rights situation in the European Union Russian MFA, 2012 — pp. 41–42
- NGOs from Latvia
- International NGOs
- Information on Latvia in the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 Amnesty International Reports
- Information on Latvia on the website of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group
- Information on Latvia in the website "Minority Electronic Resources"
- Latvia: The Perilous State of Nationality Rights, a 2011 report focusing on statelessness by Refugees International