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Human rights in Latvia

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Human rights in Latvia

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Foreign relations

Human rights in Latvia are generally respected by the government, according to the US Department of State and Freedom House.[1][2] Latvia is ranked above-average among the world's sovereign states in democracy,[3] press freedom,[4] privacy[5] and human development.[6] 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.[1][7]

However, 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.[1][8][9]

Latvia in the international human rights system

As of January 1, 2010, European Court of Human Rights has delivered 41 judgments in cases against Latvia (beginning from 2001); in 34 cases, it has found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights or its protocols.[10] In 2010, ECtHR adopted four more judgments in cases against Latvia, finding violations in three.[11]

UN Human Rights Committee has adopted views in four cases involving Latvia, as of December, 2010, in two cases finding violation of ICCPR (Raihman v. Latvia and Ignatāne v. Latvia).[12] In 2001, Latvia has extended a standing invitation to Special Procedures of UN Human Rights Council.[13] In 1990, Latvia has acceded to UDHR in an atypical move, which is understood in jurisprudence as accepting the declaration as binding.[14]

Participation in basic human rights treaties

UN core treaties[15] Participation of Latvia CoE core treaties[16] 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

Experts' body State report Document by experts' body State response
Human Rights Committee 2002[17] 2012[18] 2003[19] 2004[20]
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 200?[21] 2008[22] .
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2008[23] 2003[24] .
Committee Against Torture 2012[25] 2007.[26] 2008[27]
Committee on the Rights of the Child 2005.[28] 2006[29] .
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women 2004[30] 2004[31] .
European Committee on Social Rights 2009[32] 2010[33] .
Committee for the Prevention of Torture not foreseen 2004[34] 2008[35]
FCNM Advisory Committee 2012[36] 2013[37] 2014[38]
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance not foreseen 2012[39] 2012[40]

Overviews by human rights organisations

Amnesty International

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.[8]

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.[8]

Human Rights Watch

[9] In 2009 the gay march was allowed by Administrative Court of Riga.[41]

Freedom House

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.[2] The highly competitive Latvian mass media are proving to be reliable sources of information and watchdogs against governmental abuses of power.[7]

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.[2]

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.[2]

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.[1]

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[42] and counter-meetings,[43] commemorations of Latvian Legion of SS soldiers[44] and counter-meetings,[45] meetings of the Russian School Defense Staff[46] 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.[47] In the parliamentary elections of 2010, 81 of 100 elected MPs were males, 76 indicated their ethnicity as ethnic Latvians.[48] For comparison, in the beginning of 2010 ethnic Latvians were 59.4% of the population (and 71.8% among citizens)[49] and women — 53.9%.[50]

As of September, 2012, minimum consumer basket was 175.88 LVL (approx. 250 EUR),[51] the minimal salary being 200 LVL[52]) before tax-paying and the minimal age pension — 49.5 LVL.[53] Average calculated age pension in August 2012 was 190.76 LVL.[54] Average salary after tax-paying in June, 2012, was 347 LVL, varying from 247 LVL in Latgale till 392 LVL in Riga.[55]

Unemployment rate in the end of September, 2012, was 11.0% according to State Employment Agency, varying between 7.3% in Riga region and 21.6% in Latgale.[56] Ethnic minorities and persons not indicating ethnicity composed 46.2% of the unemployed in the end of August 2012.[57]

Life expectancy at birth was estimated as 72.93 years in 2012.[58] In 2011, there were 6.3 outpatient visits to physicians per capita, 58.8 hospital beds and 39.1 physicians per 10 000 population.[59]

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.[60] According to 2000 census, 13.9% of those aged 15 and older and giving answers on own education have had obtained higher education.[61] 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.[62]

Human rights legislation and offices

National law

Human rights are granted by Chapter VIII of the Constitution[63] — "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.

Until adopting this chapter the core law in the field of human rights was the Constitutional Law "The Rights and Obligations of a Citizen and a Person", adopted in 1991.[64]


  • Since 1990, a committee on human rights exists in the parliament of Latvia (initially it was called Committee on Human Rights and Ethnic Affairs,[65] currently — Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee[66])
  • Since 1996, the Constitutional court exists. Private persons can submit applications concerning their constitutional rights to it since 2001.[67]
  • In 1993—1995, the office of State Minister for Human Rights had existed.[68][69] In 1998, the office of Representative of the Government before International Human Rights Organisations was founded.[70]
  • In 1995, National Human Rights Office was created,[71] 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.

International rankings

See also



  1. ^ a b c d "2008 Human Rights Report: Latvia".  
  2. ^ a b c d e "Map of Freedom 2008".  
  3. ^ a b "The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2008".  
  4. ^ a b "Press Freedom Index 2010".  
  5. ^ a b "The 2007 International Privacy Ranking".  
  6. ^ a b "Statistics of the Human Development Report".  
  7. ^ a b c "Country Report 2008 Edition".  
  8. ^ a b c "Amnesty International Report 2009".  
  9. ^ a b "Latvia: Investigate Attacks on Gay Activists".  
  10. ^ The European Court of Human Rights. Some Facts and Figures. Strasbourg, 2010 — p. 14
  11. ^ Eiropas Cilvēktiesību tiesā pret Latviju iesniegto iesniegumu tendence 2010.gadā(Latvian)
  12. ^ UN Treaty Body Database: Search: Convention - CCPR, Country - Latvia, Type - Jurisprudence
  13. ^ Countries having extended a standing invitation to Special Procedures
  14. ^ Burbergs M., Kučs A. Vispārējai cilvēktiesību deklarācijai – 60 // Jurista vārds, 23.12.2008.
  15. ^ UN human rights treaties database
  16. ^ CoE human rights treaties database
  17. ^ Report
  18. ^ report CCPR/C/LVA/3
  19. ^ Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, Latvia
  20. ^ Comments by the Government of Latvia to the concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee
  21. ^ State Report
  22. ^ Concluding observations
  23. ^ (Latvian)Report
  24. ^ Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  25. ^ Report CAT/C/LVA/3-5
  26. ^ Conclusions and recommendations
  27. ^ Comments by the government of Latvia
  28. ^ Report
  29. ^ Concluding Observations
  30. ^ State Report
  31. ^ Concluding comments
  32. ^ State report
  33. ^ Conclusions XIX-3 (2010)
  34. ^ 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 from 5 to 12 May 2004
  35. ^ Responses of the Latvian Government to the report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on its visit to Latvia from 5 to 12 May 2004
  36. ^ 2nd state report on FCNM
  37. ^ 2nd FCNM Advisory Committee Opinion
  38. ^ Comments of the government on the 2nd FCNM Advisory Committee Opinion
  39. ^ Fourth Report on Latvia
  40. ^ Fourth Report on Latvia (pp. 53—67)
  41. ^ Gays Without Borders: Baltic Pride Saved After Court Lifts Council Ban
  42. ^ Neatļauj rīkot gājienu «Rīgas praids 2006»
  43. ^ Jaunupu sauc pie atbildības, Ulmi – ne
  44. ^ Cilvēktiesības Latvijā 2004. g. — Rīga: LCESC, 2005. ISBN 9984-9707-7-9 — 35. lpp.
  45. ^ Антифашисты возложат венки
  46. ^ Cilvēktiesības Latvijā 2004. g. — Rīga: LCESC, 2005. ISBN 9984-9707-7-9 — 34.—35. lpp.
  48. ^ Statistical data on MPs elected in 2010(Latvian)
  49. ^ Population of Latvia by ethnicity and by nationality, 01.01.2010(Latvian)
  50. ^ Choose table IE03 POPULATION BY SEX AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia website
  51. ^ Minimum consumer basket per capita (in lats)
  52. ^ Personal income
  53. ^ Old age pension State Social Insurance Agency website
  54. ^ «Pensiju (pabalstu) vidējais piešķirtais apmērs pa mēnešiem», Sociālā apdrošināšana, 2012(Latvian)
  56. ^ 2012.gada septembrī reģistrētā bezdarba līmenis valstī samazinājies līdz 11%(Latvian)
  57. ^ See 2. Bezdarbnieka statistiskais portrets(Latvian)
  58. ^ Latvia//The World Factbook
  59. ^ VA15, VA17, VA19
  60. ^ Latvijas Republikas tiesībsarga ziņojums par tiesību iegūt pamata un vispārējo vidējo izglītību bez maksas nodrošināšanu pašvaldības dibinātās izglītības iestādēs(Latvian)
  61. ^ Choose "Results of Population Census 2000 in brief" and "EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT OF POPULATION "
  62. ^ See IZ18
  63. ^ Constitution (Satversme) of the Republic of Latvia
  64. ^ 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)
  65. ^ Homepage of the first committee's chairperson in Parliament's website(Latvian)
  66. ^ Saeima Committees
  67. ^ About Constitutional court
  68. ^ Composition of the Cabinet of Ministers in 1993—1994(Latvian)
  69. ^ Composition of the Cabinet of Ministers in 1994—1995(Latvian)
  70. ^ Regulations on representing the Cabinet of Ministers before International Human Rights Organisations
  71. ^ Noteikumi par Valsts cilvēktiesību biroju(Latvian)
  72. ^ "Worldwide Quality of Life - 2005". The Economist. 2005. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  73. ^ "Global Corruption Report 2007".  

External links

  • Constitution
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
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
  • Latvian Centre for Human Rights
  • Latvian Human Rights Committee
International NGOs
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