Antisemitism – Overview of data available in the EU 2008–2018 (excerpt), 2019

Latvia

Official data

The Latvian government informed FRA that no antisemitic crimes were recorded in 2018 and 2017. In 2016, one case related to the desecration of Jewish graves was successfully prosecuted. No antisemitic crimes were recorded in 2015.

Unofficial data

No unofficial data were available at the time this report was compiled.


Document data: published 08.11.2019. Print ISBN 978-92-9474-752-5 PDF ISBN 978-92-9474-753-2 Link: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2019-antisemitism-overview-2008-2018_en.pdf

UNHCR welcomes Latvia’s decision to grant automatic citizenship at birth to children of “non-citizens”, 2019

UNHCR welcomes the fact that Latvia’s Parliament has adopted legislative changes that will entitle children born after 1 January 2020 to parents who are considered “non-citizens” under the law to automatic Latvian citizenship at birth.

Access to nationality, in particular for children, is a fundamental human right recognized in international legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

The bill adopted by the Latvian Parliament is an important step towards  ensuring that children are not born without a nationality. It is a welcome development towards achieving the goals of the UNHCR Global Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 (“#IBelong Campaign”) and provides other countries a positive example.


Document data: two dates are give at the UNHCR website, October 2019 and 07.11.2019 The translation of the 1st paragraph is available in Russian (with mistaken UN instead of UNHCR) at http://novayagazeta.ee/articles/28439/ The translation of the remaining two paragraphs is available in Russian at https://lv.sputniknews.ru/Latvia/20191108/12727108/V-OON-pokhvalili-Latviyu-za-grazhdanstvo-dlya-novorozhdennykh-detey-negrazhdan.html

Commissioner’s statement on language policies (excerpts), 2019

Promoting social cohesion through balanced policies on languages

[..]

The Advisory Committee on the FCNM has consistently emphasised, in respect of a range of countries, including Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, that policies on the use of languages should aim to reconcile the needs of different groups of speakers, those of the state and those of society as a whole, rather than deepening gaps between different groups based on linguistic differences [..]

Tackling discrimination based on language

Laws and policies that promote the use of a specific language should not result in discriminatory treatment of some groups of the population. Therefore, before introducing new measures regulating the use of languages, the authorities should carefully assess the possible disproportionate impact of such measures, especially on persons belonging to national minorities. The Advisory Committee on the FCNM has indeed highlighted that strict language requirements can constitute a disproportionate obstacle for persons belonging to national minorities in a range of areas, such as access to employment, participation in political life, and access to health care and education. In the case of Latvia and Estonia for instance, it deplored insufficient access for persons belonging to minorities to public positions due to overly strict language requirements.

It is therefore crucial for countries to ensure that they have an effective anti-discrimination legal framework in place, which explicitly prohibits discrimination based on ethnic or national origin as well as on language, and, importantly, which foresees effective remedies for persons alleging such discrimination.  [..]

Promoting plurilingual education

When teaching of or in minority languages is provided, it is equally important to uphold the quality of teaching, but also to ensure continuity throughout the education system. For example, limiting the teaching in minority languages only up to a certain grade can act as a clear disincentive for minority language education. In this regard, I am worried, for instance, that the 2018 education reform in Latvia which gradually reduces the share of teaching in Russian (to a ratio of 80% Latvian and 20% Russian) in secondary schools, runs the risk of transforming the existing bilingual education system in place since 2004 into a system which offers only some language and culture classes in the minority language. I am also concerned at media reports indicating that the Latvian government is considering making Latvian the only teaching language in public schools.

Moreover, I find it disturbing that some countries (such as Latvia and Ukraine) have taken steps to establish rules for the teaching in languages of the European Union which are different from those applying to other languages, thereby establishing unjustified differences of treatment between speakers of different national minority languages.

[..]


Document data: 29.10.2019. Link: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/language-policies-should-accomodate-diversity-protect-minority-rights-and-defuse-tensions Also available in French and Russian

Publisher’s notes: in fact, the “ratio of 80% Latvian and 20% Russian” is now being applied to grades 7 to 9 (late basic school), and, to be more precise, the ratio is “at least 80 % Latvian”. To the secondary schools (grades 10-12), a different system is being applied by the same 2018 amendments to the Education Law. It can be summarised as “only some language and culture classes in the minority language”.

Commissioner’s statement on citizenship legislation for children, 2019

“I welcome the Latvian Parliament taking a decisive step toward eliminating child statelessness with the adoption of a law to grant automatic citizenship to children of “non-citizens” as of 1st January 2020, unless the parents opt for another nationality. This measure represents significant progress toward implementing the right of each child to a nationality at birth and toward fully including all children in Latvian society,” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović.

“Non-citizens” are members of Latvia’s Russian-speaking minority who did not acquire either Latvian or Russian citizenship in 1991. There were about 230000 “non-citizens” in Latvia on 1 January 2018. “Non-citizens” are deprived of the right to vote in national parliamentary elections and cannot occupy certain positions in local and national government and civil service; otherwise, they have essentially the same political and civil rights as Latvians.

Despite previous reforms in 2011 and 2013 which simplified acquisition of Latvian citizenship for children, a few dozen children continue not to be granted any citizenship at birth each year in Latvia.

“I welcome the fact that children of “non-citizens” born abroad or whose other parent is not Latvian will be included in this measure. I regret however that the parliament did not extend automatic citizenship to all stateless children in Latvia who are currently under 15,” the Commissioner added. “Non-citizen” children between 15 and 18 can already apply for Latvian citizenship. As of 1 July 2016, there were 4816 “non-citizen” children under 15 in the country.

Access to citizenship is a fundamental human right that in turn confers certain formal legal rights such as the right to vote and the right to be elected. Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Latvia is a state party, clearly provides for the child’s right to acquire a nationality at birth. While the “non-citizen” status in Latvia enables stateless children to access education and health care, the lack of citizenship can expose children to discrimination, lead them to not feel at home in the country in which they live or jeopardise their chances to obtain a nationality later in life.


Document data: 18.10.2019 Link: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/latvia-takes-important-step-toward-eliminating-child-statelessness

Letter to Latvia on language of instruction in pre-schools by 4 Special Rapporteurs (excerpt), 2019

We have the honour to address you in our capacities as Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 26/17, 34/18, 34/6 and 34/35.

In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers of the regulation on pre-school education No. 716, which appears to impose restrictions on the use of minority languages in pre-school educational institutions.

According to the information received:

On 21 November 2018, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a new regulation No. 716 on pre-school education, stipulating that the official Latvian language will be the only medium of instruction and learning in pre-schools classes for children between five and seven years old. The regulation came into force on 1 September 2019.

In Latvia, pre-school education is available for children between the ages of 1.5 and 7 years. Pre-school enrolment is, however, mandatory at the age of 5 and play-lessons constitute the main form of learning at this educational level.

Annex 2 of the regulation No. 716 presents a model programme for minority pre-school educational institutions. In paragraph 9, the annex states that, for children from the age of 5, the only medium of communication and instruction in play-lesson in minority pre-school educational institutions shall be the Latvian language, except for activities organised with the aim of learning a minority language and culture.

Adoption of the regulation No. 716 coincided with the repeal of regulation No. 533 of 31 July 2012. The repealed regulation No. 533 had put forward a different educational approach, one reportedly more sensitive to minority childtren’s mother tongue and to their educational needs. In its proposed model programme for minority pre-schools, regulation No. 533 had adopted a “bilingual approach” in play-lessons for the whole length of pre-school education covering children aged 1.5 to 7 years and had encouraged the creation of a “supportive environment for the acquisition of the official language”. By contrast, regulation No. 716 mandates an “official state language approach” for education of pre-school children aged 5 and above.

In addition, we have received reports indicating that the consultations for the text of new regulation No. 716 started in April 2018. These reports state that input was sought from only a limited number of stakeholders, including local civil society organizations, without direct engagement with minority communities and their representatives, or with organizations working on human rights and in particular on the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.

Without prejudging the accuracy of the information we have received, we express our concern over the Cabinet of Ministers’ adoption of the regulation No. 716 on pre-school education, mandating exclusive use of the Latvian official language in minority pre-school classes for children aged 5 and above. Regulation No. 716 replaced the relatively more inclusive regulation No. 533, which, before its repeal, provided for a bilingual approach for the entire pre-school period through age 7. We fear that regulation no. 716 regulation – in force as of 1 September 2019 – will harm minority children’s equal enjoyment of their human right to education in Latvia. The exclusion of their mother tongue from pre-school learning activities may hinder these minority children’s learning.

We also express our concern regulation No. 716 may violate the right of members of linguistic minorities to use their own language in community with other members of this group. We also fear that regulation No. 716 could lead to undue interference with the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds, regardless of the language used.

Lastly, we express our concern over the reported lack of a wide consultation on the text of the new regulation, and find particularly troubling the reported absence of consultation with minority communities and their representatives, or with organizations working and advocating for the rights of persons belonging to minorities in Latvia. We want to emphasize that achieving a truly inclusive and just society requires the effective participation of persons belonging to minorities in the formulation, adoption, implementation and monitoring, at the international. national and local levels, of laws and policies affecting them.

In connection with the above alleged facts and concerns, please refer to the Annex on Reference to international human rights law attached to this letter, which cites international human rights instruments and standards relevant to these allegations.

As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:

  1. Please provide any additional information and/or comment(s) you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.
  2. Please provide all relevant information regarding implementation of regulation No. 716 and, in particular, the measures put in place to ensure that pre-school minority children learn in their mother tongue.
  3. Please provide disaggregated data on the number of children, classes and schools affected by regulation No. 716.
  4. Please provide detailed information on the consultation process of the regulation No. 716 and the measures undertaken to ensure wide participation of all relevant stakeholders, including representatives from minorities and their organizations, in decisions affecting them, in particular with regard to their linguistic rights.
  5. Please provide information about measures taken by your Excellency’s Government to protect and promote the right of persons belonging to minorities, in community with the other members of their group, to use their own language.

[..]


Document data: 24.09.2019 ; OL LVA 1/2019 Link: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=24863

Publisher’s note: the annex, not reproduced here, refers to Article 26(2) of the UDHR, Article 13 of the ICESCR, Articles 2, 19, 26 and 27 of the ICCPR, Articles 13 , 29(c) and 30 of the CRC, Articles 1, 2 and 4.1 of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Articles 1, 2(c) and 5 of the ICERD, to the reports of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues A/HRC/22/49 (paras. 39, 41 and 83) and HRC/NONE/2017/12 (pages 16 and 21).

One should also note one inaccuracy in the letter. It speaks about Latvian being introduced as “the only medium of communication and instruction”, while in fact, the relevant document imposes it as the “main” (galvenais) medium.