Disinformation campaigns about LGBTI+ people in the EU and foreign influence (excerpt), 2021

3. Cases of disinformation, misinformation and hate speech

[..]

3.1 ‘Colonialism’ by the West

[..]

According to a RAND report (Helmut et al. 2018), Russian actors are actively engaged in disseminating disinformation to Russian speakers in the Baltics, through a variety of means including traditional and social media. According to the report, in some cases Russia has used this outreach to sow dissent against host and neighbouring governments, as well as against the EU.


Briefing paper. 02.07.2021. ISBN: 978-92-846-8347-5 (pdf) Link: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2021/653644/EXPO_BRI(2021)653644_EN.pdf

The Most Resonant Human Rights Violations in Certain Countries (excerpts), 2021

The rights of linguistic minorities continue to be violated in the country. Thus, the Latvian government has banned the delivery of printed materials on vaccination against COVID-19 in Russian to residents.

The scope of teaching in minority languages is decreasing.

A «requirement of loyalty» (loyalty to the state) is being imposed on teachers and school principals, which «creates a climate of suspicion and anxiety, which does not contribute to building trust between different segments of society».

In order to indicate ethnicity in the passport it is necessary to provide documents confirming the relationship with the direct ancestor of the certain ethnicity. To change ethnicity to «Latvian» you need to prove the highest level of proficiency in the state language. Such a complicated procedure for changing the ethnicity record can be considered as an exclusion mechanism.

[..]

On 3 December, 2020 officers of the Latvian State Security Service arrested six Latvian journalists who had collaborated with the Russian editions Sputnik and Baltnews (both are part of the holding international news agency «Russia Today»), against which criminal cases were initiated on charges of violating the EU sanctions regime.

Among the detained are journalist and former editor-in-chief of the Internet portal «Baltnews.lv» Andrei Yakovlev, publicist, public figure and human rights activist Vladimir Linderman, journalists Andrei Solopenko and Alla Berezovskaya. The journalists were searched, their equipment and communication facilities were confiscated. Human rights activist Mr. Linderman, in addition to the confiscation of his phone, had his Facebook and personal e-mail hacked.

On 17 December, 2020 the Riga Vidzeme suburb court sentenced Alexander Gaponenko, who was found guilty of «inciting ethnic hatred using electronic media», as well as inciting to hostility or hatred on the basis of race, ethnicity and nationality (punishment – a year of conditional imprisonment and two years of probation control). Human rights activist Mr. Gaponenko is a doctor of economics, headed the United Congress of Russian Communities in Latvia, the «Russian Communal Latvia», as well as the «Congress of Non-Citizens», actively opposes the militarization of Latvia and the glorification of Nazism.

Closing access in 2021 to the Monument to the Liberators in Riga, at the foot of which people annually laying flowers on May 9 is a violation of freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.

Following international commitments have been violated: ICCPR art. 19 (freedom of opinion and expression) art. 26 (right to equality before the law and equal protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status)

Yuri Alekseev, a Latvian journalist, publicist, deputy of the Riga City Council from 2005 to 2009, editor and public figure, has been under investigation since December 2017. The reason for the accusation of Mr. Alekseev was his activity on the Internet discussion portal «IMHOclub», which the Security Police of Latvia (SPL) considered an anti-Latvian resource.

During 2017-2018 Mr. Alekseev and his colleague, the moderator of IMHOclub comments Dmitry Sumarokov, were repeatedly detained, their homes and offices were searched. And although the court rejected the SPL’s petition to arrest them and transfer them to the Riga Central Prison, computers and telephones were confiscated from both of them (repeatedly since the beginning of the criminal prosecution), and a written undertaking not to leave was taken as a measure of restriction. Against Mr. Alekseev the investigator additionally established a full set of restrictive measures, including police supervision (he is obliged to register three times a week at the police station that is 8 km from his home and stay at home from 23.00 to 6.00, which is regularly checked by the police when they come to him at night). In addition to the above, without explaining the reasons, the Latvian bank “Citadele” canceled Mr. Alekseev’s current account, which he had for 25 years. After 22 months of investigation, according to the legislation, the above-mentioned preventive measures were automatically removed, while the criminal case against Mr. Alekseev was not terminated.

In October 2020, a Russian citizen, chairman of the Republican Society of Military Veterans, Vladimir Norvind, was deported from Latvia. After 40 years of living in the country with his family, the Latvian authorities canceled his residence permit, placed him in a camp for illegal migrants, where he suffered a heart attack. After that, he ended up in one of the Riga hospitals under the protection of border guards. However, health problems did not interfere with the transportation process – Mr. Norvind was taken out of Latvia and handed over to Russian doctors at the border. Such a forced and hasty deportation has a sign of political persecution for the professional activities of Mr. Norvind.

HCNM statement to the 1318th Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council (excerpt), 2021

I recently started a series of introductory meetings with the Latvian authorities. I am also planning to organize meetings with minority representatives in the near future. I had the opportunity to discuss issues related to the status of non-citizens and the naturalization process with the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs. While I commend Latvia for streamlining procedures and easing certain naturalization requirements, and thereby reducing the number of non-citizens in recent years, I also expressed openness to share recommendation on how to further expedite the process. I discussed the implementation of the current education reform and recent decisions pertaining to higher and preschool education with the Minister of Education and Science, and recommended that there remains space for pupils of a minority background to continue learning in their mother tongue. It is also important to continue the ongoing consultations with the representatives of national minorities while implementing education reforms.


03.06.2021 HCNM.GAL/3/21/Rev.1 Link: https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/a/4/489767_0.pdf

President’s letter to the Cabinet (excerpts), 2021

On strengthening the Latvian language as the sole state language

[..]

A On the constitutional foundations of the Latvian language as the sole state language

[..]

B On the specific tasks in strengthening the status of the Latvian language as the sole state language

[..]

VI

[..]

The Russian language is a foreign language which is not more peculiar or more privileged than other foreign languages. Skills in that foreign language could only be demanded, if the labour conducted is mostly related with foreign countries where the use of that language is dominant.

[..]

VIII

In Latvia’s education system, English is learned as the first foreign language. [..] The state should actively promote and ensure learning of European Union official languages as second official languages in the education system [..]

[..]

X

[..]

I have already initiated to establish a lower value-added tax rate for Latvian original literature and for Latvian-language mass media

[..]


Document data: no. 126 of 26.04.2021 Link: https://www.president.lv/storage/kcfinder/files/VP_vest_26042021_126_PDF.pdf

Publisher’s notes: President Levits prefers to speak of Russian as “foreign” language, despite the presence of a reference to minority languages in the Article 114 of the Constitution.

CESCR Concluding Observations on Latvia (excerpts), 2021

C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations

Roma

14. While noting the State party’s efforts to facilitate access by the Roma to economic, social and cultural rights, the Committee is concerned that members of the Roma community continue to face stigmatization, and widespread discrimination, especially in access to public services (art. 2(2)).

15. The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts for the social and economic integration of the Roma, paying particular attention to Roma women and children. It recommends, in particular, that the State party strengthen its policy measures, including by adopting and implementing a national Roma integration strategy, with a view to addressing the socioeconomic disparities and discrimination faced by Roma people in accessing to public services, employment, adequate housing, education and healthcare. The Committee also recommends that the State party proactively address stigmatization and prejudices against Roma, including through awareness-raising campaigns.

Non-citizens

16. The Committee welcomes the entry into force of the Law on the Discontinuation of the Non-Citizen’s Status for Children in 2019, which applies to children born after 1 January 2020, and the progress made by the State party in the naturalization of people residing in Latvia with no nationality who are considered to be in a separate legal category of non-citizens. However, the Committee is concerned that, as of 2019, there are still approximately 209,000 non-citizens in the State party, and that the discrimination against non-citizens persists inter alia in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights (art. 2(2)).

17. The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to facilitate access to naturalization and phase out the separate legal category of non-citizen thus reducing gradually and finally eliminating the number of persons without nationality. It also recommends that the State party take targeted measures to ensure that those who currently hold non-citizen status have non-discriminatory access to economic, social and cultural rights, including equality of opportunity or treatment in employment.

[..]

Unemployment

22. [..]. Despite the efforts by the State party, the Committee is concerned that:
[..]
(b) Certain groups continue to be disproportionately affected by unemployment, including Roma, non-citizens, persons belonging to minority groups, persons over 50 years of age, and persons with disabilities;
[..]

23. The Committee recommends that the State party:
[..]
(b) Continue its efforts to support Roma in gaining access to employment, including by implementing targeted positive measures and facilitating their access to technical and vocational training opportunities; and ensure that programmes promoting Roma’s integration into the labour market do not perpetuate their concentration in low-skilled jobs and in the informal economy;
(c) Take measures to ensure that the language laws and policies of the State party do not lead to direct or indirect discrimination against persons belonging to minority groups in gaining access to employment;

[..]

Right to education

46. The Committee notes with appreciation the increase in the number of Roma students completing compulsory primary education in the State party, and the increase in the salary of teachers in recent years, both in line with the Committee’s previous recommendation to that effect (E/C.12/LVA/CO/1, paras. 30, 31, 55, 56). However, the Committee remains concerned about insufficient availability of preschool education in some municipalities, discrimination against children belonging to minority groups and undocumented migrant children in education, the placement of persons with disabilities in so-called special schools and their exclusion from mainstream education, and the disproportionately high number of Roma children enrolled in special needs programmes (art. 13).

47. The Committee recommends that the State party: [..]

(e) As a matter of priority, expedite its efforts to address the overrepresentation of Roma children in special schools and special classes in mainstream schools, including a review of the classification criteria and the adoption of inclusive and integrated education programmes;

[..]

Minority languages

48. While noting the information provided by the State party delegation in relation to support provided for the teaching of and in minority languages, the Committee is concerned that current language policies in the State party may have discriminatory impact against persons belonging to minorities in the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights, especially in the fields of education, employment, and access to services. The Committee notes the explanations provided by the State party delegation that the education reform itself is not discriminatory. However, the Committee remains concerned that the recent amendments to the Education Law and the Cabinet Regulation No. 716 of 21 November 2018 have discriminatory effect on minority groups and that they create undue restrictions on teaching of and in minority languages in preschool and primary education in both public and private schools (art. 15).

49. The Committee recommends that the State party take measures to ensure that its language policies and laws do not create direct or indirect discrimination against persons belonging to minority groups in the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights, and that they do not impede the ability of these persons to find employment in public and private sectors. It also recommends that the State party consider revising its language policies and laws in education in order to promote the teaching of and teaching in minority languages and to ensure that they do not affect negatively the educational performance of children belonging to minority groups.


Document data: E/C.12/LVA/CO/2, adopted 05.03.2021, published 08.03.2021. Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E%2fC.12%2fLVA%2fCO%2f2