ECRI 3rd report on Latvia (excerpt on names/IDs), 2007

I. FOLLOW-UP TO ECRI’S SECOND REPORT ON LATVIA

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Constitutional provisions and other basic provisions

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Official identification documents

12. In its second report on Latvia, ECRI noted that the mention of nationality (here in the meaning of ethnic/national origin and not citizenship) had been removed from identification documents but also that there were reportedly delays in issuing replacement documents. ECRI encouraged the Latvian authorities to speed up this process

13. ECRI has been informed by the authorities that while the requirement to record a person’s ethnic origin was removed, the possibility of mentioning one’s ethnic origin (e.g. Latvian, Russian or Jewish) on identification documents and particularly in passports of the Republic of Latvia, still exists but only at the holder’s request (Article 5-4 of 2002 Law on Personal Identification Documents). Even though ECRI is not in possession of detailed information on the use of this option, it understands that there are a number of Latvian citizens who make use of this possibility. Therefore, passports which mention the ethnic origin of a person are still being issued and are still in circulation. Governmental as well as non-governmental sources have indicated that this is not a problem because the mention is on a voluntary basis. However, ECRI has received allegations according to which some people who wanted to indicate Latgalian as their ethnic origin have seen their request refused by the authorities who apparently do not recognise it as an ethnic origin distinct from Latvian. Others have indicated that they would not be entitled by the authorities to choose to indicate an ethnic origin different from the one which was indicated on their birth certificates. The authorities have explained that a person may freely change his or her personal records, including ethnicity, by producing evidence of the fact. This means that any person able to provide documentary evidence of his/her belonging to a particular ethnic group, may obtain the relevant mention in his/her passport once the changes have been made in the population register. The benefit of keeping the possibility of mentioning one’s ethnic origin on a passport is not self-evident, particularly because it does not seem to serve the purposes of monitoring discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin or addressing inequalities2 .

Footnote 2 See below, Monitoring the situation.

Recommendations:

ECRI recommends that the Latvian authorities closely examine the
implementation and impact of the optional mention of the ethnic origin of a person on Latvian identification documents, including passports. ECRI recalls that any mention of ethnic origin should not only respect the principle of voluntary identification but also the principle of self-identification of the person as belonging to a particular ethnic group3 .

Footnote 3 See also below, Monitoring the situation.

15. In its second report, ECRI urged the authorities to ensure that the public was made aware of the possibility of adding one’s original name to the Latvian version on identification documents, and that this possibility be thoroughly respected. On 2 March 2004, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted Regulation No. 114 “On the spelling and use in the Latvian language of persons’ names, as well as their identification”, with an aim to clarify the rules applying in this field. Despite this measure, ECRI notes that some persons have still expressed dissatisfaction at the way their names of non-Latvian origin are written on identification documents

Recommendations:

16. ECRI encourages the Latvian authorities to reinforce their efforts to inform and explain to the persons concerned the language rules applying to names in official documents and to guarantee the right to reproduction of the original form of a name in addition to the Latvian version.

Document data: CRI(2008)2 adopted 29.06.2007, published 12.02.2008 Link: https://rm.coe.int/third-report-on-latvia/16808b58b3

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