FCNM Advisory Committee 3rd opinion on Latvia (excerpt on reprisals), 2018

II. ARTICLE-BY-ARTICLE FINDINGS

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Article 7 of the Framework Convention

Freedom of assembly and association

Present situation

101. Some national minority NGOs encounter problems in organising events, in particular those which directly challenge the policies of the authorities. The Advisory Committee notes with concern that, for example, a street concert to protest against government plans to increase the proportion of teaching hours in the Latvian language in schools using Russian as the language of instruction, which the Latvian Non-citizens’ Congress planned to organise on 25 April 2014, was banned by Riga City Council (see Article 14).66 The court found the ban to be illegal only after the intended date of the event. The interlocutors of the Advisory Committee expressed their strongly-held views that the ban on staging a street concert to protest against government plans was politically motivated. Another demonstration planned by a Russian minority NGO was prohibited by Riga city authorities in May 2014. This prohibition was upheld by Latvian courts with the first instance court affirming that the applicant’s website contained information “categorically demonstrating the supremacy of the Russian nation and indirectly denying Latvian people and language.” 67 The Advisory Committee was informed that, following the exhaustion of domestic remedies (a higher court upheld the decision of the first instance court),68the NGO in question has lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights, which is yet to rule on its admissibility and merits.

Footnote 66 Mixnews, “Congress of Non-citizens held a “minute of silence” instead of the concert” (Конгресс неграждан” вместо концерта провел “минуту молчания), 25 April 2014, available (in Russian) at
http://www.mixnews.lv/ru/society/news/149141_kongress-negrazhdan-vmesto-koncerta-provel-minutumol4aniya/.
Footnote 67 Administrative District Court judgment in case No. A420275214, (R. v. Riga City Council, decision of 8 May 2014).
Footnote 68 Supreme Court’s Department of Administrative Cases. Case No. A420275214 (R. v. Riga City Council, of 7 July 2015).

Recommendations

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103. The authorities should ensure that all persons belonging to national minorities can effectively and without undue obstacles enjoy the freedom of assembly, including as regards promotion of minority rights or representation of special interests, such as those related to education and language rights.

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Article 12 of the Framework Convention

“Loyalty clauses” in education

142. The Advisory Committee notes that the Education Law was amended by two separate amendments on 18 June 2015 and 23 November 2016. Both amendments introduced loyalty clauses (first – as regards teachers, 96 second – as regards school directors97). Both amendments were appealed to the Constitutional Court, which on 21 December 2017 ruled that both were in compliance with the Constitution.98

Footnote 96 Section 48 (5) of Education Law stipulates that “a person, who is loyal to the Republic of Latvia and its Satversme,… has the right to work as a teacher.”
Footnote 97 Section 30 (4) of Education Law stipulates that “a person, who has impeccable reputation, who is loyal to the Republic of Latvia and its Satversme,… is entitled to work as a head of an educational institution.”
Footnote 98 See Constitutional Court judgement in case N° 2017-03-01 “On Compliance of the Fourth and the Sixth Part of Section 30, the Fifth and the Sixth Part of Section 48, Para 5 of Section 50, and Para 21 of the First Part of Section 51 of Education Law with the First Sentence of Article 100 and the First Sentence of Article 106 of the Satversme of the Republic of Latvia”, available (in English) at http://www.satv.tiesa.gov.lv/en/press-release/1400/

143. In this context, the Advisory Committee notes that according to media reports, in June, 2016, Innova, a private school using Russian as a language of instruction located in Riga was denied accreditation on grounds of “loyalty” and “cohesion of society.” 99 Following an appeal, and after changes to the school curriculum, the Innova School had its license restored in January 2017, having lost a high number of students in the meantime.100 In another case, the Evrika School, another Riga-based Russian language educational establishment,101 active for 24 years, had its licence withdrawn in November 2017 by the State Education Quality Service.102

Footnote 99 Mixnews.lv, “Russian school denied accreditation because of disloyalty”, available (in Russian) at
http://www.mixnews.lv/ru/exclusive/news/203166_gazeta-russkuyu-shkolu-lishili-akkreditacii-iz-za-neloyalnosti/.
Footnote 100 Mixnews.lv, “Disloyal school Innova got back its licence”, available (in Russian) at
http://www.mixnews.lv/ru/politics/news/216012_neloyalnaya-shkola-innova-vosstanovila-licenziyu/.
Footnote 101 The school’s director, Dr Pliners is a well-known critic of language policies of the Latvian government as applicable to the language of instruction in Latvian schools.
Footnote 102 Vesti.lv, “Director: help save our Russian school”, available (in Russian) at http://vesti.lv/news/direktorpomogite-spasti-nashu-russkuyu-shkolu.

144. The Advisory Committee considers that the “loyalty clauses” create a climate of suspicion and apprehension and are not conducive to the building of trust among different segments of society. They can become counter-productive through antagonising and demonising attitudes. More generally, the Advisory Committee considers that whereas ensuring quality of education and respect for the curricula and teaching of the official language are legitimate aims to be pursued by the authorities, the authorities must equally ensure that the right of persons belonging to national minorities to set up and manage private educational and training establishments, as enshrined in Article 13 of the framework Convention, is effectively guaranteed. It further recalls that in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights “[i]n the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.” 103

103 European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Protocol 1, Article 2, ratified by Latvia in 1997.

Recommendation

145. The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to avoid using spurious grounds such as the “loyalty clauses” to put undue pressure on teachers and school directors. Loyalty clauses should not be used to stifle pluralism and impose uniformity of views among teachers and school directors.


Document data: ACFC/OP/III(2018)001; adopted 23.02.2018, published 15.10.2018 Link: https://rm.coe.int/revised-version-of-the-english-language-version-of-the-opinion/1680901e79 Also available in Latvian: https://rm.coe.int/3rd-op-latvia-latvian/16808d91ab

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