FCNM Advisory Committee 3rd opinion on Latvia (excerpts on IDs & names), 2018

II. ARTICLE-BY-ARTICLE FINDINGS

Article 3 of the Framework Convention

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The right to free self-identification

Recommendations from the two previous cycles of monitoring

40. The Advisory Committee called on the authorities to review their legislative framework related to the indication of ethnic affiliation in personal identity documents and ensure that any such entry is made in line with the right to free self-identification, as stipulated in Article 3 of the Framework Convention.

Present situation

41. The Advisory Committee notes that Regulation No. 134 of the Cabinet of Ministers on Personal Identity Documents was amended on 29 January 2013, giving each person the right to choose whether to indicate ethnic affiliation in his/her personal identity documents. Furthermore, under the Law on the Change of the Given Name, Surname and Nationality Record, a person is also entitled to change his/her “ethnic origin” record.21 Persons seeking to indicate ethnicity in their personal identity documents are required under Section 6 of the law to provide a “birth certificate of the father or mother or an extract from the Birth Register which proves the kinship of the person with the relatives of the direct ascending line, and the documents which confirm the nationality of the person.” Furthermore, the law does not allow for the possibility of indicating multiple ethnic affiliations.

Footnote 21 See Law on the Change of the Given Name, Surname and Nationality Record, available at
http://www.vvc.gov.lv/export/sites/default/docs/LRTA/Citi/On_the_Change_of_a_Given_Namex_Surname_and_Nationality_Record.doc.

42. A person wishing to change the entry on his or her ethnic affiliation to “Latvian” is obliged to prove the highest (third) level of fluency in the official language, or – in the case of persons with disabilities or those over 75 years of age – an average (second) level of fluency in the official language. A person seeking to change his or her record of ethnicity to Livonian (Liv), in cases where he/she is not capable of providing proof of ethnicity through kinship with a person of a direct ascending line and whose ethnicity is recorded as Livonian (Liv), must provide an opinion of an organisation specified by the Cabinet of Ministers regarding his/her ethnic affiliation. The Advisory Committee finds these requirements to run contrary to the right to free self-identification, as stipulated in Article 3 of the Framework Convention.22 It notes further that the establishment of such a difficult procedure to change one’s ethnicity record to Latvian can be viewed as an exclusion mechanism. For these reasons, the Advisory Committee considers that the possibility of indicating one’s ethnicity (even voluntarily) in personal identity documents risks running counter to the aim and spirit of the Framework Convention.

Footnote 22 See ACFC Thematic Commentary No. 4 on the scope of application of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities (2016), paras. 9 and 10.

Recommendation

43. The Advisory Committee reiterates its call on the authorities to review legislative provisions related to personal identity documents and ensure that the right to free self-identification, as stipulated in Article 3 of the Framework Convention, is fully respected.

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Article 11 of the Framework Convention

Personal names in minority languages

Recommendations from the two previous cycles of monitoring

124. The Advisory Committee called on the authorities to review their legislation related to personal names in line with Article 11(1) and in close consultation with minority representatives. It also asked that appropriate steps be taken to facilitate the introduction of personal names in minority languages in birth certificates, in accordance with international transliteration rules and upon request of the parents.

Present situation

125. The Advisory Committee regrets to note the absence of progress in the long standing controversy regarding the right of persons belonging to national minorities to spell their names and surnames in their minority language in official documents. Procedures for the transcription of personal names originating in other languages into Latvian and their use in personal documents are determined by the Official Language Law, the Law on Personal Identification Documents, Cabinet of Ministers regulation No. 114 of 2 March 2004 on “the transcription and use of personal names in the Latvian language, as well as their identification,” as well as the Cabinet of Ministers regulation No. 134 of 21 February 2012, “on personal identification documents.”

126. The existing practice of transcription of birth certificates and identity documents of personal names used by persons belonging to national minorities into the Latvian language does not take into account the grammatical rules of these languages. Personal names of these persons are written following the grammatical rules of the Latvian language. The Advisory Committee recalls that the way of spelling personal names is a right protected under the Framework Convention and constitutes an essential part of cultural traditions. For this reason, the Advisory Committee considers that the existing situation regarding the transcription of personal names is not in line with Article 11(1) and the overall principle of the inclusive interpretation of the Framework Convention. The Advisory Committee therefore encourages the Latvian authorities to take the necessary steps to bring the respective legislation fully in line with Article 11 of the Framework Convention.

Recommendation

127. The Advisory Committee strongly urges the authorities to implement, without delay, the right of persons belonging to national minorities to have their personal names recognised, including in official documents, and in particular to take urgent steps to amend the law governing the use of names in minority languages in a way that brings it fully into line with the provision of Article 11(1) of the Framework Convention.

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III. CONCLUSIONS

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Issues of concern following three cycles of monitoring

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196. The right to free self-identification is not fully respected. Persons seeking to indicate ethnic affiliation in their personal identity documents are required, by law, to provide documents which confirm kinship with a direct ascendant confirming their nationality. Furthermore a person wishing to change his/her ethnicity record to “Latvian” is obliged to prove “the highest (third) level of fluency in the official language.” Establishment of such a difficult procedure to change one’s ethnicity record to Latvian can be viewed as an exclusion mechanism. Consequently, the possibility of indicating one’s ethnic affiliation (even voluntarily) in personal identity documents risks running counter to the aim and spirit of the Framework Convention.

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Recommendations

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Further recommendations140

Footnote 140 The recommendations below are listed in the order of the corresponding articles of the Framework Convention.

review legislative provisions related to personal identity documents and ensure that the right to free self-identification, as stipulated in Article 3 of the Framework Convention is fully respected;


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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