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.

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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.

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