Commissioner’s statement on citizenship legislation for children, 2019

“I welcome the Latvian Parliament taking a decisive step toward eliminating child statelessness with the adoption of a law to grant automatic citizenship to children of “non-citizens” as of 1st January 2020, unless the parents opt for another nationality. This measure represents significant progress toward implementing the right of each child to a nationality at birth and toward fully including all children in Latvian society,” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović.

“Non-citizens” are members of Latvia’s Russian-speaking minority who did not acquire either Latvian or Russian citizenship in 1991. There were about 230000 “non-citizens” in Latvia on 1 January 2018. “Non-citizens” are deprived of the right to vote in national parliamentary elections and cannot occupy certain positions in local and national government and civil service; otherwise, they have essentially the same political and civil rights as Latvians.

Despite previous reforms in 2011 and 2013 which simplified acquisition of Latvian citizenship for children, a few dozen children continue not to be granted any citizenship at birth each year in Latvia.

“I welcome the fact that children of “non-citizens” born abroad or whose other parent is not Latvian will be included in this measure. I regret however that the parliament did not extend automatic citizenship to all stateless children in Latvia who are currently under 15,” the Commissioner added. “Non-citizen” children between 15 and 18 can already apply for Latvian citizenship. As of 1 July 2016, there were 4816 “non-citizen” children under 15 in the country.

Access to citizenship is a fundamental human right that in turn confers certain formal legal rights such as the right to vote and the right to be elected. Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Latvia is a state party, clearly provides for the child’s right to acquire a nationality at birth. While the “non-citizen” status in Latvia enables stateless children to access education and health care, the lack of citizenship can expose children to discrimination, lead them to not feel at home in the country in which they live or jeopardise their chances to obtain a nationality later in life.


Document data: 18.10.2019 Link: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/latvia-takes-important-step-toward-eliminating-child-statelessness

Letter to Latvia on language of instruction in pre-schools by 4 Special Rapporteurs (excerpt), 2019

We have the honour to address you in our capacities as Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 26/17, 34/18, 34/6 and 34/35.

In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers of the regulation on pre-school education No. 716, which appears to impose restrictions on the use of minority languages in pre-school educational institutions.

According to the information received:

On 21 November 2018, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a new regulation No. 716 on pre-school education, stipulating that the official Latvian language will be the only medium of instruction and learning in pre-schools classes for children between five and seven years old. The regulation came into force on 1 September 2019.

In Latvia, pre-school education is available for children between the ages of 1.5 and 7 years. Pre-school enrolment is, however, mandatory at the age of 5 and play-lessons constitute the main form of learning at this educational level.

Annex 2 of the regulation No. 716 presents a model programme for minority pre-school educational institutions. In paragraph 9, the annex states that, for children from the age of 5, the only medium of communication and instruction in play-lesson in minority pre-school educational institutions shall be the Latvian language, except for activities organised with the aim of learning a minority language and culture.

Adoption of the regulation No. 716 coincided with the repeal of regulation No. 533 of 31 July 2012. The repealed regulation No. 533 had put forward a different educational approach, one reportedly more sensitive to minority childtren’s mother tongue and to their educational needs. In its proposed model programme for minority pre-schools, regulation No. 533 had adopted a “bilingual approach” in play-lessons for the whole length of pre-school education covering children aged 1.5 to 7 years and had encouraged the creation of a “supportive environment for the acquisition of the official language”. By contrast, regulation No. 716 mandates an “official state language approach” for education of pre-school children aged 5 and above.

In addition, we have received reports indicating that the consultations for the text of new regulation No. 716 started in April 2018. These reports state that input was sought from only a limited number of stakeholders, including local civil society organizations, without direct engagement with minority communities and their representatives, or with organizations working on human rights and in particular on the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.

Without prejudging the accuracy of the information we have received, we express our concern over the Cabinet of Ministers’ adoption of the regulation No. 716 on pre-school education, mandating exclusive use of the Latvian official language in minority pre-school classes for children aged 5 and above. Regulation No. 716 replaced the relatively more inclusive regulation No. 533, which, before its repeal, provided for a bilingual approach for the entire pre-school period through age 7. We fear that regulation no. 716 regulation – in force as of 1 September 2019 – will harm minority children’s equal enjoyment of their human right to education in Latvia. The exclusion of their mother tongue from pre-school learning activities may hinder these minority children’s learning.

We also express our concern regulation No. 716 may violate the right of members of linguistic minorities to use their own language in community with other members of this group. We also fear that regulation No. 716 could lead to undue interference with the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds, regardless of the language used.

Lastly, we express our concern over the reported lack of a wide consultation on the text of the new regulation, and find particularly troubling the reported absence of consultation with minority communities and their representatives, or with organizations working and advocating for the rights of persons belonging to minorities in Latvia. We want to emphasize that achieving a truly inclusive and just society requires the effective participation of persons belonging to minorities in the formulation, adoption, implementation and monitoring, at the international. national and local levels, of laws and policies affecting them.

In connection with the above alleged facts and concerns, please refer to the Annex on Reference to international human rights law attached to this letter, which cites international human rights instruments and standards relevant to these allegations.

As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:

  1. Please provide any additional information and/or comment(s) you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.
  2. Please provide all relevant information regarding implementation of regulation No. 716 and, in particular, the measures put in place to ensure that pre-school minority children learn in their mother tongue.
  3. Please provide disaggregated data on the number of children, classes and schools affected by regulation No. 716.
  4. Please provide detailed information on the consultation process of the regulation No. 716 and the measures undertaken to ensure wide participation of all relevant stakeholders, including representatives from minorities and their organizations, in decisions affecting them, in particular with regard to their linguistic rights.
  5. Please provide information about measures taken by your Excellency’s Government to protect and promote the right of persons belonging to minorities, in community with the other members of their group, to use their own language.

[..]


Document data: 24.09.2019 ; OL LVA 1/2019 Link: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=24863

Publisher’s note: the annex, not reproduced here, refers to Article 26(2) of the UDHR, Article 13 of the ICESCR, Articles 2, 19, 26 and 27 of the ICCPR, Articles 13 , 29(c) and 30 of the CRC, Articles 1, 2 and 4.1 of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Articles 1, 2(c) and 5 of the ICERD, to the reports of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues A/HRC/22/49 (paras. 39, 41 and 83) and HRC/NONE/2017/12 (pages 16 and 21).

One should also note one inaccuracy in the letter. It speaks about Latvian being introduced as “the only medium of communication and instruction”, while in fact, the relevant document imposes it as the “main” (galvenais) medium.

Report on Anti-Semitism, by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion (excerpt), 2019

IV. Key findings

[..]

F. Government measures that may infringe upon freedom of religion or belief

[..]

Non-stunned slaughter is banned in Slovenia67 and is highly regulated in Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia.68

68 See www.loc.gov/law/help/religious-slaughter/europe.php.


Document data: 20.09.2019 A/74/358 Link: https://undocs.org/A/74/358

Report on the implementation of national Roma integration strategies (excerpts), 2019

I. SUBSTANTIVE POLICY AREAS

[..]

1. EDUCATION

[..]

1.1. Focus of measures

[..]

Distribution of education measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-areaMS
Fight early school-leavingAT, BE, BG, CY, ES, EL, HU, HR, IT, LV, LT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SE, SK, UK
Consider the needs of individual pupilsAT, CY, CZ, ES, HU, IT, LV, LT, LU, PT, RO, SE, SI, UK
Encourage Roma participation in – and completion of – secondary and tertiary educationAT, BG, HR, CZ, ES, HU, LT, LU, PT, RO, SK
Increase the access to and quality of early childhood education and careAT, BG, HR, CY, CZ, ES, HU, IT, LU, NL, RO, SI, SK
Eliminate school segregationAT, BE, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HR, IT, LU, NL, RO, SK
Use inclusive and tailor-made teaching and learning methodsAT, BG, HR, CY, CZ, LT, LU, NL, RO, SI, SK, UK
Support the acquisition of skills adapted to labour market needsAT, BG, CZ, EL, ES, LT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SI, SK
Support transition between educational levelsAT, BG, CZ, ES, HU, HR, IT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SK
Encourage parental involvementAT, BE, BG, CY, ES, HR, LV, LT, LU, RO, SK
Improve teacher trainingAT, BG, CY, CZ, ES, LT, RO, SE, SI, SK
Promote extracurricular activitiesAT, BG, CY, EL, IT, LV, LT, RO, SI, SK
Widen access to second-chance education and adult learning AT, BG, CY, CZ, EL, ES, HR, LT. LU, UK
Fight illiteracyAT, BG, CY, HU, ES, HR, NL, RO
Prevent inappropriate placement of Roma in special needs schoolsAT, CZ, ES, HR, RO, SK

[..]

1.2. Achievements and challenges

The most widespread achievement mentioned by NRCPs in the area of education is mediation9 . Other achievements include: development of kindergarten capacities10; improved support to fighting and monitoring early school-leaving 11 ; and including Roma inclusion and non-discrimination related topics in teacher training or national curricula12 .

9 AT, FR, EL, ES, IT, LV, RO

10 e.g. CZ, SK

11 e.g. HU, ES, LV

12 e.g. AT, ES, IT, PT

The most significant challenges highlighted by NRCPs include: school participation, absenteeism, early school-leaving, the transition from primary to secondary and the completion of secondary education. 13 Other challenges include: fighting segregation 14 ; ensuring and developing human capacities15; cooperation among stakeholders16; promoting early childhood education and care;17 adult learning and second chance education18; and data availability19 .

13 AT, CY, EE, EL, ES, FR, HR, LT, NL

14 EL, ES, HR, RO

15 EL, LV, SE, SK

16 ES, LT, LV, PL

17 BG, EL, ES

18 AT, BG, EL

19 HR, IT, PT

1.3. Policy learning

[..]

Promising approaches:
BG, CZ, DK, EL, FI, FR, HR, HU, LT, PL, SK: Introduction or extension of obligatory (free) preschool, ESIF funded development of kindergartens, training for kindergarten teachers
CY, EL, ES, IE, IT, HR, HU, LT, LV, NL, PL, PT, RO, SE, SI: Programmes aimed at preventing school drop-out of Roma (girls) through afterschool support, tutoring, scholarships, mentoring, mediation, assistants, second chance education, teacher training, support to families
AT, CY, FI, HU, IE, IT, PT, RO: Introducing Roma history (including the Holocaust) and/or culture in national curricula
IE, HR, RO: Allocation of places to Roma in secondary and tertiary education
LT: Network of schools attended by Roma children receiving capacity building and competence development
SE: Teachers training (Södertörn University) and secondary-level adult education in Romani

2. EMPLOYMENT

[..]

2.1. Focus of measures

[..]

Distribution of employment measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Eliminate labour market barriers, including discrimination AT, BE, CY, CZ, EL, ES, HR, HU, LT, LU, NL, PT, RO, SK
Provide personalised guidance to individual job-seekers AT, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HU, HR, LV, LU, NL, RO, SI, SK
Support vocational trainingAT, BG, CY, ES, LV, LU, NL, RO, SK
Support lifelong learning and skills developmentAT, BG, ES, HR, HU, LV, LT, LU, NL, PT
Support self-employment and entrepreneurship AT, BG, HR, CZ, EL, ES, HU, LT
Support first work experience AT, BG, CY, CZ, EL, ES, HR,
Support on-the-job training BG, CZ, ES, HU, LV, LU, SK
Provide equal access to mainstream public employment services BG, HR, CZ, HU, LV, SK, ES, UK
Promote employment opportunities within the civil serviceEL, HU, NL, SK

[..]

2.2. Achievements and challenges

In their reporting on 2017, several NRCPs referred to the positive impact of economic growth on the prospects for Roma employment21. But even more NRCPs referred to targeted measures, such as regional employment programmes (career-counselling, vocational or on-the-job training and job matching tailored to Roma or vulnerable job-seekers)22. Such measures are even more effective when Roma are involved as mediators, social workers, or other service providers.

21 BG, ES, HR

22 AT, BG, CZ, ES, FR, HR, HU, LV, NL, SK

NRCPs emphasise three main types of challenges: capacity of implementing structures 23 ; discrimination against Roma24; and attitudes and trust of Roma themselves25 .

23 AT, EL, PL, PT, SK

24 EE, ES, LT, LV, NL, PT, RO

25 BG, EE, FR, NL, PT

2.3. Policy learning

[..]

Promising approaches:
٠ BG, CY, ES, IT, LV, NL, PT, SI: Regional or local employment programmes (individualised counselling) to promote active job-seeking or self-employment
٠ HU, EL, ES, FR: Targeted programmes to improve the employability of Roma women (in the social sector)
٠ IT, LT, HU: Examples of cooperation with employers for job placements for Roma and fighting stereotypes
٠ SK: Amendment of the Act on Public Employment Services providing for an individual action plan to support labour market integration binding the jobseeker and the labour office
٠ BE: Since 2016, Roma have access to the ‘integration path’ set up for people of foreign origin in Wallonia (courses on French language, basic knowledge of society; support to find employment and children’s schooling). Municipalities employ Roma mediators in public social assistance centres, prevention or proximity services
٠ HR: Ombudsman’s office gives antidiscrimination training to public employment officers and other civil servants
٠ UK: Race disparity audit and website to collect and disseminate information on discrimination in employment

3. HEALTH

[..]

3.1. Focus of measures

Distribution of health measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Remove barriers to healthcare AT, BE, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HR, HU, IT, RO, SE, SK, UK
Promote health awareness AT, BG, CZ, EL, ES, HR, HU, IT, LV, NL, SE, SI, SK, UK,
Improve access to free vaccination programmes targeting children and groups most at risk AT, BG, EL, HR, HU, SK, UK
Improve access to medical check-ups, prenatal and postnatal care and family planningAT, ES, HU, SI, SK, UK

[..]

4. HOUSING

[..]

4.1. Focus of measures

[..]

Distribution of health measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Ensure access to public utilities and infrastructure for housing BE, BG, CY, EL, ES, HR, RO, SI, SK, UK
Eliminate spatial segregation and promote desegregation AT, BE, BG, EL, ES, HU, IT, LT, RO, SK, UK
Promote non-discriminatory access to social housing AT, CZ, EL, ES, HU, IT, LT, LV, RO, SI, SK, UK
Ensure that urban regeneration projects include integrated housing interventions for marginalised communities BE, BG, ES, HR, HU, IT, SK
Promote community-led local development and/or integrated territorial investments supported by the ESIFES, HR, HU, IT
Provide halting sites for non-sedentiary Roma AT, UK

[..]

4.2. Achievements and challenges

NRCPs reported that the most significant achievements were in access to social housing38. Another important cluster of achievements mentioned by several NRCPs was the elimination of slums and spatial segregation39. NRCPs also referred to results in the provision of halting sites40, access to public utilities (such as water, electricity and gas) and infrastructure for housing41; the legalisation of housing42; and in urban regeneration43 .

38 AT, CZ, EL, HU, LV, LT, PT, RO

39 ES, FR, HU, IT, LT

40 FR, NL

41 SI

42 HR

43 BG

Reported challenges include: spatial segregation44; barriers for Roma to access housing in the private sector45; as well as public support for and legislation on access to social housing46 .

44 BG, CY, ES, SK

45 ES, LT, LV, NL

46 CZ, BG

II. FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION AND ANTIGYPSYISM

[..]

1. Focus of measures

[..]

Distribution of non-discrimination measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation

Thematic sub-area MS
Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness about the benefits of Roma integration AT, BE, BG, CZ, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SK, SE
Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness on diversityAT, BE, BG, CZ, EE, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SE, SK
Fight antigypsyism by combatting Anti-Roma rhetoric and hate speechAT, BG, CZ, ES, HU, IT, LT, LV, SK, UK
Fight violence, including domestic violence, against women and girls AT, ES, IT, NL
Fight (multiple) discrimination faced by children and women involving all relevant stakeholders AT, ES, IT, NL
Fight underage and forced marriages AT, NL
Ensure the effective practical enforcement of Directive 2000/43/EC CZ, HR, IT, LT
Fight trafficking in human beingsAT, HU
Implement desegregation measures regionally and locallyHU, NL, UK
Ensure that eviction are in full compliance with EU law and international human rights obligationsIT
Fight begging involving children, through the enforcement of legislationAT
Promote the cooperation between Member States in situations with cross-border dimensionAT

[..]

2. Achievements and challenges

The achievements most often mentioned by NRCPs were: improving the conditions of Roma women and children47; combating antigypsyism by breaking stereotypes or promoting Roma culture and history 48 ; and involving all relevant actors (public authorities, civil society and Roma communities) in efforts to promote anti-discrimination49 .

47 BG, EE, ES, HU, HR, PT, SK

48 ES, FR, HU, LV

49 IT, ES, SI

Several NRCPs referred to challenges of improving access to legal protection and rights awareness50, as well as difficulties in fighting against stereotypes51 and improving the situation of Roma women and children.52 The mere fact that several Member States53 – including some with large Roma communities and several with very high rates of perceived discrimination among Roma – did not report any antidiscrimination measures underlines the gravity of challenges in this area.

50 AT, CZ, LT, PT

51 EE, ES, HR, LV

52 BG, ES, SK

53 CY, FR, EL, PL, RO

3. Policy learning

[..]

Promising approaches:
AT: As a result of an online consultation on the NRIS, efforts to address antigypsyism intensified. Fighting antigypsyism became a priority under the revised strategy and the focus of a dedicated event of the Austrian EU presidency
٠ DE: An independent expert commission on antigypsyism has been set up to provide the government with concrete recommendations regarding the history of Sinti and Roma in Germany, their persecution and discrimination, as well as recommendations for addressing antigypsism today.
٠ Recognition of the Roma Holocaust and setting up of a committee against racism with Roma participation (SK); monuments, exhibitions and online platform to commemorate Roma victims of the Holocaust (NL); annual commemoration of Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day in Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp (PL); Roma History and Art Museum and compensation to victims of forced labour (LV)

[..]


Document data: 06.09.2019 Link [with annexes not quoted here]: https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/report-implementation-national-roma-integration-strategies-2019_en

Letter to Latvia on kindergartens, August 2019

Excellency,

I would like to refer to your communication received on 8 July 2019 in response to the Committee’s letter of 10 May 2019 adopted under its early warning and urgent action procedure, in accordance with article 9 (1) of the Convention and article 65 of its Rules of Procedure, regarding the new regulation on pre-school education (No. 716) and minority rights, in Latvia.

In its letter, the Committee raised concerns that the above-mentioned law may be discriminatory towards ethnic minorities in the field of education, as also noted in para 17 of the Committees concluding observations adopted in August 2018 (CERD/C/LVA/CO/6-12).

In paragraph 17 of its concluding observations, the Committee recommended that the State party: (a) take measures to ensure that its language policy and laws do not create direct or indirect discrimination or restrict the rights of ethnic minorities to access education, employment and basic services and (b) ensure that there are no undue restrictions on access to education in minority languages and reconsider the necessity of amendments to the Law on Education that create further restrictions on the number of lessons of minority language in public and private schools.

The Committee welcomes the information provided by the State party on the reform of the education system, the content of the new regulation on preschool education and education models. However, the Committee remains concerned about the discriminatory impact that the above-mentioned legislation may have on ethnic minorities in the field of education (No. 716).

The Committee requests the State party to include information on this matter in the thirteenth and fourteenth periodic reports of the State party due to be submitted by 14 May 2021, in accordance to article 9 of the Convention.

Allow me, Excellency, to reiterate the wish of the Committee to continue to
engage in a constructive dialogue with the Government of Latvia, with a view to ensuring the effective implementation of the Convention.

Yours sincerely,

Noureddine Amir

Chair


Document data: 29.08.2019 CERD/EWUAP/99th session/Latvia/JP/ks The letter has been sent to the Permanent Representative of Latvia to the United Nations Office in Geneva Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CERD/Shared%20Documents/LVA/INT_CERD_ALE_LVA_8975_E.pdf

Publisher’s notes: the government had dragged time until the end of the indicated term for the response, July 8.