Appeal by Russia’s lower house on repressive actions of Latvia’s authorities (excerpts), 2020

The members of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation strongly condemn the actions by the authorities of the Republic of Latvia, related to uncessant politicized repressions against Russian-speaking journalists and public activists working in the country.

Lately, systemic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Latvia get expressed more often and on a larger scale. The policy of the Latvian authorities, aiming to restrict interests of the so-called non-citizens and of national minorities, a de facto destruction of the Russian-language education space, a cynical rewriting of the history to comply with political conjuncture, a glorification of Nazi criminals and their assistants from local collaborators, cultural and linguistic discrimination are accompanied by blatant violations of the freedom of speech and by hindering the professional activities of journalists.

A detention, on December 3, 2020, of seven employees of news portals Sputnik-Latvia and Baltnews, by the Latvian State Security Service (SSS), has become a new provocative action of the Latvian authorities, aiming to squeeze out, illegally, representatives of Russian-language media from Latvia’s information space. After eight-hour questionings and searches, the detained Russian-speaking journalists were accused under Paragraph 1 of Section 84 of the Criminal Law of Latvia (violating European Union sanctions regime), which envisages a punishment of imprisonment.

[..] the members of the State Duma consider the actions of the Latvian authorities to violate directly Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [..]


Document data: No. 1077519-7; 23.12.2020. Link: http://sozd.duma.gov.ru/download/CFCF336D-199B-49FF-AF82-4E412DD89E27

From information laundering to influence activities (excerpt), 2020

[..]

Attacks on democracy at large

The chapter about the Kremlin’s information influence activities uses Latvia’s case, where the country’s education system is transferring to the Latvian language in Russian language public schools where studying is currently split 60-40 between Latvian and Russian languages respectively. Obviously, the reform is not welcomed by some and thus foreign states use information influence activities to interfere in already existing domestic discussions, seeking to polarise society using deception to obscure, mislead and disinform.

The support of the Russian Federation to the cause of the pro-Russian school activists in Latvia and the populistic simplification of the problem bears a long-term risk of (a) polarizing the society and (b) weakening trust in the government, law enforcement, public administration, and democracy at large.

It’s worth noting that in addition to the pro-Kremlin media targeting audiences in Latvia, the Kremlin is also active in international organisations:

The international attempts by the Kremlin and its proxies to frame Latvia as a neo-Nazi country implementing policies to eradicate the identity of an ethnic minority achieves two goals: (a) placing Latvia as an outsider to common European and liberal democratic values, unacceptable to the Western democratic family of countries, and (b) justifying Russia’s foreign interventions (including military ones) to its home audiences by continuously maintaining a feeling of Russia’s compatriots abroad being threatened.


Document data: 01.12.2020. Link: https://euvsdisinfo.eu/from-information-laundering-to-influence-activities-russias-footprints-in-nordic-baltic-countries/ The article is quoting a NATO StratCom report. https://www.stratcomcoe.org/russias-footprint-nordic-baltic-information-environment-20192020

Publisher’s notes: The curriculum of minority (high) schools before the current reform (not “currently”) was not “split 60-40 between Latvian and Russian languages respectively” – 60 % was the minimum of Latvian, there was no safeguards protecting use of minority languages.

Hate crime data 2019 (Latvia), 2020

Latvia

Latvia regularly reports hate crime data to ODIHR. Latvia’s criminal code contains a general penalty enhancement. Data reported to ODIHR also include offences of incitement to hatred. Data are collected by the Ministry of Interior, law enforcement agencies, the Department of Analysis and Management of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Courts Administration unit of the Ministry of Justice and the Security Police of the Republic of Latvia. Data are not made publicly available.

How hate crime data is collected

There is no specific system for police to record hate crimes, so they are registered in the same way as any other offence.

While the Prosecution Office captures hate speech cases separately (these are crimes falling under Section 78 of the Criminal Law Triggering of National, Ethnic and Racial Hatred), no statistical information is compiled on hate crimes, which are defined as crimes committed due to racist, national, ethnic or religious motives in Section 48(1)14 of the Criminal Law.

The Court Administration compiles judicial crime statistics according to the relevant criminal law section. Data on hate crimes cannot be captured separately because Latvia’s hate crime provision is not a substantive offence but a sentencing provision.

SELECT YEAR 2019

OFFICIAL DATA

YearHate crimes recorded by policeProsecutedSentencedAbout these data
2019Not availableNot available Not available
2018Not availableNot availableNot available
2017Not availableNot availableNot available
20161170Reported police and prosecution figures consist of incitement of hatred cases. Three of the cases recorded by police may have involved violence or threats.
20151115Reported police and prosecution figures consist of incitement of hatred cases, some of which may have involved violence or threats.

INCIDENTS REPORTED BY OTHER SOURCES

No information is available.

INTERNATIONAL REPORTS

No information is available.

KEY OBSERVATION

ODIHR observes that Latvia has not periodically reported reliable information and statistics on hate crimes to ODIHR.


Document data: published 16.11.2020. Link: http://hatecrime.osce.org/latvia?year=2019

CERD follow-up letter to Latvia on citizenship & Roma (excerpt), 2020

Paragraph 21 (a) of the Concluding Observations

The Committee welcomes the measures taken by the State party to facilitate access to the naturalization process, including the introduction of reductions and exemptions from naturalisation fees for certain vulnerable groups, the launch of a project by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs in April 2019 to promote naturalization through awareness-raising campaigns on citizenship procedures, and the introduction of self-testing measures to help applicants pass their naturalization exams. While welcoming the steady decrease in the number of non-citizens in the State party, the Committee notes with concern that the number of those non-citizens who annually receive citizenship of Latvia or another country has remained stable.

It is also concerned that the reported yearly decrease in the number of non-citizens is to a certain extent attributed to non-citizens passing away. The Committee considers the response to this recommendation partially satisfactory and encourages the State party to strengthen its efforts to facilitate access to naturalization in order to further decrease the
number of persons without nationality.

Paragraph 21 (b) of the Concluding Observations

The Committee welcomes the adoption, in October 2019, of a law that enables children born in Latvia to two ‘non-citizen’ parents to automatically be entitled to Latvian citizenship by birth, which is deemed a positive step to prevent statelessness of such children and terminate the separate legal category of non-citizens in the State party. It also welcomes information on simplified acquisition of Latvian citizenship for older non-citizen children to encourage their citizenship registration. However, the Committee regrets that the State party has not taken any measures to extend automatic citizenship to all noncitizen children in Latvia who are currently under 15. The Committee considers that the response to this recommendation is partially satisfactory and requests that the State party provide, in its next periodic report, information on further measures taken to phase out the
separate legal category of non-citizens, as well as on their impact.

Paragraph 23 (d) of the Concluding Observations

The Committee notes the information on the measures taken by the State party to address the continued stigma and socioeconomic discrimination against members of the Roma community, in particular the provision of various tools and mechanisms for the Ombudsperson to combat discrimination, improve cooperation and dialogue with the Roma community and its representative organizations, and ensure their involvement in the development and implementation of relevant Roma integration policies and progammes. It also notes that, in 2018, the Latvian Roma Platform project III was implemented by the Ministry of Culture to combat Antigypsyism in society, foster intercultural dialogue between the Roma community and the general population, and exchange best practices on Roma integration at the local and regional level. The Committee regrets, however, that appropriate action has not been taken to implement its recommendation and considers the response of the State party unsatisfactory. The Committee reiterates its recommendation to reinstate the post of Roma consultant in the Office of the Ombudsperson and requests the State party to provide, in its next periodic report, further information and data on the alternative measures currently used to help increase visibility and consultations with the Roma community on issues concerning them.


Document data: 24.09.2020 CERD/101st session/FU/MJA/ks Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CERD/Shared%20Documents/LVA/INT_CERD_FUL_LVA_43389_E.pdf

HCNM letter to the Parliament’s Speaker on campaigning & tertiary education, 2020

Excellency,

As part of the ongoing dialogue between the Government and Saeima of Latvia and the office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, please allow me to address two issues that, in my opinion, are of importance.

I took note of the initiative in the Saeima to consider amending the Election Campaigning Law which envisages that election campaign materials must be in the State language only. Although promoting the State language, including through its use during the elections, is key to the successful integration of society, it is equally important to ensure that it is not achieved at the expense of minorities’ linguistic rights, which need to be protected in line with Latvia’s international obligations and as part of a coherent and comprehensive integration policy.

International standards provide for the right of national minorities to conduct election campaigns in their mother tongues. Notably, paragraphs 32.1 and 32,5 of the Copenhagen Document commit participating States to grant national minorities the right “to use freely their mother tongue in private as well as in public” and “to disseminate, have access to and exchange information in their mother tongue.” In line with the OSCE HCNM Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies, “the overall framework for political participation should be designed to facilitate the inclusion of minority issues in the public debate as well as to promote the political participation of persons belonging to minorities. This should include displaying electoral information and advertising in minority languages, providing opportunities for the use of minority languages in the media and producing electoral material in minority languages.” (Guideline 27). I would thus respectfully encourage the Saeima not to adopt any amendments that pose restrictions on campaigning in any language other than the State language.

I am also aware of the decision of the Constitutional Court of Latvia regarding the use of languages in private higher education institutions. I noted that the regulator has been given one year to review existing language restrictions. In connection with this, and as expressed in the letter dated 8 July 2020 from HCNM Zannier, I would like to reiterate the need for the Latvian authorities and the Saeima to consider exempting private higher educational institutions from strict language requirements and foresee a possibility for private institutions to be able to exercise academic freedom in determining the languages of instruction, including minority languages.

It is my intention, as Director and Officer-in-Charge of the office of the HCNM, to continue our open dialogue and co-operation with the Government and Saeima of Latvia. To this end, the office of the High Commissioner stands ready to provide expert support on the abovementioned issues and beyond.

Please accept, excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Christophe Kamp

Director and Officer-in-Charge

Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities


Document data: 08.09.2020 (also sent to the foreign minister) Link: https://titania.saeima.lv/LIVS13/saeimalivs13.nsf/0/38CBD809ACA764E3C2258602002B29ED?OpenDocument