UPR of Latvia: Minority integration and discrimination issues
Monday, 09 May 2011 16:17


The Working Group on the UPR examined the human rights situation in Latvia on 5 May 2011. The country was represented by a high level delegation of three men and two women, headed by Mr Andris Teikmanis, State Secretary and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The other members of the delegation consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Culture. All members took the floor at least once, although Mr Teikmanis responded to the majority of the States' questions and recommendations. Overall, the delegation responded to the issues raised succintly, while often repeating statements from the report and the introductory presentation. Notably, the delegation explicitly referred to written questions submitted in advance and clearly made an effort to respond to the issues raised there, as well as those raised throughout the dialogue.


A recurring area of concern to the reviewing States was the problem of non-citizens (who form about 14% of the population) and their inability to participate in the Latvian political sphere (since non-citizens are not permitted to vote). It was recommended that the nationalisation process be made more accessible and transparent, that children born in Latvia after 1991 should automatically obtain Latvian citizenship, and that integration and awareness programmes be promoted. The delegation responded defensively to this by stating that the nationalisation process is already being reviewed, that most of the non-citizens are 'special cases' since they are ex-USSR citizens who do not have any other nationality, and that, with the exception of the right to vote, non-citizens are equal to citizens and enjoy the same rights and protection. Another main issue was the treatment of ethnic and linguistic minorities. The Russian Federation seemed particularly concerned with regards to the government's treatment of the Russian minority and the lack of recognition of the Russian language in the social, public, and educational spheres. The delegation stated that Latvia, being a small country with a little known language, has to take measures to protect its national identity and the Latvian language is an important part of this. Hence, knowledge of Latvian is being promoted over knowledge of minority languages. In line with the issues mentioned above, many States made comments and recommendations related to discrimination, recommending that vulnerable minorities (such as the Roma) be protected in both legislation and practice. States also offered more specific questions and recommendations, including:

  • Recommending better protection and preventive measures with regards to spousal rape and domestic violence in general. It was suggested that legislation be adapted to include a clear definition of all forms of domestic violence and that victims of such violence be offered support through rehabilitation.
  • Recommending the total abolition of the death penalty, which, according to the criminal law, is still a permitted punishment in times of war. It was suggested that Latvia ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to this end.
  • Encouraging the ratification of and accession to certain optional protocols and treaties, including: the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  • Encouraging the implementation of programmes for the reintegration of ex-convicts.
  • Recommending the improvement of prison and detainee centre conditions by, for example, shortening the pre-trial period and reducing overcrowding through imposing non-custodial sanctions.
  • Norway recommended increasing human rights education in schools, especially with regards to minority and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.
  • With regards to LGBT rights, the Netherlands suggested that Latvia formally recognise the diverse forms of the family by giving LGBT couples equal benefits and protection.
  • Recommending that Latvia continue its anti-trafficking efforts by monitoring cross-border and/or fictitious marriages and protecting vulnerable groups (such as children from poor families).


Some of the statements by the reviewing States appear to have been made based on political motivation; both Georgia and Estonia limited their intervention to highlighting Latvia's positive achievements and simply encouraged the State to continue its efforts. Despite this apparent politicisation, the Latvian delegation openly noted many of the challenges faced by the State, including its weak economy and poverty amongst the population, its ethnic and linguistic diversity, and its limited resources as a small country. The latter was offered as a reason for not seriously considering the recommended ratification of outstanding human rights instruments.


Upon adopting the report, the State indicated that out of the 122 recommendations received, it would accept 71 (17 of which are either already implemented or in the process of being implemented). The State rejected 7 of the recommendations and deferred its decision on 44 of them until the 18th session of the Human Rights Council in September.


For more information, including statements delivered and the report of the Working Group, see the OHCHR extranet (username: hrc extranet, password: 1session).

Last Updated on Monday, 09 May 2011 16:22
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