Annual Report: Latvia 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Latvia 2013

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REPUBLIC OF LATVIA

Head of state Andris Berzins

Head of government Valdis Dombrovskis

Victims of hate crimes based on gender, disability or sexual orientation were not protected under the law. Asylum-seekers lacked adequate access to status determination procedures. The complete abolition of the death penalty entered into force. Over 300,000 people remained stateless.

Discrimination

Hate crime legislation did not protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, disabled people, or victims of gender-based hate crimes. Criminal law punished incitement to hatred based solely on racial, ethnic or religious motives. Only racist motives were regarded as aggravating circumstances.

In June, the fourth annual Baltic Pride march took place in Riga with over 600 participants and in a climate of co-operation with police. Members of parliament and the Minister of Foreign Affairs attended the event.

Over 300,000 people – about one-sixth of the population, mostly of Russian origin – remained stateless according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, although the authorities regarded them as “non-citizens” with greater protection and access to rights than stateless people under the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. They were excluded from political rights.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Asylum-seekers often encountered difficulties in accessing their right to seek international protection. Potential asylum-seekers were given insufficient information on arrival, which in some cases led to their detention as irregular migrants. A lack of translators also hampered access to status determination procedures.

International scrutiny

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published its fourth report on Latvia in February. The Commission's recommendations included: the closure of any remaining special classes for Roma children and their integration into mainstream classes; the automatic granting of citizenship to children born of “non-citizen” parents after Latvia's independence in 1991; and the reconsideration of the policy on state language to ensure that an obligation to use it applies only in clear cases of legitimate public interest.

Death penalty

Legislative amendments implementing the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances entered into force on 1 January, followed by the ratification of Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights.