Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Latvia continue to face discrimination and more than 400,000 people continue to live in the country without citizenship, the human rights organization Amnesty International says in its annual report issued May 23 in London.
While the Amnesty International Report 2007 took special aim at countries often condemned for human rights violations, the Baltic countries did not escape criticism. The report examines human rights violations worldwide during 2006.
Latvia was slammed for the July 19 decision by the Rīga City Council to ban the Rīga Pride 2006 parade for security reasons and for the lack of police protection during a press conference in support of gay rights activists. The report also notes that only after international pressure did the Latvian parliament pass a law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Latvia also was criticized for the fact that more than 400,000 people, most former citizens of the Soviet Union, remain without citizenship.
“Statelessness implies, among other things, restrictions to trans-border movement and restrictions on political rights,” the report states.
Amnesty International’s report also notes that in November the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe invited Latvia to ease restrictions on the rights of minorities and to allow the use of minority languages in dealings with authorities in areas where minorities live in substantial numbers. The proposal from the assembly was similar to legislation put forward in late 2005 by the heavily Russian party For Human Rights in United Latvia (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā) that would have made Russian an official language on the local government level. Latvian remains the official language at the national and local government level.
Estonia and Lithuania also were criticized in the annual report. As in Latvia, Amnesty International questioned Estonia’s respect for the rights of ethnic minorities and also noted violence against protesters during a gay pride march in Tallinn.
In Lithuania, it is sex trafficking of women and girls that remains a concern.
“In addition to being a country of origin for trafficking victims, Lithuania remained a country of transit and destination, primarily for women and girls from Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Kaliningrad region,” the report said.
Lithuania also was criticized for poor treatment of detainees in the country’s jails.
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