Human rights report raises concerns about Latvia

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.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

15 thoughts on “Human rights report raises concerns about Latvia

  1. For those of you who haven’t followed the one-sided propoganda show presented by Amnesty International over the past decades, you might be inclined to take their views seriously. However,this organization is so far left oriented, that if the world was not round, they would fall off the edge. When is the last time you have heard them criticise Fidel Castro’s paradise? or Hugo Chavez?. You don’t hear much about civil rights violations in China, even though they jail political prisoners among others. Yes, the world is imperfect, but there is more to many of these issues, than what meets their myopic view of the world.

  2. Please “google” AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 2007 for the “fair and balanced” side of AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL.

  3. Latvia remains a conservative rural community at heart, despite the urbanisation. When was the last time any rural area lead the way in changing social mores? But change is as inevitable as life and death. The critical issue raised here in my mind is the uneasy relationship between people who look back at the past (the Russians) and the Europeans (the Latvians). Unfortunately Putin is looking more and more like an old-fashioned Csar (and as my father said, never live in a small country alongside a big one). Any excuse will do in the end to “re-absorb” Latvia. Any reasonable steps to define itself as independent of Russia and Russians seems not only fair but essential.

  4. Dear Indulis,

    Do you have any comments on the report itself, can you deny its asserts?

    You say AI is “far left oriented” as if that implied lack of credibility. The argument does not sustain itself.

    Intoxicating and denigrating the source of information works only with ill-informed people. And it weakens your own credibility to the extreme.

    Please take a minute now, since you didn’t do it before writing your comment, to read some of what AI had to say about Cuba and Venezuela in this year’s report. You can compare it with their comments on Latvia:

    CUBA: “Freedom of expression, association and movement continued to be severely restricted. At least 69 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned for their political opinions. Political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists continued to be harassed, intimidated and detained, some without charge or trial.”

    VENEZUELA: “Most human rights violations committed by members of the security forces remained unpunished. Human rights defenders and journalists were threatened, intimidated and attacked.”

    LATVIA: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people continued to face discrimination. A Gay Pride march in the capital Riga was banned on security grounds following alleged threats against the marchers. Citizenship requirements were made stricter.”

    No sore feelings, but a bit of consistency doesn’t hurt anybody.

    Javi (Barcelona, Spain)

  5. Dear Javier, I do not have any ill feeling toward gays but at the same time they have to understand that they do not have to force their way of life down my throat. Are you saying that they are being discriminated against because I do not want them to force themselves into my life? Are you saying that there is discrimination because we dont want them to force themselves into our religious congregations and force disent amongst church members and thus destroy the congregation? Are you saying that there is discrimination because we dont want them to teach their way of life to our children in schools and convince the children that their way of life is normal ( maybe more normal than the standard family life )? Are you saying that there is discrimination because we dont want the gays to take over the entertainment industry and thus through their wide communication network inject their way of life into our homes in an attempt to expand their recruiting for their agenda?
    I am not against gays. I must accept diversity. But in diversity is also the other side – I do not have to accept them, look at them in their sometimes, lewd parades in my streets. Why cant they accept diversity without them calling me names – homophobe? If I do not accept their lifestyle, it is diversity, no homophobia! But radical always chose good names – like Peoples Democratic Republic – which does not belong to the people, it is not democratic and it is not a republic. But that is the radical style, which also the gays have implemented.

  6. By naming their party “For Human Rights in a United Latvia”, the Russians display a sense of humour. Human rights have always taken a back seat in Russia, irrespective of the prevailing regime — the Tsars, the Soviets, or now in Putinstan. While they are thus not serious, Amnesty International, sadly, does not get the joke.

  7. Do not feel sorry for the 4000,000 stateless people in Latvia. They are mainly Russian occupiers brought in after the war to Russify Latvia. In other words absorb and obliterate it into Russia. These people have had 30-40 years to learn the language of the country they came to colonise. Learn the language or leave. Latvia is for Latvians, Russia for Russians!!!

  8. Get all Russians that do not have citizenship in Latvia and do not speak Latvian and send them back to Russia a much larger country than Latvia.

  9. i can not speak to the gay rights question ,but as my wife is latvian and tells me the story, i wonder where AI was when one fifth of the latvian nation went on vacation, courtesy of the soviet tourist bureau and never returned .i think this is possibly the reason for hard feelings about the russian minority. also, i think latvia would be wise to watch immigration or it could be over run by islamic extremists as is the rest of europe.

  10. The Russian, Latvian born non-citizens that do not speak Latvian have had how many years to learn Latvian? 17. Seems to me that if they want to make their lives in Latvia they should respect the land, culture, and it’s people enough to extend themselves and learn the language enough to pass the citizen exam. If not, go back to their mother country. I have no pity for them. They stay in Latvia because their lives are far better in Latvia than they would be in Russia. Well they should reap what they sow. Learn the language or get out!

  11. Which other nation does AI expect the language and it’s culture to take a back seat to the “poor hard done by minority” who proclaim outrage at having to adapt and indeed – acknowledge the first language and proclaim loyalty to it’s citizenship laws ?Is Latvija an independent nation or are it’s rights to be batantly governed by Russia ( waiting in the wings, oh yes…) Do you know how outrageously offensive and ignorant the AI sound in light of Latvija’s history at the hands of Russia’s communist regime which had done it’s best to obliterate the traces of Latvija’s culture, and continues to cultivate it’s propaganda throughout the free world? It seems a tragedy to me, who of direct Latvian descent- my first language, hears not the voice of a united free nation proclaiming it’s rights to exist as an ancient culture of Europe, but rather the self appointed ‘experts’, blissful in their ignorance…

  12. Most of the criticism of AI here is completely ridiculous, please state some facts you dont agree with, all thats written here is Latvian history. One gets the opinion from reading these comments that any action against Russians is justified given our history. I tend to think that as an EU member state and a democracy that we’d rather follow a more lawful tradition then the one the USSR provided. To Ivars: “I do not have to accept them, look at them in their sometimes, lewd parades in my streets.” Sorry, but what makes them your streets? Do you own these particular streets? I suppose the argument is a fundamental one, perhaps a bit too nuanced for you. Its called freedom of assembly, and its a constitutional guarantee in most democracies. Law abiding groups, that are leally organized, can ask to hold a parade and they have just as much right to hold this parade as you and your Christian congregation. When a city government chooses to violate this fundamental right then they get criticized by organizations like AI, which should come as no surprise.

  13. Speaking to the gay rights issues raised by Amnesty International: As an openly gay American-born Latvian-American (with dual citizenship), it’s about time that Latvia and the rest of eastern Europe lose their ignorance about gays and learn a thing or two. Two years ago, human feces and rotten eggs, among other things, were thrown at Latvian gays and lesbians trying to celebrate Pride, as is customary in other large cities around the world in June. (Pride commemorates the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 and marked the start of the modern gay rights movement in America.) To begin with, shouldn’t gays have the right to assemble in Riga? Did 50 years of Soviet occupation teach Latvians anything about human rights? Were they allowed to assemble freely under Soviet occupation? Not so much, right?
    I am proud to be gay and I am proud to be Latvian. It makes me mad and it is a sad, sad statement on the social atmosphere that Rigans treat gays so poorly in Latvia.

  14. I can’t believe the closed mindedness of some Latvians, oh, I forgot for a moment about how Latvians treated jews in WWII. How silly of me to think that we have evolved as a people.

  15. The gay issue in the Eastern European countries is something that is taking time to be accepted, the same as it did here in N America. It will come. I really object to Ivars E views re the jews. He has been listoning to the pro-jewish American propangda machine and not doing his heridary reasearch (assumimng he is of Baltic descent).
    The jews were the first communists and when the Russian communist army invaded Latvia in 1940 the jews greeted them as liberators !!!! From whom, the Latvians who had given them a home? In the subsequent Russian holocaust the jews were willing pepertrarors and henchman. In spite of this, the Latvian people have borne no grudge with free jewish schools etc.

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