Amnesty International Report 2006 - Latvia
|Publication Date||23 May 2006|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2006 - Latvia, 23 May 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/447ff7af2f.html [accessed 19 June 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
In July, the Prime Minister made derogatory comments regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and the Riga City Council temporarily withdrew permission for a Gay Pride march. A report published by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) highlighted several worrying practices and made recommendations for improvements.
In June, Latvia ratified the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. However, the Latvian government's definition of a minority in practice excluded most members of the Russian-speaking community in Latvia from qualifying as a minority.
LGBT rights under attack
On 20 July, the executive director of the Riga City Council, Eriks Škapars, withdrew permission for the gay and lesbian community to hold a Gay Pride march on 23 July. Eriks Škapars' decision came after the Prime Minister stated on television that he could not "accept that a parade of sexual minorities takes place in the middle of our capital city next to the Dom Cathedral. This is not acceptable. Latvia is a state based on Christian values. We cannot advertise things which are not acceptable to the majority of our society."
The organizers of the march subsequently made an official complaint to the Riga administrative court regarding the decision to ban the march. On 22 July the administrative court decided to annul Eriks Škapars' decision to withdraw permission for the march. On 23 July the march went ahead as originally planned.
Organizers and news media covering the event estimated that approximately 300 people participated in the march. Meanwhile, over a thousand people had gathered to stage a protest against the march. Some of the protesters tried to block the march, while others used tear gas and threw eggs at the marchers.
In July the European Commission's Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities unit published its 2005 annual report on equality and non-discrimination. According to the report, Latvia was the only country in the European Union which had not fully transposed the requirement of the Employment Equality Directive and did not explicitly ban discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in employment.
Torture and ill-treatment
In May the CPT published a report based on findings from a visit to Latvia in 2002. The report highlighted several worrying practices and made recommendations for improvement.
The CPT's delegation said that it had received a considerable number of credible allegations of physical ill-treatment by law enforcement agencies throughout Latvia. Most of the allegations of ill-treatment related to events at the time of detention. However, many of the allegations also concerned ill-treatment during police questioning. The forms of ill-treatment reported to the CPT included "asphyxiation with a plastic bag, strangulation, very severe beating, infliction of electric shocks, submerging the head of the suspect in the water of a lake." Some of this ill-treatment was so severe that it could be considered to constitute torture.
The CPT also remarked on the poor conditions of detention in police establishments. It stated that "the situation was particularly bad at Daugavpils, Liepaja and Ventspils Police headquarters, where persons were being held 24 hours per day in overcrowded cells, which were humid, dirty and poorly lit and ventilated." The CPT further recommended that all those who were deprived of their liberty by law enforcement authorities, regardless of the circumstances, be granted, from the very outset of their deprivation of liberty, the right to notify a close relative or third party of their choice about their situation. Concern was also expressed about the fact that some people in police custody needed urgent medical attention, but that this had not been provided.