REPUBLIC OF LATVIA
Head of state: Vaira Vike-Freiberga
Head of government: Aigars Kalvïtis
Death penalty: abolitionist for ordinary crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified
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.
More than 400,000 people continued to live in Latvia without citizenship. The vast majority were citizens of the former Soviet Union who were living in Latvia at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union. In order to obtain citizenship, non-citizens must pass a number of tests, for example on the Latvian Constitution and language. On 8 August, the Latvian parliament introduced amendments to existing citizenship laws which stipulate that those who fail the Latvian language exam three times are no longer eligible for citizenship. The amendments also extended the time applicants must wait to resubmit their citizenship applications from three to six months. Statelessness implies, among other things, restrictions to trans-border movement and restrictions on political rights.
In June, the Latvian Parliament rejected an amendment to the law which would have eased requirements on non-citizens wanting to obtain the European Union (EU) Long-Term Resident status. Current regulations require non-citizens to demonstrate Latvian language skills and to have permanent residence permits in order to be eligible for EU Long-Term Resident status.
European Court of Human Rights
In June, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that Latvia had violated Natella Kaftailova's rights to respect for private and family life. Natella Kaftailova, who is of Georgian origin, had lived in Latvia since 1984 and became stateless after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. She failed to apply for permanent resident status in Latvia by the final deadline of August 1992 and in January 1995 she was served with a deportation order, asking her and her then 10-year-old daughter to leave the country. The Court concluded that during her time in Latvia, Natella Kaftailova had formed and developed personal, social and economic relationships, which constituted the private life of any human being. It also found that the Latvian authorities' refusal to grant her the right to reside lawfully and permanently in Latvia represented an interference with her private life which could not be considered "necessary in a democratic society".
On 17 November, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a resolution on national minorities in Latvia. PACE invited the Latvian authorities to review the existing difference in rights between citizens and non-citizens with a view to abolishing those that are not justified or strictly necessary. PACE also invited the Latvian authorities to amend legislation so as to make it possible to use the minority language in relations between national minorities and the administrative authorities in areas where they live in substantial numbers, as well as to implement the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in good faith and to consider withdrawing the two declarations recorded in the instrument of ratification.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights
On 19 July, Riga City Council banned the Riga Pride 2006 march because of alleged threats of violence against participants. Three days later, people attending a church service held in support of Riga Pride 2006 were attacked by a large group of people who threw eggs and excrement at them. Seven people were eventually sentenced to pay small fines for taking part in the attacks.
A Member of the European Parliament and members of national parliaments from around Europe were among those attacked by a group of up to 100 people as they tried to leave a press conference organized by Riga Pride 2006 at a hotel in central Riga in July. The organizers had requested police protection well in advance. Despite this, no significant police presence materialized until several hours after the start of the attack.
In September, following international pressure, including from other EU member states, Parliament passed an amendment to the Latvian Labour Law which explicitly bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
AI country visits/reports
- Poland and Latvia: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Poland and Latvia (AI Index: EUR 01/019/2006)
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