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Human rights in Latvia are generally respected by the government, according to the US Department of State and Freedom House. Latvia is ranked above-average among the world's sovereign states in democracy, press freedom, privacy and human development. The country has a relatively large ethnic Russian community, which has basic rights guaranteed under the constitution and international human rights laws ratified by the Latvian government.
However, human rights organisations have reported multiple problems. Especially non-citizens – including stateless persons – suffer from limited or no access to a broad range of rights. Also there were problems with police abuse of detainees and arrestees, poor prison conditions and overcrowding, judicial corruption, discrimination against women, incidents of violence against ethnic minorities, and societal violence and incidents of government discrimination against homosexuals.
In March 2020, Latvia derogated from some of its obligations under ECHR and ICCPR, having referred to the COVID-19 outbreak.
As of end-2019, European Court of Human Rights has delivered 144 judgments in cases against Latvia (beginning from 2001); in 115 cases, it has found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights or its protocols.
UN Human Rights Committee has adopted views in three cases involving Latvia, as at 2020, in two cases finding violation of ICCPR (Raihman v. Latvia and Ignatāne v. Latvia). In 2001, Latvia has extended a standing invitation to Special Procedures of UN Human Rights Council. In 1990, Latvia has acceded to UDHR in an atypical move, which is understood in jurisprudence as accepting the declaration as binding.
|UN core treaties||Participation of Latvia||CoE core treaties||Participation of Latvia|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination||Accession in 1992, declaration allowing individual complaints isn't made||European Convention on Human Rights||Ratified in 1997|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights||Accession in 1992||Protocol 1 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1997|
|First Optional Protocol (ICCPR)||Accession in 1994||Protocol 4 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1997|
|Second Optional Protocol (ICCPR)||Accession in 2013||Protocol 6 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1999|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights||Accession in 1992||Protocol 7 (ECHR)||Ratified in 1997|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women||Accession in 1992||Protocol 12 (ECHR)||Signed in 2000|
|Optional Protocol (CEDAW)||Not signed||Protocol 13 (ECHR)||Ratified in 2012|
|United Nations Convention Against Torture||Accession in 1992, declaration allowing individual complaints isn't made||European Social Charter||Ratified in 2002|
|Optional Protocol (CAT)||Not signed||Additional Protocol of 1988 (ESC)||Signed in 1997|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child||Accession in 1992||Additional Protocol of 1995 (ESC)||Not signed|
|Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC)||Ratified in 2005||Revised European Social Charter||Ratified in 2013|
|Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC)||Ratified in 2006||European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment||Ratified in 1998|
|Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families||Not signed||European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages||Not signed|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities||Ratified in 2010||Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities||Ratified in 2005|
|Optional Protocol (CRPD)||Ratified in 2010||Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings||Ratified in 2008|
|Experts' body||State report||Document by experts' body||State response|
|Human Rights Committee||2012||2014|
|Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights||200?||2021||.|
|Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination||2017||2018||.|
|Committee Against Torture||2018||2019||.|
|Committee on the Rights of the Child||2013||2016||.|
|Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||2018||2020||.|
|European Committee on Social Rights||2020||2020||.|
|Committee for the Prevention of Torture||not foreseen||2016||2017|
|FCNM Advisory Committee||2016||2018||2014|
|European Commission against Racism and Intolerance||not foreseen||2018||2019|
According to Amnesty International, non-citizens – including stateless persons – suffer from limited or no access to a broad range of rights, including the right to participate in political processes, and the right to employment in the civil service and private sector. The majority of them were born or lived almost their entire lives in Latvia. Non-citizens also have restrictions on property ownership.
Amnesty International reported racially motivated attacks against Romani people. Latvia lacks of comprehensive national legislation dealing with all forms of discrimination. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have faced discrimination by verbal abuse. There were reported allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment of detainees by prison staff.
Human Rights Watch reported in 2006 the attacks on peaceful lesbian and gay pride activists in Riga on July 28. Earlier, Riga City Council denied an application by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations for “Riga Pride 2006”. The banned march was targeted by crowds of anti-gay protesters. In 2009 the gay march was allowed by Administrative Court of Riga.
According to Freedom House, Latvia has wide civil liberties. Also political rights are in a high level, though the country suffered high-profile corruption scandals during 2007. The government generally respects freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of religion. Academic freedom is respected in law and in practice. Freedom of assembly and association are protected by law and in practice. The highly competitive Latvian mass media are proving to be reliable sources of information and watchdogs against governmental abuses of power.
While the constitutional guarantee of judicial independence is generally respected, corruption in the judicial and law enforcement systems continues to be a problem. Pretrial detentions are long, police use excessive force against detainees, and prisons suffer from overcrowding and inadequate medical care. Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, but they often face employment discrimination.
Alleged discrimination suffered by the Russian-speaking community continues to be debated. Parliament has appointed an ombudsman responsible for protecting the rights of individuals in relation to the government. Two men were sentenced to prison terms in January 2007 for attacking a Rwandan citizen. The case marked the first sentencing under a law prohibiting instigation of racial hatred.
According to Human Right Report of United States Department of State, Latvia generally respects the human rights of citizens and the large resident noncitizen community. However, there were problems with serious police abuse of detainees and arrestees, poor conditions at police detention facilities, poor prison conditions and overcrowding, judicial corruption, obstacles to due process, official pressure to limit freedom of speech, violence against women, child abuse, trafficking in persons, incidents of violence against ethnic minorities, and societal violence and incidents of government discrimination against homosexuals.
After the restoration of independence in 1991, those who or whose ancestors had not been citizens of Latvia prior to its Soviet occupation in 1940 were not automatically granted citizenship. As of January 2011, non-citizens exceed 14% of the population. Russian language, being native for more than 37% of residents according to the 2000 census, is considered to be a foreign language in the Official Language Law; the possibilities to use it in communication with authorities and in public education were significantly reduced after 1991.
Like in many post-socialist countries, restitution of real estate has taken place in Latvia. Therefore, a considerable part of former tenants of public housing found themselves in private housing, with higher rent. Rent control for such dwellings was, after multiple extensions, phased out in 2007.
Since 2003, conflicts concerning freedom of assembly are often: on various occasions, gatherings of LGBT and counter-meetings, Remembrance Day of the Latvian Legionnaires and counter-meetings, meetings of the Russian School Defense Staff were banned or limited.
Limitations to eligibility and their enforcement were in the focus of several ECtHR judgments in cases against Latvia (Ādamsons v. Latvia, Ždanoka v. Latvia, Podkolzina v. Latvia) and UN Human Rights Committee views in case Ignatāne v. Latvia.
Human rights are granted by Chapter VIII of the Constitution—"Fundamental Human Rights", adopted in 1998 and consisting of 28 articles. It includes both first-generation and second-generation human rights as well as some third-generation human rights: rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities and right to live in a benevolent environment. Article 116 defines goals allowing limitations of certain human rights: these are the rights of other people, the democratic structure of the state, public safety, welfare and morals.
Until adopting this chapter the core law in the field of human rights was the Constitutional Law "The Rights and Obligations of a Citizen and a Person", adopted in 1991.