COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
2 – 27 August 1999
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9
OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of
1. The Committee
considered the initial, second and third periodic reports of Latvia
(CERD/C/309/Add.1) at its 1348th and 1349th meetings (see CERD/C/SR.1348
and 1349), on 11 and 12 August 1999. At its 1367th meeting (see CERD/C/SR.1367),
on 23 August 1999, it adopted the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the submission of the combined initial, second and third periodic
reports of Latvia, which was drafted in accordance with its guidelines
for the preparation of reports. It also takes note of the draft core
document provided as a working paper for the purpose of facilitating
the examination of the report. The initiation of a frank and constructive
dialogue with the State party is equally welcomed.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the
Implementation of the Convention
3. Having regained
independence and obtained United Nations membership in 1991, the State
party has begun the process of legislative reform in the midst of large-scale
economic and political transition. In doing so, the State party must
deal with a legacy of difficult relations among various ethnic groups.
4. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that, notwithstanding the difficulties inherent
in this period of transition, the State party has achieved a substantial
level of social stability and made important progress in the area of
legislative reform. It notes that among the first priorities established
by Latvia was the ratification of international and regional human rights
instruments. It welcomes the information of the State party that the
provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination, and other international treaties, have
constitutional status in domestic legislation and may be directly invoked
in the courts. It also takes note of the addition of a new chapter in
the Constitution entitled "Fundamental human rights", which enumerates
many of the rights provided for in the Convention.
5. The Committee
welcomes the fact that article 69 of the Criminal Code prohibits and
provides for legal sanctions against the propagation of ideas based
on racial or ethnic superiority or hatred, and against organizations
and individuals that propagate such ideas.
6. The Committee
notes that a number of restrictions that had been applied to non-citizens
have been lifted, including on the right to own land and property, access
to employment in various fields and the right to social security benefits.
7. The Committee
welcomes the efforts being made to provide instruction, and the materials
necessary for instruction, in minority languages. It notes also the
efforts to facilitate instruction of members of minority groups in the
national language, Latvian, particularly to adults who may not have
had an opportunity to learn it in school.
8. The Committee
also welcomes the comparative studies, referenda and invitations to
residents of Latvia to engage in a national dialogue on such issues
as differences in treatment of citizens and non-citizens, amendment
of the Citizenship Law and the Framework Document for a National Programme
on the Integration of Society.
9. The Committee
notes with interest that measures have been taken to incorporate the
cultivation of mutual tolerance and respect for the identity of different
ethnic groups into school curricula at various levels of instruction
on human rights.
D. Principal subjects of concern
is expressed at the absence of a legal provision explicitly defining
racial discrimination, in accordance with article 1 (1) of the Convention.
11. While noting
the legislation adopted with respect to article 4 of the Convention,
it is noted with concern that no case of dissemination of ideas of ethnic
superiority or hatred, or of the use of defamatory language or the advocacy
of violence based on such ideas has been brought to justice, and no
organization involved in such activities has been prohibited, although
the existence of such cases has been widely reported.
12. The Committee
notes that only such persons who were citizens of Latvia before 1940
and their descendants have automatically been granted citizenship, while
other persons have to apply for citizenship. Therefore, more than 25
per cent of the resident population, many of them belonging to non-Latvian
ethnic groups, have to apply and are in a discriminatory position. Although
the naturalization process has recently been made more accessible for
elderly persons and for children, it is noted with concern that the
qualification requirements may not be easily met and the naturalization
process remains slow.
13. The Committee
draws attention to the situation of persons who do not qualify for citizenship
under the Citizenship Law and who are also not registered as residents,
including those leaving the country temporarily. Concern is expressed
that such persons may not be protected against racial discrimination
in their exercise of rights under article 5 (d) (i) and (ii) and 5 (e)
of the Convention.
is also expressed about reports that there are still unjustified differences
of treatment between citizens and non-citizens, mostly members of minorities,
in the enjoyment of the rights provided for in article 5 (e) of the
15. With respect
to article 5 (d) (i), concern is expressed that passports for non-citizens,
replacing those issued by the former USSR, are being issued at an unreasonably
slow pace. As the old passports are no longer valid for travel, persons
who have not obtained a new Latvian passport are effectively prevented
from leaving the country or, once departed, are prevented from returning.
16. It is noted
with concern that the legislation of the State party requires a person's
ethnic origin to be recorded in his or her passport, which may expose
members of some minorities to discrimination on grounds of their origin.
is expressed over the difficulties hampering the operation of the National
Human Rights Office, established in 1996 in accordance with international
standards on national human rights institutions, since these have direct
consequences for the implementation of article 6 of the Convention.
that instruction in minority languages may be reduced in the near future
is noted with concern.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
19. The Committee
recommends that the State party take into account in its legislation
the definition of racial discrimination in line with article 1 (l) of
20. The Committee
recommends the State party to actively implement all the provisions
of article 4 of the Convention and to include in future reports information
on cases brought to justice and their outcome.
21. The Committee
urges the State party to streamline the process of naturalization for
all those who apply for citizenship. It also encourages the State party
to keep the criteria for eligibility under review, so as to solve this
problem as soon as possible.
22. The Committee
recommends that steps be taken to regularize as soon as possible the
status of persons who do not qualify for citizenship and are not registered
as residents, in order to avoid discrimination against them.
23. It is also
recommended to the State party to review the differences of treatment
between citizens and non-citizens, mostly persons belonging to ethnic
groups, in the light of the provisions of article 5 (e), so as to eliminate
any unjustifiable differences.
24. The Committee
recommends the State party to reconsider the requirement to record ethnic
origin in passports.
25. The Committee
attaches great importance to the speedy resolution of problems facing
the National Human Rights Office and calls on the State party to address
this as a matter of urgency. The Committee requests information in the
next periodic report of the activities of the Office, particularly the
number of cases it has dealt with, the solutions that it has achieved
for petitioners and its role in the review of national legislation and
the consideration of proposed new laws relevant to human rights.
26. The Committee
urges the State party to maintain the possibility to receive an education
in languages of various ethnic groups or to study those languages at
different levels of education, without prejudice for learning the official
language, as well as of using mother tongue in private and in public.
27. In view
of the need for persons involved in the administration of justice to
adapt to a quickly evolving legal system, the Committee recommends that
the State party undertake as a matter of priority the training of judges
and other members of the legal profession in international human rights
28. The Committee
recommends that a wide dissemination be given in the Latvian and Russian
languages to the report submitted to this Committee and to the present
29. The Committee
recommends that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8,
paragraph 6, of the Convention, adopted on 15 January 1992 at the fourteenth
meeting of States parties to the Convention.
30. It is noted
that the State party has not made the declaration provided for in article
14 of the Convention, and some members of the Committee requested that
the possibility of such a declaration be considered.
31. The Committee
recommends that the State party's next periodic report, which was due
on 14 May 1999, be an updating report, taking into account the points
raised in the present concluding observations.