We were alarmed to read the review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) of Latvia’s second periodic report on Riga’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The assessments by the UN experts cause serious concern. Thus, the Committee’s experts stated the prevalence of prejudice and discrimination based on colour, language, religion, national or ethnic origin as well as the absence of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and policy aimed at ensuring equality and non-discrimination in access to all economic, social and cultural rights.
The report also noted that Latvian authorities’ policy with regard to minorities is discriminatory, including in ensuring their economic, social and cultural rights, which impedes their access to health services and social benefits, and places barriers for employment in both the private and public sectors.
Apart from other problems, the UN Committee pointed out that Latvia still has the disgraceful legal category of “non-citizens” and discrimination against such persons continues. In particular, the experts concluded that non-citizens are more likely to suffer from unemployment. In this connection the UN experts recommended that the Latvian authorities intensify their efforts to facilitate access to naturalisation and take targeted measures to ensure that those who currently hold non-citizen status have non-discriminatory access to economic, social and cultural rights.
The Committee dedicated a special section to Riga’s language policy in education. The UN experts’ conclusions are unequivocal: Latvia’s approaches to the issues of language are fraught with negative consequences for persons belonging to minorities in the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights. Moreover, recent amendments to the Education Law and Cabinet Regulation No. 716 of November 21, 2018 have discriminatory effect on minority groups and create undue restrictions on teaching of and in minority languages in preschool and primary education in both public and private schools.
In this regard, the Committee recommended that Latvian authorities consider revising their language policies and laws on education in order to promote the teaching of and teaching in minority languages and to ensure that they do not affect negatively the educational performance of children belonging to minority groups.
The Committee’s conclusions are consonant with assessments of Riga’s systematic and gross violations of human rights of Russian speakers that have been repeatedly voiced at events held by the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe.
We insist that Latvian authorities heed the opinion of the international monitoring mechanisms regarding human rights, including that of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and take due and effective measures at the legislative and political levels to comply with their international obligations regarding human rights.
We would like to underscore once again that Russia will continue upholding the rights of its compatriots wherever they might be. We are closely monitoring the situation with Russian speakers in the Baltic countries and Ukraine.