Civil and political rights

The Right to Life

Section 93 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 6 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
 

European Court of Human Rights has stipulated that Article 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that guarantees the individuals’ right to life and determines the conditions under which deprival of life can be justified constitutes one of the key clauses in the European Convention for Human Rights, and that deviation from that clause is impermissible. In correlation with Article 3 of the Convention it presents an essential fundamental value of a democratic society. On the basis thereof, any grounds justifying deprival of life are subject to possibly narrow interpretation.

Obligation of the State to protect the life of each and every citizen is composed of three parts:

  • The duty to take the steps required in the given circumstances to prevent unjustified loss of life;
  • The duty to investigate suspicious death;
  • The duty of its representatives to abstain from deprival of life incommensurate with the law.

Deprivation of life of a lawfully detained individual can take place in different circumstances, such as deprivation of life during interrogation, suicide by detained person as a result of threat; bodily injuries incommensurate with life.

 

The Right to Liberty and Security

Section 94 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 9 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
 

The right of individual to liberty in the wider sense includes, for example, freedom to select movement of an individual, and security includes freedom from interference with the personal integrity of individual on part of the State or other subjects.

The right to liberty and personal security inviolability is not absolute; it is subject to restriction in the manner and amount prescribed by law. In Latvia, for example, it is regulated by the procedure prescribed in the Administrative Offence Code, Criminal Procedure Law and other regulatory acts.

Guaranty of liberty of an individual as stipulated in Article 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights includes the right of individual to physical movement. The above-stated articles, however, guarantee liberty from placement of an individual into detention facilities of different kinds, rather than freedom of movement in general.

Deprival of liberty is only justified in the cases and manner prescribed by law, and deprival of liberty is subject to the statutory procedure and other regulations. It has to be grounded, and it may not be arbitrary. The right to liberty also includes the stipulation that no individual may be kept in prison without judicial sentence, without appropriate substantiation. The State has positive duty to take all efforts to ensure that an individual is subject to trial within reasonable limits of time.

 

Torture and Cruel Treatment

Section 95 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Articles 7, 10 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
UN Standard Minimum Rules of 1957 for Treatment of Prisoners
Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
 

International and national regulatory acts prohibit cruel treatment and torture. The said prohibition is absolute, that is, no exceptions and deviations are permissible. In the real life, application of the said norms is the most problematic at closed-type facilities where individuals have limited right to protect themselves.

There are different forms of inhuman treatment, depending on the type and methods of execution; the nature and context of sentence; pre-mediation and systematic organization; age; duration; effect on human health; health condition at the time of execution; social meaning of the sentence; whether or not there have been other options available to public authorities, and the exigence and proportionality of the means applied for sake of security.

European Court of Human Rights has pointed out that cruel treatment, punishment or abasement is related to causing intensive or regular physical or moral sufferings to an individual, even if it does not lead to actual bodily injuries. Such actions make the victims feel fear, humiliation and inferiority that can abase them and break their physical and moral resistance. Similar opinion has been issued by the UN Human Rights Committee: qualification of the prohibited treatment or punishment depends on the nature, purpose and severity of treatment. In addition, each of the above-mentioned forms of treatment includes not only physical but also moral sufferings.

 

The Right to Elect and to be Elected

Sections 101, 8, and 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 25 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 3 of the First Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
 

Election right – the right to elect and to be elected – is closely related to the right of participation in the operation of Governmental and municipal authorities. The said right designed to ensure representation of citizens in the operation of the Government and municipalities constitutes a key element of democratic State.

The said right is related to duty of the State to ensure practical exercise of the right to elect and to be elected without unjustified restrictions. It follows from the above-stated that only justified reasonable restrictions prescribed by law are permissible. This is true not only concerning the election process but also the election procedure in a wider sense: listing for voting or standing, periodicity and availability of election, and the procedure for summarizing and announcing the results of election. Equality of electors and expression of their free will has to be ensured throughout the election process.

 

The Right to Legal Status: Matters of Citizenship, Asylum and Migration

Articles 6 and 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 25 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 1 of the Seventh Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
 

The universal principle of international human rights stipulates that each and every individual, regardless of their domicile, has the right to be treated as a subject of law: to have a certain status granted to them in the State and a set of rights and obligations appropriate to such status, as well as corresponding identity documents.

There are certain guarantees of human rights to be provided to each and every individual regardless of their status (such as the right to life, for example); the set of other rights and obligations of an individual may differ, depending on their status – whether the person is a citizen or permanent resident of the country, or a refugee, or short-term visitor. It is essential, however, to ensure that a certain system is put in place in the State for legalization and granting of status to individuals, and to ensure that it operates without any discrimination, in compliance with the national and international legal norms. All institutions are bound to observe the norms of human rights when handling the matters related to the status of individuals: to ensure human treatment, and to take into account the rights of individuals, for example, to family life, liberty and security, to the extent prescribed by law.

 

The Right to Fair Trial

Section 92 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Articles 10, 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Articles 14, 15 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights; Articles 2, 3, 4 of the 7th Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
 

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that everyone is entitled to have their rights and legal interests defended in a fair court. The said right includes a number of aspects: the principles of fairness, transparency, independence, timeliness, objectiveness, and legitimacy of court; publicity of the court judgment, the presumption of innocence, and other guarantees to the parties involved in judicial proceedings.

Everyone shall be presumed innocent until his or her guilt is established in accordance with law. The State shall seek to ensure that the presumption of innocence is observed in all activities of law enforcement institutions as well as mass media and public activities. Everyone, where his or her rights are violated without basis, has a right to commensurate compensation.

Everyone has the right to the assistance of counsel. The State shall provide a counsel free of charge to the unprotected groups of society and take all steps necessary to ensure that low income persons can effectively exercise their right to fair court.

Provision of the right to fair court is crucial because it affects the possibility to protect other rights of an individual. A country is only law-based and democratic if the individuals in it can rely upon lawful, objective and operational actions of the law enforcement institutions.

 

Freedom of Speech and Expression

Section 100 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 19 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
 

Freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of views, the right to freely receive and distribute information and ideas without interference on part of public institutions, regardless of the state borders. The right to freedom of expression is the fundament of the right of everyone to express their views without fear from restriction, punishment or prosecution.

Freedom of speech in democratic society is widely construed, and it may only be subject to restriction on extremely exceptional occasions. In addition, freedom of speech includes not only “information” or “ideas” that are perceived as predisposing or neutral but also those that are offensive, shocking or alarming.

At the same time, such human rights are absolute, and they do not mean entitlement to impunity of expression. The State may impose restrictions on such right in certain manner and amount, especially because the exercise of such right involves certain duties and responsibility.

 

Freedom of Meeting

Section 103 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 21 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights

 

The right to peaceful meeting is among the key values of democratic society, along with the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of meeting, as well as freedom of formation and speech, is among the most essential political rights. Such rights enable active civil society to express publicly their opinion and to participate in democratic processes.

Freedom of meeting includes the right to participate at the event in question as well as the right to arrange such event. The said right is individual by nature, notwithstanding that meeting means participation of more than one person.

The right to freedom of meeting is not absolute and it is subject to restrictions. It should also be taken into account that protection stipulated in the international legal norms only extends to the right to peaceful meeting.

 

Freedom of Formation

Section 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 22 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights

 

The freedom of formation guarantees the right to form and join associations, political parties and other public organizations for the purpose of achievement of any common goal that is not prohibited by law. Article 20 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights also contains special clause to the effect that no one may be compelled to join any organization.

The freedom of formation may take various forms: culture, sport, art, education, charity, ideological, interest groups and other associations of persons. Political parties, religious organizations and trade unions are treated as special forms of the freedom of formation.

 

The Right to Private and Family Life

Section 96 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 17 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

 

Contents of the right to private life form from: personal identity, physical or moral integrity, including esteem and dignity, personal living space, sexual activities and social relations, as well as relations with other individuals including information about such relations. It also includes the right to keep the private life in secret from other private individuals. The State has the duty not only to abstain from unjustified interference with private life of individuals but also to protect them from infringement on part of their fellow citizens and mass media.

Complains involving the right of individuals to private life are related to various matters: inviolability of correspondence and home, the extent to which information may be disclosed; transliteration of surnames into Latvian language; use of photographs; tapping of telephone conversations; control of e-correspondence and video surveillance without previous notice; protection of personal data, etc.

The right of individuals to family life includes such aspects as registration of marriage, inviolability of family life, the right to establish family, etc.

 

Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion

Section 99 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 19 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; and also Article 2 of the 1st Protocol thereto

 

Each and every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religious beliefs. As stipulated in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, this right includes freedom to change the individual’s religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. It also includes the right not to follow any religion if the person selects so.

Conviction of an individual is not only related to religion. It means any conviction of an individual that is serious and important to them. It may be, for example, pacifism of philosophical conviction of the individual.

This right is also aimed at preservation of pluralism in society. Individuals, however, have to accept general denial of their conviction by society, and the fact that propaganda of a contrary conviction also exists.

 

Freedom of Movement

Section 98 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Articles 9 and 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Articles 12 and 13 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the 4th Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; and also Article 1, 6(5) of the 7th Protocol thereto
 

Freedom of movement means the right to move freely and choose the residence within the territory. It also means that everyone has the right to depart freely from any State including that of which the individual is a citizen. This freedom means that citizens of the State may not be extradited from and that they must be permitted to enter the State, and also that mass expulsion of foreigners is prohibited.

 

The Right to Hold Position in the Civil Service

Section 101 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 17 25? of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
 

The right to hold position in the civil service should be viewed separately from the right of individuals to employment. The work in public service differs from that performed in private sector in terms of the legal aspects of establishing of the legal relations as well s in terms of the purpose of work that is closely linked to fulfillment of public assignment.

Exercising of the right to hold office in the civil service in Latvia is fixed in the law, as follows from the stipulation in the Constitution: “Every citizen of Latvia has the right, as provided for by law, to participate in the work of the State and of local government, and to hold a position in the civil service.” The civil service is not necessarily available to all persons, provided however that the applicable criteria are objective.

A number of restrictions are imposed by law on the individuals who seek engagement in the civil service: for example, they have to be citizens of the State, loyal to democracy, etc. The said right is aimed at ensuring legitimacy of the rule of law of democratic state.