Social and economical rights

The Right to Property

Section 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1 of the 1st Protocol to of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
The Law on Forced Alienation of Real Estate for State or social needs
The Law on Protective Zones
The Law on Nature Areas subject to Special Protection, etc.
 

Within the meaning of human rights the term “property” includes tangible items, for example, an apartment, land, or telephone, as well as intangible items in respect of which there exists economical interest – for example, proprietary rights that arise from equity shares, stocks, or copyright. The right to property only extends to existing property; future income does not create ownership unless it is already earned or subject only to payment in future.

The right to property includes:

  • The right to freely enjoy ownership, i.e., the right to possess an item and the resulting yield, and to transform, consume, destroy or dispose of the same by means of transactions. This right also includes obligation of third parties to abstain from infringement of property. The exercise of this right requires from the State abstaining from interference with free enjoyment of ownership and establishing of an adequate vehicle for protection of this right to enable the owner to protect themselves against unjustified interference with free enjoyment of ownership;
  • Arbitrary expropriation of property is prohibited. Property may only be expropriated if the manner of expropriation meets the national laws, and provided that general principles of the international law are observed, and further provided that the legal principles and expropriation of property serve the best interests of society including for the purpose of ensuring balance between the interests of society and those of individual; and further provided that the terms of expropriation are expressly stipulated;
  • The right of the State to restrict the use of property to serve the interests of society. Such right arises from social function of property: each owner has the duty to respect the interests of other persons. To ensure legitimacy of restrictions imposed on property, such restrictions have to be prescribed by law; they have to pursue a legitimate purpose, and they have to be commensurate. Spatial planning is an example of imposing restrictions to the right to property.

 

The Right to Housing

Article 11 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights
Article 16 of European Social Charter
The Law on Assistance in Handling Housing Matters
The Law on Social Apartments and Social Houses
The Law on Rent of Residential Premises
Section 10, Part Three; Section 66, Part Two, Paragraph 1 et seq. of the Law on Protection of the Rights of the Child

 

The right to housing means the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity. International documents on human rights prescribe the minimum standard of such right that has to be provided by the State to the extent of resources available to it.

The right to housing may not be narrowly interpreted as merely the right to “dwelling”. It includes a number of aspects to be taken into account by the State. According to General Comments No 4 on the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights, the minimum standard of the right to housing comprises the following:

  • legal security of tenure: secured enjoyment of tenure, legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats;
  • Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure: sustainable access to natural and common resources, safe drinking water, energy for cooking, heating and lighting, sanitation and washing facilities, means of food storage, and refuse disposal;
  • Affordability from the view of financial costs – commensurability of housing costs and the level of income; the State has the duty to provide support for those unable to obtain affordable housing (provide residential premises for use, establish benefits for rent and utility payments related to the use of residential premises, and other forms of assistance;
  • Habitability – adequate housing must protect the inhabitants from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health, structural hazards, and disease vectors. The physical safety of occupants must be guaranteed;
  • Accessibility – adequate housing must be accessible to those entitled to it. Disadvantaged groups (physically disabled, the terminally ill, HIV-positive individuals, victims of natural disasters) must be accorded full and sustainable access to adequate housing resources on priority basis;
  • Location – housing must be in a location which allows access to employment options, health-care services, schools, child-care centers, etc.;
  • Cultural adequacy – the way housing is constructed, the building materials used and the policies supporting these must appropriately enable the expression of cultural identity and diversity of housing.

The right to housing stipulated in the international human right documents and the regulatory acts applicable in the Republic of Latvia should not be understood as the duty of the State to provide housing to each individual according to their demands and wishes; it means instead that the State has the duty to ensure compliance with the minimum standards of this right.

 

The Right to Social Security

Section 109 of the Constitution
Articles 22, 25, and 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Articles 9, 10, and 11 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights
Articles 13, 14, 16, and 17 of European Social Charter
The Law on Social Security
The Law on State Pensions
The Law on State Social Allowances
The Law on Social Services and Social Support, etc.
 

The right to social security belongs to the second generation of human rights, that is, social, economical and culture rights of individuals. Social rights are very important, yet they are special and different human rights because the exercise of such rights depends on the economical situation of and resources available to each State; it is closely linked to the possibilities of each State. At the same time, international law imposes an obligation of the State to seek possibly effective exercising of social rights within the maximum limits of the available resources, using adequate means and increasing tempo.

Social security system is established in Latvia to secure exercising of the right to social security, based on the following:

  • Social insurance system where the amount and procedure for granting of old age pension, employment benefit, maternity benefit, for example, depends on the period of employment and payment of social contributions;
  • Social support system the primary task of which is providing support in situations where individuals are unable to gain income and they are eligible to support from the State social security system.

The social security system operates in accordance with the following basic principles: prohibition of unequal treatment; solidarity; social insurance and support; preventive work; self-determination; and individual approach.

 

The Right to Health Protection

Section 111 of the Constitution
Articles 25 and 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 12 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights
Articles 11 and 13 of European Social Charter
The Pharmacy Law
The Law on Medical Treatment
The Law on Epidemiological Safety
The Law on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Cabinet Regulations No 899 of 31 October 2006 Concerning the Procedure for Compensation of the Costs of Medicine Preparations and Medicine Devices Intended for Outpatient Treatment, etc.

 

The right to health protection is secured in Latvia through cooperation of Governmental and municipal institutions, non-governmental organizations and other legal and natural entities. The duty of the State to take steps for securing of health protection is closely related to economical possibilities of the State. Such steps include provision of available medicinal services, promotion of healthy life-style, establishing hygiene standards applicable to food, etc.

The Constitution Court has also pointed out that the State has to abstain from any actions that restrict the possibilities of each individual to take care for protection of their health: according to Section 111 of the Constitution, each individual has the right to take steps within certain limits which they finds necessary to provide their own health.

 

The Right to Employment

Sections 106, 107, and 108 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia
Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 6 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights
The Labor Law

 

Article 23 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that: Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Section 106 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia stipulates that: Everyone has the right to freely choose their employment and workplace according to their abilities and qualifications. Forced labor is prohibited. Participation in the relief of disasters and their effects, and work pursuant to a court order shall not be deemed forced labor.

Section 107 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia stipulates that: Every employed person has the right to receive, for work done, commensurate remuneration which shall not be less than the minimum wage established by the State, and has the right to weekly holidays and a paid annual vacation.

Section 108 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia stipulates that: Employed persons have the right to a collective labor agreement, and the right to strike. The State shall protect the freedom of trade unions.

 

The Right to Education

Section 112 of the Constitution
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Articles 13, 14 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights
Article 2 of the 1st Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
The Education Law
The Comprehensive Education Law
The Professional Education Law
The Law on Higher Education Institutions, etc.

 

Section 112 of the Constitution guarantees to everyone the right to education; such guarantee includes positive duty of the State to establish education system, and negative duty to abstain from intervention in exercise of this right.

The duty to establish education system includes:

  • Availability of education system: the number of educational establishments and curricula has to be sufficient, and the State has to ensure their functioning ability (including provision of premises, teaching aids, educational staff, etc.);
  • Access to education: – discrimination-free education has to be physically and economically accessible;
  • Admissibility of education: curricula, methods of teaching, etc. have to be admissible to school children and students, and also to parents where appropriate; this criteria also extends to the quality of education;
  • Adequacy of education: education has to keep up with the changing needs of society, and it has to meet the needs of school children and students.

The Constitution expressly stipulates that the State has the duty to provide primary and secondary education free of charge. The mandatory nature of primary education also means that neither children nor their parents or guardians, or governmental authorities have the right to decide whether or not to provide primary education to the child.

 

The Right to Live in Benevolent Environment

Section 115 of the Constitution
Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention)
Environment Protection Law
Area Development Law
Protection Zone Law
On Assessment on the Impact on Environment
On Pollution
On Nature Areas Subject to Special Protection, etc.

 

Section 115 of the Constitution stipulates that the State has the duty to establish and provide effective environment protection system. The foregoing includes the duty to issue, subject to investment of appropriate funds, the regulatory acts that govern environment protection, and to establish institutions responsible for supervision and promoting environment protection, as well as implementation of measures aimed at environment protection.

Section 115 of the Constitution also stipulates the right to be informed about the environment condition. Therefore, the duty of the State to establish environment protection system also includes the duty to provide information to society about environmental conditions, and the duty to provide access to such information. Society is also entitled to participate in the making of relevant decisions related to environment protection.

An individual has subjective right to demand fulfillment of the above-listed duties from the state as well as liability for non-fulfillment or improper fulfillment of such duties. Therefore, a private individual has subjective right of claim against the State whenever environment protection system turns out to be ineffective, and the rights or lawful interests of an individual have been infringed as a result thereof.