December 2021 – January 2022 News Summary
The Constitutional Court (Satversmes tiesa) has ruled that the contested norms do not comply with Article 105 of the Satversme (article on property rights). The norms set out that a natural person – performer of economic activity who has chosen to pay personal income tax on income from economic activity – must pay the said tax even if the economic activity was performed at a loss. The Ombudsman stressed that such legislation runs contrary to the economic nature of personal income tax.
The Ombudsman has found that there is an urgent need to improve the quality of investigations into sexual violence against children. In particular, the Ombudsman emphasises the unacceptably long duration of the investigations, the professional qualifications and specialisation of investigators, as well as problems regarding the examinations conducted before a criminal investigation has begun (including interviews with the children concerned).
After receiving parents’ enquiries about the provision of antigen tests in educational institutions, the Ombudsman has clarified that it is not the parents’ responsibility to provide the antigen tests needed for a student to be able to participate in the educational process in person. It is the responsibly of the state or the founder of the institution to ensure sufficient access to antigen tests in the educational institution.
For the seventh year in a row, the Ombudsman, in cooperation with the association “Apeirons” and the National Library of Latvia, organised the Annual Award for Supporting People with Disabilities. The award recognises people with disabilities and the organisations that have contributed to improving the rights for people with disabilities in Latvia. The award ceremony took place virtually on 3 December, the International Day of Persons with Disability.
On 3 December, the Ombudsman organised a virtual discussion “People with disabilities and digital solutions. From a user to a creator”. The event aimed to inspire people with disabilities to not only use digital solutions but also create them. During the discussion, the Ombudsman’s Office and NGO “Riga TechGirls” talked about the learning possibilities in the digital field and invited people with disabilities to develop new digital technologies based on universal design.
On 3 December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, elections were held at the Annual Meeting of the European Network of the Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI), and the Ombudsman’s Office was elected to the GANHRI Working Group on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Ombudsman calls on the public media to ensure the accessibility of sports broadcasts to people with visual impairments. The Ombudsman encourages sports commentators to familiarise themselves with the ways of presenting sports events in an accessible way.
On 27 January, the Ombudsman’s Office co-hosted a public virtual discussion on the inclusion of children with additional needs in educational institutions. The discussion aimed to learn about parents’ experience regarding the cooperability of educational institutions. The Ombudsman’s Office was represented by Laila Grāvere.
On 9 January, Latvia became the 91st country where the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has entered into force. The Additional Protocol determines that the State must establish a national preventive mechanism or a system of regular visits to institutions where people are or might be deprived of liberty. The Protocol therefore reaffirms the 2017 government decision to entrust the Ombudsman with the functioning of the preventive mechanism.
On 10 December, in the honour of the International Day of Human Rights, the Ombudsman’s office organised a virtual discussion “Art – Freedom or the Right to Shock?”. Experts in art, law, psychology, and sociology discussed whether art has a place only in an art gallery. The Ombudsman emphasized that art is one of the forms of human expression protected by freedom of expression.