March 2022 News Summary

Statement by ENNHRI on the protection of human rights in the armed attack on Ukraine

In a statement, the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) called for an immediate end to the Russian Federation’s armed attack on Ukraine.

Ombudsman Juris Jansons stressed: Our common demand is to stop the invasion immediately to protect human lives, safety, and well-being. Only a united, firm and unambiguously clear position of human rights defenders can serve as a basis for stopping these bloody crimes, and for effective investigations of these crimes.

The Ombudsman participates in the ENNHRI General Assembly

On 31 March, Ombudsman Juris Jansons participated in the General Assembly of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI), where he expressed his support to Ukraine, its people, and the Ukrainian Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Lyudmyla Denisova in the context of the Russian Federation’s armed attack on Ukraine.

Together with representatives of other national human rights institutions, the Ombudsman condemned Russia’s actions. Among other things, the Ombudsman stressed that he did not believe in the statement made by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation that almost 500 000 Ukrainian refugees who moved from Ukraine to Russia during the armed conflict had done so on a voluntary basis.

The Ombudsman on the importance of freedom of expression

Freedom of expression is the greatest asset of a democratic society. At the same time, this human right is not absolute, it is linked to duties and responsibilities. We have every right to judge, express opinions, ask questions, and criticise the decisions taken in our own country, but let us do so by showing respect for each other.

Direct or indirect calls for war, military conflict, or violence under the guise of freedom of expression are not allowed under any circumstances. Similarly, speech targeting other people on the grounds of their ethnicity, nationality or nationality is not permitted in the exercise of freedom of expression.

The Ombudsman highlights the risks related to trafficking in human beings

Trafficking in human beings is one of the most serious violations of human rights. Tens of millions of people are exposed to it every year, one third of them children. Human traffickers have long been using crises to realise their low intentions. The Ukrainian refugee crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine threatens to turn into a human trafficking crisis. Latvia must do its utmost to prevent potential risks of enslavement. In such a crisis, it is particularly important that all institutions and organisations involved act in an organised and coordinated manner.

Discussion on the current issues in anti-trafficking in human beings​

On 24 March, experts of the Ombudsman’s Office met Valiant Richey, the Special Representative of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to discuss the fight against trafficking in human beings. The experts of the Ombudsman’s Office informed the OSCE representative about the Ombudsman’s education campaigns and activities for the improvement of the regulatory framework, carried out to promote cooperation between institutions involved in trafficking in human beings. The need to introduce the function of the National Rapporteur and the possible role of the Ombudsman within this function was also discussed.

Ombudsman and the European Commission discuss the rule of law situation in Latvia

On 16 March, Ombudsman Juris Jansons participated in an online meeting with representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers and the Secretariat-General. The European Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report is currently under preparation, and it provides a separate section for examining the situation in each Member State of the European Union. At the meeting, the Ombudsman gave his insight into the situation of the rule of law in Latvia.

The following topics were discussed:

  • The Ombudsman’s activities, independence and resources, including in view of the 2021 amendments to the Ombudsman Law;
  • The Ombudsman’s views on the openness and functioning of civil society;
  • The Ombudsman’s views on media pluralism and freedom, as well as measures to protect journalists.

Improving children’s rights in out-of-family care facilities

On March 3, experts of the Ombudsman’s Office met with representatives of out-of-family care institutions to discuss shortcomings in the respect of children’s rights, as well as to provide recommendations for improvement of the situation in institutional care.

Last year’s inspections most frequently identified the following weaknesses:

  •      insufficient enforcement of rights of access;
  •      ineffective behavioural correction/addiction treatment;
  •      shortage of specialists, etc.

Ombudsman: It is important to filter what information is available to children​

On March 3, representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office participated in a discussion organised by the foundation “Centrs Dardedze” on harmful sexual behaviour of children and young people. During the discussion, among other things, the spread of pornographic material among children and adolescents was discussed, which often leads to manifestations of sexual behaviour that is inappropriate to their age and even violations committed by children.

The Ombudsman calls on parents and other persons responsible for raising children to use the opportunity to install free content filters on Internet resources and to do everything possible to protect the child from information that could be harmful to their full development.

Discussion on examples of good practice at international level

On 2 March, Ombudsman Juris Jansons and Legal Counsellor of the Social, Economic and Cultural Rights Division Anete Ilves, delivered online presentations at the United Nations (UN) and North Macedonia Ombudsperson’s Regional Conference “Strengthening National Human Rights Institutions as independent monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

The Ombudsman discussed the functions and rights of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Latvia, also in relation to the monitoring of compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Anete Ilves, in turn, talked about examples of best practice and the Ombudsman’s cooperation with non-governmental organisations.