Publication of the Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2021
The Ombudsman has prepared and published the 2021 Annual Report, available here. The report presents information on the progress made in such areas as civil and political rights, social, economic and cultural rights and children’s rights. Key developments in raising public awareness and international cooperation are also listed. For the convenience of readers, a summary of the Ombudsman’s report is also available.
“First, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone who trusts the work of myself and my team. I appreciate that, at the beginning of last year, I was entrusted with leading the team of the Ombudsman’s Office for a third consecutive term. In the last ten years, much has been done to significantly improve the importance and role of human rights in Latvia, but just as much remains to be done,” says Ombudsman Juris Jansons.
The Ombudsman notes that 2021 has been productive: in parallel to the many issues under the Office’s supervision, the day-to-day agenda and tasks of the experts of the Office were increasingly guided by the COVID-19 pandemic, at almost all levels. In this context, the lack of high-quality and easy-to-understand information is what gave the public a false impression of what human rights is, how far they go and whether or not they can be restricted.
“The COVID-19 crisis has led to divisions within society and even raised doubts about the rule of law and democracy in Latvia in part of the population,” argues J. Jansons. The worsening epidemiological situation in the country as a whole and the overburdened healthcare system in the autumn of 2021 reflected the consequences of the government’s indecisive stance – the government avoided adapting epidemiological security measures to the increasing level of threat and to epidemiologists’ predictions, and did not pay sufficient attention to increasing the vaccination coverage.
Public awareness activities also played an important role, and the public could participate in or watch remote discussions on the new assistant service model for people with disabilities, gender stereotypes in advertising, the role of the ombudsman in relations between politicians and civil servants, the importance of digital skills in the daily lives of people with disabilities, access to justice for people with disabilities, the role of art in the context of rights and others. Through these discussions, the relevant human rights topics were once again highlighted for decision-makers, social partners and the general public.
Work on educating the younger generation continued in 2021 – representatives of the Ombudsman’s office delivered lectures to students on the latest developments in the data protection sector, electoral literacy and understanding of legal documents. Furthermore, public officials had the opportunity to attend lectures delivered by the experts of the Ombudsman’s Office on human trafficking and prevention issues.
The Ombudsman also actively followed the tensions on the Latvian-Belarusian border and would like to commend the great cooperation with the State Border Guard. The Ombudsman pointed out that, in this complex national security situation, it is crucial to assess the individual situations as to whether the people on the border need support, such as emergency medical assistance, food and weather-appropriate clothing. However, the Ombudsman did not find evidence for the claims reflected in the public space about the use of violent methods against people wishing to cross the border.
A noteworthy set of conclusions was issued at the end of the year with concrete proposals on improving the quality of investigations of sexual offences against children. In 2021, the Ombudsman’s Office also laid ground for victory in a Constitutional Court case they initiated, to eliminate the unjust circumstances, in which performers of economic activity must pay tax from non-existent profits.
“The role of human rights is gaining increasing importance in our daily lives. We will continue our work to educate, highlight problems and propose solutions to solve them,” J. Jansons promises.