National Preventive Mechanism

National Preventive Mechanism is an independent mechanism, one of the main responsibilities of which is to make regular visits to institutions where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty to prevent the risks of ill-treatment, for example, in orphanages, nursing homes, psychoneurological hospitals, prisons, detention facilities for detained foreigners and asylum seekers.

The Additional Protocol

On 9 January 2022, Latvia became the 91st country where the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Additional Protocol) 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 ratification of the Additional Protocol reaffirms that the Ombudsman’s institution has all the rights referred to in the Protocol to carry out the tasks of the national preventive mechanism for the prevention of torture in Latvia. It is important to note that this function is not new for the Ombudsman — from the very beginning, the Office’s staff has been conducting visits to institutions closed to the general public.

The Additional Protocol aims to improve the protection of the rights enshrined in the Convention, to eradicate the practice of abuse of state power and to improve conditions in places of detention. The Additional Protocol provides for a dual system of supervision of places of detention: international and national. International Monitoring Mechanism - International Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, composed of member states’ experts.

Key events before the ratification of the Additional Protocol

Already in 2017, a government decision entrusted the Ombudsman with the function of the preventive mechanism. Consequently, a unique situation arose in Latvia, because although the Additional Protocol had not yet been ratified, the state already laid the foundations for the establishment of the national preventive mechanism provided for in the Additional Protocol.

On 1 March 2018, the Prevention Division was established in the Ombudsman's Office, the main task of which is to conduct regular visits to institutions where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty, with the aim to prevent the risks of ill-treatment.

It should be noted that Latvia ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter - the Convention) already in 1992. Thus, Latvia expressed the position that no one should be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Activities of the Ombudsman for the ratification of the Additional Protocol:

  1. In 2012, the Ombudsman addressed the Prime Minister V. Dombrovskis with a request to express a position on the possibility of signing and forwarding the Additional Protocol to the Saeima (the Parliament).
  2. The response provided by the Cabinet of Ministers on 30 March 2012 (No. 18 / TA - 423/4001) indicated that the ratification of the Additional Protocol could be updated in the future, while noting that the scope of the Ombudsman's powers largely correspond with the functions of the national preventive mechanism.
  3. Letter No. 1-5 / 125 of the Ombudsman of 8 June 2016 to the Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis with a request to take appropriate measures to ratify the Additional Protocol as soon as possible. See here.
  4. Examining the letter sent on 8 June 2016, the Prime Minister expressed support for the ratification of the Additional Protocol, instructing the Ministry of Justice to prepare an informative report on the options for the implementation of the Additional Protocol. In this way, ensuring the gradual implementation of the Additional Protocol and the improvement of respect for human rights in Latvia. See here.
  5. By the Cabinet of Ministers Order No.  626 on 26 October 2016 "On the Working Party on the Information Report on Options for Implementing the Additional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" a working group was set up to draw up an information report on the implementation of the Additional Protocol. See here.
  6. In the information report, the Ministry of Justice acknowledged the usefulness of ratifying the Additional Protocol and, in case of ratification of the Additional Protocol, the most appropriate and optimal option for Latvia was to entrust the function of the national preventive mechanism to the Ombudsman's Office. On 9 May 2017, after the approval of the draft law "On the State Budget for 2018" and the draft law "On the Medium-Term Budget Framework for 2018, 2019 and 2020", the Latvian government decided to join the Additional Protocol. See here.
  7. In May 2017, Ombudsman sent a letter to the President of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis with a request to provide support for the ratification of the Additional Protocol.
  8. On 12 February 2020, the Ombudsman received a letter from the Ministry of Justice No. 1-9.3 / 143 (registered on 13.02.2020 with No. 131) with a request to provide opinions and proposals on the draft law "On the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or types of punishment Optional Protocol "(hereinafter – the draft law).
  9. On 16 February 2020, the Ombudsman submitted his proposals to the draft law "On the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment".
  10. On 9 January 2022, Latvia became the 91st country where the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Additional Protocol) has entered into force.