Latvia – a former member of the USSR – is nestled in northeast Europe. It boasts a free market economy and has joined both the EU and NATO. However, with a long history of oppression of human rights, Latvia has struggled to acknowledge and enforce equal rights for all people. Stemming from violence suffered while under the Soviet Union, there are a few key concerns regarding the status of human rights in Latvia.
Latvia has a large number of stateless individuals – over 250,000 of the population. These people, many of whom are children, are not recognized as citizens of Latvia and do not enjoy many of the benefits that come with being a citizen. A lot of these stateless people are ethnic Russians who have difficulty becoming citizens of Latvia due to discrimination.
Discrimination against Russians carries over to many aspects of daily life. People who are not citizens of Latvia endure heavy restrictions in the professional world and are also limited regarding land ownership. Several people have been fired from positions due to possessing an unsatisfactory mastery of the Latvian language. Recently, the mayor of the capital of Latvia was fined for using Russian in a media post. This discriminatory behavior creates a barrier to achieving equal human rights in Latvia.
The U.N. has also raised concern about human rights in Latvia for the disabled. These concerns are specifically regarding the mentally disabled, and representatives for human rights have insisted the Latvian government prioritize the education of disabled children.
Latvia has the EU and the U.N. to hold them accountable for the preservation of human rights, and these organizations have certainly being doing so. While many issues create barriers to attaining the equal treatment of all people, Latvia continues to create reform to try to combat these issues – though there are definitely some areas still needing work. As long as the country is held accountable for its treatment of people, surely progress will be made.
– Julia Mccartney