Minority issues in Latvia, No. 16

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Subject: Minority issues in Latvia, No. 16

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Original sender: Aleksejs Dimitrovs <dimik@navigators.lv>

Minority issues in Latvia, No. 16

Minority issues in Latvia, No. 16
Prepared by the Latvian Human Rights Committee (F.I.D.H.)
June 15, 2000

Naturalization process in Latvia
The Naturalization Board of Latvia has published updated monthly
report on naturalization process in the state. The naturalization
process started on February 1, 1995. 35,295 naturalization
applications have been received since then, 33,477 applications have
remained in the register (others have been returned to applicants who
are entitled to the citizenship through registration or who were
refused to be naturalized). The citizenship of Latvia has been granted
to 29,234 persons (including 3,572 underage children who do not need 
to pass a separate application), 7,815 applications are still under 
review. During the first 4 months in 2000 about 1,065 applications 
have been received per month on the average. Soon after the release 
of the report, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a new list of the 
naturalized citizens, and the total number of new citizens reached 
the mark of 30,000. 

In the meantime, almost 600,000 permanent resident non-citizens still
live in Latvia. So, the pace of naturalization remains slow. If the
situation remains the same, resolution of the non-citizens' problem
will be dragged out for decades.

Notaries refuse to certify signatures

Latvia's NGO "Union of Citizens and Non-citizens" began a campaign of
collecting signatures to support amendments to the law on municipal
elections which would allow permanent resident non-citizens to take
part in municipal elections. Only citizens of Latvia have the right to
sign this draft law. If 10,000 signatures are collected, the Central
Electoral Committee will have to announce the second stage of the
process: number of signatures equal to 10 per cent of voters who took
part in the last parliamentary elections must be collected within one
month. At this stage, the campaign is to be financed by the state
budget - unlike the first stage, when signatories must pay themselves
for the notarial approval of their signatures. If the second stage
proves successful, a referendum on the issue must be announced.  

Notarial certification sometimes becomes a problem in some Latvian
towns (for example, in Yelgava and Bauska), where some notaries refuse
to certify signatures on political reasons. According to media
reports, the Council of Sworn Notaries of Latvia condemned this
"private initiative" of some notaries.

Popular TV program attacks Latvia's Roma

On June 4 the daily TV news program "Panorama" showed a fragment about
a woman swindler, Roma by ethnic origin, who had wheedled family
jewels out of 17-years-old girl. After that the girl attempted to
commit suicide. Authors of the fragment called "not to look into eyes
of the Roma" in order not be hypnotized. In the end of the program a
police officer called all the Roma in Latvia to return the jewels. The
Cultural Association of Roma and the Parliamentary Commission on Human
Rights and Public Affairs protested actively against this fragment.
The Prosecutor's Office received an application with a request to
bring an action against the TV program according to article 78.2 of
the Criminal Law for an infringement of equality of rights on the
basis of racial or ethnic origin. The Consultative Council attached
to the National Human Rights Office held a meeting to discuss the
case, and critisized it as leading to ethnic antagonism. The Council
decided that "Panorama" should make some special programs devoted to
cultural traditions of the Roma people in Latvia.

Alexei Dimitrov
Latvian Human Rights Committee (F.I.D.H.)

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