LATVIA: UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur expresses concern over proposed criminal case against representatives

Communication by Gribu palīdzēt bēgļiem (“I want to Help Refugees”) published on 09/05 – accessible here.

Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on human rights defenders, expressed concern about the criminal case brought against representatives of the association “I want to help refugees” and the long-standing emergency situation at the Latvian-Belarusian border.

Special rapporteur Lovlora has made public her communication with the Latvian government regarding a criminal case initiated against the representatives of the association “I want to Help Refugees” Ieva Raubiško and Egils Grasmane. The letter to the Government of Latvia, signed along with Mary Lovlor, by Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, and Obiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity, expresses concern that criminal proceedings have been initiated against the association’s representatives as a result of their legitimate efforts to defend the rights of asylum seekers.

The UN Special Rapporteurs also express serious concern about the long-standing emergency situation at the Latvia-Belarus border, which violates the right to asylum, and significantly reduces the possibilities for human rights defenders to follow the observance of rights in the border area.

The authors of the letter draw attention to Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which binds Latvia, which prohibits the expulsion of a person to another country (in this case, Belarus) if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be threatened with torture, other forms of improper treatment or irreparable harm in that country.

The UN Special Rapporteurs also stress that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Latvia acceded in 1992, precludes the adoption of laws providing for the collective expulsion of persons from the country. The authors of the letter also point out that Article 6 of the pact guarantees the right to life for all people, regardless of any differences. Under this article, states must provide special protection for vulnerable persons such as children, displaced persons, asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.

The association “I want to help refugees” is aware of several cases when children with parents and also unaccompanied minors who have tried to cross the Latvian-Belarusian border have not been allowed into Latvia. The Association would like to reiterate that the emergency severely restricts the possibilities for independent surveillance and humanitarian assistance and raises concerns about opaque state practices and possible human rights violations under the secrecy regime.