The 1922 Constitution of Latvia (as amended) guarantees the rights to life and to freedom from inhumane treatment. According to Section 93: "The right to life of everyone shall be protected by law." Section 95 provides that:
The State shall protect human honour and dignity. Torture or other cruel or degrading treatment of human beings is prohibited.
Section 103 of the Constitution governs the right of peaceful assembly:
The State shall protect the freedom of previously announced peaceful meetings, street processions, and pickets.
The Constitution does not specifically regulate the use of force by the police or other law enforcement agencies.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
Under Section 13(1) of the 1992 Law on the Police (as amended), a police officer has the right to use physical force to detain and bring offenders to police premises and to restrain arrested and detained persons and convicts during the escort, if they do not comply or resist police employees or there are grounds to believe that they may flee or cause harm to others or to themselves. Under paragraph 2 of Section 13 the type and intensity of force must be determined in view of the particular situation, the nature of the offence and the personal characteristics of the offender.
Section 14 specifically regulates the use of firearms. It is first specified that: "Shooting on purpose shall be deemed to be use of a firearm." A police officer is entitled to use a firearm "in an absolute emergency" in order to:
1) defend other persons and him or herself from attack that actually endangers life or may do harm to health, or to avert an attempt to obtain a firearm by force;
2) free hostages;
3) repel a group or armed attack on police officers or other persons who are performing the duties of the service in guaranteeing public safety and fighting crime;
4) repel a group or armed attack on facilities, premises, structures, institutions, private legal persons and unions of persons that are to be guarded;
5) arrest a person who is showing armed resistance or who is surprised in the act of committing a serious or an especially serious crime or has escaped from detention, or arrest an armed person who refuses to comply with a lawful request to hand over a weapon or explosives;
6) stop a means of transport, damaging it, if its driver through his or her actions is creating actual danger to the life or health of persons and does not submit to the request of a police officer to stop the means of transport and if there is no other way to arrest the driver....
These provisions are more permissive than international law allows.
It is further prohibited under Section 14 of the 1992 Law
to use and make use of firearms at locations where as a result of such use other persons may be injured; also, it is prohibited to use firearms against women and minors except in cases when they are executing an armed attack, show armed resistance, or by means of a group attack endanger the lives of other persons or police officers.
In its 2014 Concluding Observations on Latvia, the Human Rights Committee the intention of Latvia to reform the Internal Security Office of the State Police as well as the Prison Authority; but it remained concerned that these bodies, which were mandated to investigate unlawful conduct by members of the police and prison staff, respectively, "are not fully independent, as complaints are investigated by a police force investigator and senior members of the prison authority".
In response, in late 2014 the Latvian parliament (the Saeima) passed the Internal Security Office Law, which provided for the establishment of a new institution under the supervision of the Minister of Interior, thus taking over the functions of the Internal Security Office of the State Police in investigating of criminal offences committed by officials of the State Police. The new office, the Internal Security Bureau, began operating in late 2015.
But in its 2019 Concluding Observations on Latvia, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern that complaints of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials were still being investigated by bodies that have institutional and hierarchical relationships with the perpetrators of those acts.
The National Ombudsman can also deal with certain cases against the police. The Ombudsman is independent of the government.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2019 Concluding Observations on Latvia, the Committee against Torture expressed particular concerned that Article 129 of the Criminal Law foresees punishments of only up to one year of imprisonment, community service, or a fine for law enforcement officers who cause moderate or serious injuries to persons while arresting them
In its 2014 Concluding Observations on Latvia, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
at continued reports of instances of physical violence and ill-treatment of detainees by law enforcement personnel and the low numbers of effective investigations and disciplinary sanctions for such acts....
Jeronovičs v. Latvia (2016)
This case concerned a complaint by a man following his arrest that he had been ill-treated by police officers who had tried to obtain a confession from him and that his conviction for criminal offences should have been reopened once the government had admitted the ill-treatment (which it had also admitted in relation to a co-defendant in the criminal cases). In its judgment in the case, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights stated that:
The applicant’s right to avail himself of existing remedies in order to obtain redress has to be accompanied by a corresponding obligation on the part of the respondent Government to provide him with a remedy in the form of a procedure for investigating his ill-treatment at the hands of State agents.... The payment of compensation, be it a result of a unilateral declaration or following domestic proceedings for damages, cannot suffice, having regard to the State’s obligation under Article 3 to conduct an effective investigation in cases of wilful ill-treatment by agents of the State....
Jasinskis v. Latvia (2010)
This case concerned the death in custody of a deaf and mute boy. A chamber of the Court found a violation of the right to life on the basis of
the police's knowledge about the applicant's son's fall and his sensory disability, their failure to seek a medical opinion about his state of health coupled with their failure to react to his knocking on the doors and walls of the sobering-up cell and to call an ambulance for almost seven hours after he could not be woken up in the morning....
The Court concluded that the police had failed to fulfil their duty to safeguard the life of the applicant's son by providing him with adequate medical treatment.