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DETENTION CONDITIONS AND INTER-PRISONER VIOLENCE IN LATVIA FLAGGED BY EXPERTS OF THE COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE

21 November 2019

The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Latvia on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Committee Members’ questions focused on detention conditions. They notably expressed concerns about inter-prisoner violence and the related criminal subculture.

Ana Racu, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Latvia, requested information on non-governmental organizations’ access to places of detention. She asked several questions on detention conditions, including on the surface per prisoner, and flagged in particular inter-prisoner violence. A hierarchy among prisoners, and the related criminal subculture, was reportedly a factor contributing to such violence. Some features of the Latvian system could complexify efforts to address inter-prisoner violence, notably the prevalence of large dormitories. The Committee would be grateful for information on mechanisms for the recording and reporting of violent incidents.

The Committee, like other international human rights organizations, remained concerned about the detention conditions in some facilities. The Giva Section of the Daugavgriva Prison was in an advanced state of dilapidation: walls were crumbling, the ventilation was poor, there was no access to natural light, and there was poor hygiene. Another source of concern was the detention conditions in the Riga Central Prison.

Delegates said that each prison’s medical facility was equipped with an “injury log” where absolutely every injury was recorded. After receiving a report about an injury, the prison administration investigated the circumstances of the injury. On the situation in the Giva Section of the Daugavgriva Prison and the Central Prison of Riga, delegates pointed out that relevant laws had been amended recently. They outlined the norms related to residential areas of prisons. They notably stipulated that the residential area for one detainee may not be smaller than four square meters.

Latvia recognized the risk of an informal hierarchy of prisoners, that is the fact that prisoners put themselves into different categories, the delegation said. The Prison Administration did not support such categorization and took all necessary steps to minimize related risks. The informal categorization of prisoners in the hierarchy was an integral part of a subculture of prisoners, which was largely inherited from the Soviet Union prison system and existed as well as in other countries, including European Union countries.

In his concluding remarks, Andris Pelšs, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, thanked the Committee for its thought-provoking questions and comments. Outlining Latvia’s achievements, he said the Government would consider the recommendations of the Committee carefully.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, recalled that the Committee would request that the State party submit a report on the implementation of three urgent recommendations. He thanked the delegation and encouraged the State party to disseminate the Committee’s recommendations.

The delegation of Latvia was comprised of representatives of the Law Commission, the Police Headquarters, the Prison Department, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Interior, and the Permanent Mission of Latvia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 26 November to consider the initial report of Niger (CAT/C/NER/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the sixth periodic report of Latvia (CAT/C/LVA/6).

Presentation of the Report

ANDRIS PELŠS, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, said Latvia unequivocally condemned torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and worked closely with international and supranational organizations to prevent all forms of ill-treatment. Article 89 of the Constitution stated that Latvia recognised and protected fundamental rights in accordance with the Constitution, laws and international agreements binding upon Latvia. The Criminal Law was amended in 2015 to include a definition of torture. This ensured a systemic approach to the criminalization of torture as laid down in article 1 of the Convention. This would also help the national authorities to distinguish between the notions of torture and of ill-treatment, clarifying the threshold between both, and ensure consistency as envisaged by the Committee in its General Comment No.2 of 2008.

One of the most important measures taken by Latvia during the reporting period was the establishment of the Internal Security Bureau as an independent institution overseen by the Minister of Interior. In November 2015, the Law on the Internal Security Bureau entered into force, authorizing the Internal Security Bureau to conduct investigations into alleged criminal offences committed by the officials and employees of law enforcement authorities. The Bureau also encouraged the authorities to improve their internal risk management and participated in their risk identification and evaluation process, as well as facilitated the involvement of the society, thereby contributing to the prevention of offences. In comparison to 2017 and 2018, the number of cases that the Bureau had sent for prosecution had increased by 67 per cent.

A noteworthy step towards an effective court system was the judicial map reform, which had been completed in March 2018. The main goals of the reform were to balance the caseload of courts within one region, to enhance the specialization of judges, to increase the overall quality of court rulings, as well as to reduce the length of the proceedings and ensure the efficient use of court resources.

The Government had introduced different new forms of communication, like skype calls and family days that allowed several categories of prisoners to meet their relatives. Since 2014, a four-square-metres per prisoner rule had been enforced in all prisons, and addiction reduction programmes were introduced in a newly built Addiction Centre in the Olaine prison. The building of the new prison in Liepâja was among the priorities of the Government.

Since 2014, Latvia had made significant progress in creating a legal framework to prevent domestic violence and protect victims of such violence. The amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law strengthened the procedural safeguards and opportunities for victims of domestic violence to report perpetrators. The Criminal Law had been amended to include an aggravating element, namely, cases when actions were committed against a person to whom the perpetrator was related in the first or second degree of kinship. Police officers and judges were provided with specific training to recognize various forms of domestic violence. The Government’s next priority was to introduce an effective prevention mechanism against domestic violence and abuse. The challenge was to agree on a model that would be acceptable for all stakeholders and that would be financially viable in the meantime.

As noted in the previous periodic reports, and in light with the Committee’s concluding observations of 2013, Latvia was committed to reduce the number of non-citizens in the country. On 17 October 2019, Parliament passed a new law “On the Discontinuation of the Non-Citizen’s Status for Children” which provided termination of the granting of the status of a non-citizen to children born to non-citizen parents after 1 January 2020, and recognized them automatically as citizens of Latvia.

A number of training sessions for civil servants, law enforcement officials, and judicial officials had taken place during the reporting period. The training covered a wide variety of questions, including international law and human rights law. Judges were regularly offered professional development courses and lectures on, for example, effective enforcement of the prohibition of torture. Prosecutors of all structural units of the prosecutor’s office participated in seminars, training courses and lectures at the local and international level; officials of the Prison Administration and police officers were offered continuous professional training

In conclusion, Mr. Pelšs highlighted the role of the national human rights institution – the Ombudsman’s Office, which had provided valuable comments on the draft periodic report. These comments had been incorporated in the report. The Ombudsman’s Office also functioned as the national preventive mechanism for the purposes of the Optional Protocol to the Convention. It had received additional funding to carry out this mandate.

Questions by the Committee Experts

DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ-PINZÓN, Co-Rapporteur for Latvia, noted with concern that the definition of torture included in national legislation did not reflect all the elements of article 1 of the Convention. The comprehensive definition of torture was not enshrined in a standalone criminal law. Could the State party clarify whether the legal provisions on abuse of authority effectively covered acts of torture perpetrated by agents of the State, with their consent or acquiescence, as the Convention required?

It was not clear what happened when torture was committed with the acquiescence of State agents. Depending on how section 317 of the Criminal Law was interpreted, it seemed that, if the bodily injuries inflicted by a public official were serious or moderate, the penalty could be deprivation of liberty for up to one year or community service or a fine. If that was the case, it would not be proportionate to the gravity of acts of torture.

Turning to fundamental legal safeguards, the Co-Rapporteur asked if detainees were informed of the reasons for their detention, and requested data on cases where complaints had been made when detainees’ right to contact a lawyer had not been respected.

The Committee was concerned about the existence of cases in which the assistance of lawyers appointed by the State did not guarantee the right to a real and effective defence. The Ombudsman had reported an increase in the number of complaints in this regard and had been warning for several years that vulnerable people had limited access to justice and that the legal assistance provided by the State was insufficient. This was affecting these people’s right to due process. Could the State party indicate how the performance of lawyers provided by the State was monitored?

The length of pretrial detention had not changed for persons indicted or accused of more serious crimes. The Co-Rapporteur requested that the State party provide the Committee with the number of persons in pretrial detention from 2014 to today, broken down by year. What criteria were used to distinguish minor criminal offenses from more serious crimes? As indicated by the State party, this affected the maximum permissible length of preventive detention.

Could the State party indicate promptly if a limit had been established on the length of detention in small police stations?

On the right to a fair trial, the Committee had requested the State party to provide updated information on the progress made in reforming the judicial system to increase speed and efficiency. There had been an increase in the duration of trials in the regional criminal courts since 2014. Had the State party been able to determine what the causes may be?

Turning to the disproportionate use of force, the Co-Rapporteur asked why the State Security Service was not subject to the supervision of the Office of Internal Security, and what was the institution in charge of effectively, impartially and independently investigating crimes committed by officials of the State Security Service.

Although there had been improvements thanks to the new institutional architecture, the current structure still did not fully guarantee the necessary independence of the complaints’ mechanism dealing with denunciations of acts of physical violence and ill-treatment by police officers. Would the State party consider attaching the Office of Internal Security to the Office of the Attorney General?
There had been 330 cases presented to the Office of Internal Security from November 2015 to December 2016. The Committee was concerned that in that year only eight cases resulted in criminal convictions, that is just under 2.5 per cent of the complaints, even though this marked an improvement in comparison to previous years. The Committee hoped that the State party could provide updated data on the number of criminal convictions for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The Co-Rapporteur requested information on the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and international norms related to the use of force and firearms. It could not be determined, on the basis of the information provided by the State party, whether training provided between 2014 and 2018 covered the Convention.

The Ombudsman still faced financial limitations according to information received by the Committee, which notably limited the salaries of its employees which were lower than that of other employees of the State, in violation of the Paris Principles. Was the State party considering measures to increase the Office of the Ombudsman’s budgetary allocations and did it support calls for its constitutionalization?

On domestic violence, all cases should lead to impartial investigations. He asked the delegation to explain fluctuations in the number of reported complaints. How many cases of rape or other forms of domestic violence had led to complaints and sanctions since 2016?

Regarding human trafficking, the Committee had been informed that judges and prosecutors had the power to requalify crimes prosecuted under anti-trafficking laws. What measures had been taken to ensure that this practice did not lead to a perception of lax treatment of the crime of human trafficking? Information on the training provided to judicial and law-enforcement officials on the prevention and investigation of this crime would also be welcome.

The Committee acknowledged the efforts made by the State party regarding the situation of the “non-citizens” and noted that as of January 2020 children born to “non-citizen” parents would be automatically granted Latvian citizenship. However, it seemed that Parliament had not extended citizenship to all children under 15 years. Could the delegation confirm this and provide more information on the matter?

Would the State party consider adapting asylum laws to exclude the detention of persons with special needs? The Co-Rapporteur also requested data on the number of minors who had been detained every year since 2013.

On reparations and compensation of victims, the Co-Rapporteur noted that depending on the gravity of the crime, each victim received approximately 1,200 euros for serious bodily harm and 800 euros for lesser bodily harm. These amounts seemed low given the seriousness of the crime. How were they determined?

ANA RACU, Co-Rapporteur for Latvia, starting with training on the prevention of torture, asked if training sessions reflected the real needs of target groups. It was good that surveys were used to assess training. Did the Government use them in designing further training programmes for specific categories of the law enforcement personnel?

The Committee insisted on training by virtue of article 10 of the Convention, and because duly trained staff could be one of the guarantees that human rights were effectively respected. Before punishing its agents, the State should offer opportunities for training.

The Ombudsman was the only human rights-based monitoring mechanism in Latvia which conducted visits to prisons and other places of detention. Due to its rather limited capacity and resources, places of detention issues were not always a priority for the Office of the Ombudsman. The State party’s report did not include a lot of detail on the visits. How many visits had been carried out in the last four years and to which places of detention? Were the Ombudsman’s findings related to places of detention made public? To what extent had this body’s recommendations been taken into consideration by law-enforcement agencies and other State institutions?

Had Latvian authorities engaged with the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture as part of their preparation to sign the Optional Protocol?

The Co-Rapporteur requested information on non-governmental organizations’ access to places of detention. Could they talk to detainees in a confidential setting?

She commended the State party for the completion of renovations works and the closing down of the temporary facility of Dobele of the Zemgale regional board, which had been criticized by the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.

To which extent had the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and United Nations standards been taken into consideration in the reconstruction of facilities? In particular, the Co-Rapporteur requested information about surface per prisoner and the capacity of the 21 detention units that had been renovated.

The Committee, like other international human rights organizations, remained concerned about the detention conditions in some facilities. The Giva Section of the Daugavgriva Prison was in an advanced state of dilapidation: walls were crumbling, the ventilation was poor, there was no access to natural light, and there was poor hygiene. Information on reconstruction works that were ongoing in this facility would be appreciated. Another source of concern was the detention conditions in the Riga Central Prison.

The Co-Rapporteur drew the delegation’s attention to the situation of prisoners with disabilities, who often relied on other inmates to get assistance around the prison. Prisoners with disabilities faced difficult conditions and possibly suffering, which could be prevented without imposing a disproportionate burden on the institution according to the Ombudsman. In 2015, the Ombudsman had urged the Minister of Justice to adapt the environment of Latvian detention facilities to persons with disabilities. What had been done in this respect?

The phenomenon of inter-prisoner violence was not new for the Latvian system and still represented a challenge for the prison administration and a concern for the Committee. A hierarchy among prisoners was reportedly a factor contributing to violence among prisoners and in some cases it had even increased due to a lack sufficiently effective investigations. It was linked to a criminal subculture, remarked the Co-Rapporteur.

Although prisoners who could become or were subjects of violence were being isolated as much as possible, this was not always effective and not always possible for a variety of objective reasons, such as insufficient staff and outdated infrastructure. Foreigners and other categories of inmates such as homosexuals were exposed to a higher risk of violence and should be particularly protected. Some incidents of violence against foreigners had been registered in the Riga Central Prison. The foreign inmates had limited opportunity to complain since most of the staff did not speak English.

The State party had provided some general information on video surveillance and the establishment of a special department for former law enforcement employees, but there was no concrete information on the exact measures that had been implemented to reduce the level of violence among prisoners. As for self-injuries and suicides, what was Latvia’s long-term strategy to tackle the inter-prisoner violence?

The Committee would be grateful for information on mechanisms for the recording and reporting of violent incidents. Addressing inter-prisoner violence required an alert and properly trained staff.

Further, prisoners needed to be offered a constructive regime, with a range of purposeful activities. In addition, the prison system as a whole may need to develop the capacity to ensure that potentially incompatible categories of prisoners were not accommodated together. Reducing overcrowding and providing inmates with adequate living conditions, including a progressive regime, would also be positive.

The Committee knew that solitary confinement was widely applied, not necessarily as a punishment. Was solitary confinement applied to all categories of prisoners? Were there any legal provisions that foresaw appeals of decisions to impose solitary confinement? The Co-Rapporteur also asked if solitary confinement was still applicable to minors and if people placed in solitary confinement were still denied family visits.

The Latvian prison system was apparently confronting a serious shortage of staff - at least in some establishments such as Daugavgriva, Jelgava and Riga Central Prison. During its last visit to Latvia, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture had noted a sporadic presence of custodial staff in these prisons as well as a high number of vacancies. The Committee would like to receive an update on the staffing level.

Turning to prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment, the Co-Rapporteur thanked the State party for its willingness to adopt some of the recommendations made by the Committee and the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture. All the efforts that had been made by the Government were a step forward and the Committee asked about further initiatives in that regard. Could the State party inform the Committee on the number of prisoners who had been convicted to life imprisonment to date? Did they have any possibility to submit complaints and speak privately with monitoring bodies?

Latvia's prisons continued to be impacted by the Soviet legacy and economic crises, which inevitably had had an effect on the provision of healthcare services. The European Committee on the Prevention of Torture had been concerned to learn that some establishments had not been attended by a general practitioner (e.g. Cesis Correctional Institution) or by a dentist or a psychiatrist (e.g. Daugavgriva Prison) for a very long time. What had been done in this respect?

The supply of medication in prison appeared to be problematic, with only very basic medicines being provided to prisoners free-of-charge. In this regard, many prisoners complained that they depended on their families for the acquisition of most of the necessary medication. It was commendable that now the information on medical examination was recorded in the "Injury log" and in the "Injury Examination Sheet". However, in most cases injuries were not described in sufficient detail. Further, prisoners' statements as to the origin of their injuries were not always recorded, and, as a rule, the doctor's conclusions on the consistency of any recorded statements with the injuries were missing.

In 2014, 139 decisions were adopted on violations of prisoners' penal regime related to the infliction of bodily injuries; in 2015 there had been 142 such decisions, and 154 in 2016. In 2016, the Ombudsperson had received in total 14 complaints related to psychological and physical violence among prisoners. Could the delegation shed more light on these complaints?

How many prisoners benefited from the medical services within the new Drug Addiction Centre?

On juveniles in detention, there had been some progress in terms of material conditions, open-door regime and extra-regime activities, and social and educational programmes. The fact that Latvia had only 42 convicted minors was also commendable. Some positive developments in providing alternatives to detention for children in conflict with the law had been registered. The Committee noted that the Ministry of Justice had proposed amendments to the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law to reduce the number of minors in the traditional incarceration system by increasing the use of probation and other alternative re-socialization methods. Could the delegation provide an update on whether the Latvian Legislature (Saeima) had approved the amendments and whether the content of the amendments had changed?

According to the recently amended United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, solitary confinement was inappropriate for juveniles. The Special Rapporteur on torture had concluded that the use of solitary confinement against children was considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and could amount to torture. Could the delegation provide information on the number of instances of solitary confinement imposed on juveniles?

The Co-Rapporteur also requested information on measures taken to improve detention conditions of women. Were any programmes implemented in that regard with the support of civil society organizations?

Finally, the situation of persons in psychiatric institutions had attracted the Committee’s attention. The patient's consent should be sought for both hospitalization and medical treatment and should also be reflected in the patient’s medical records. Had the preparation of the specific regulations concerning the procedures for the use of means of restraint been completed, including mechanical restraint? What measures had been taken to improve staffing conditions at Strenèi Psychiatric Hospital?

Other Experts raised concerns about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals and children admitted to psychiatric hospitals, amongst other issues.

Responses by the Delegation

ANDRIS PELŠS, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, clarified that the non-citizen status had been created to regularize the situation of people who had immigrated during the Soviet occupation, but who had never been citizens of Latvia. He stressed that non-citizens could now become Latvian citizens through a naturalization procedure. He recalled that changes would enter into force in 2020 that would automatically recognize children born to non-citizens as citizens of Latvia. The requirements for applicants had been simplified, so had language examinations, including for people who had studied in Latvia for more than half of primary school.

Non-citizens of Latvia were not stateless persons. There were major distinctions between non-citizens and stateless persons: the former did not need to apply for residence permits and could not be expelled. People born to stateless persons were granted Latvian citizenship at the same time as their parents and measures were in place for them to obtain Latvian citizenship if their parents did not request it for themselves.

Regarding the budget of the Ombudsman’s Office, it stood at 1,541,027 euros in 2019. Its staff had been increased from 46 to 51 in 2018. The estimated budget for 2020 was 1,498,479 euros. The Government considered recommendations stemming from the work of the Ombudsman in good faith. If the Office of the Ombudsman believed its recommendations had not been followed for no objective reasons, it could bring the case before the Constitutional Court, something which it had done on numerous occasions. This body regularly participated in inter-institutional working groups that elaborated draft legislation and policy planning documents.

On the definition of torture, delegates explained that acts of torture were included in several articles of the Criminal Law as qualifying elements. Discrimination was a separate criminal act, and if torture was committed on a discriminatory basis, charges were brought against the perpetrator on the basis of several articles of the Criminal Law. In 2018 and 2019, five persons had been convicted for acts of torture.

Responding to a question about the definition of community service, delegates said it was a compulsory participation in public service, which was imposed as punishment to a convict. It was done as specified by a probation officer during the convict’s free time outside of regular employment or studies and without remuneration.

The law clearly stated that compensation paid by the State did not limit the rights of the victim to obtain compensation under criminal procedures. If victims considered the compensation insufficient, they could request further compensation through civil procedures. In 2017, the State had paid compensation in 766 instances totalling 875,238 euros. In 2018, it had paid a total of 966,330 euros related to 869 cases.

Parliament was reviewing amendments to the Criminal Law which aimed at improving the sanctions regime pertaining to juveniles. The goal was to reduce the number of cases leading to imprisonment by giving priority to probation supervision. The amendments clarified when and how prosecutors could discontinue criminal proceedings against juveniles to apply administrative measures.

The Prison Administration organized the training of medical practitioners working in prisons four times per year. In 2019, training had been provided on topics such as HIV and the introduction of an e-health system in prisons.

Each prison’s medical facility was equipped with an “injury log” where absolutely every injury was recorded. After receiving a report about an injury, the Prison Administration conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the injury. The Office of the Ombudsman had the right to visit detention sites in Latvia without a special permit, and representatives of non-governmental organizations had to submit a request, following which the Chief of the Prisons Office decided whether to allow the visit or not.

On the situation in the Giva Section of the Daugavgriva Prison and the Central Prison of Riga, delegates pointed out that relevant laws had been amended recently. They outlined the norms related to residential areas of prisons. They notably stipulated that the residential area for one detainee may not be less than four square meters.

Latvia recognized the risk of an informal hierarchy of prisoners, that is the fact that prisoners put themselves into different categories. The Prison Administration did not support such categorization and took all necessary steps to minimize such risks.

Thus, the division of prisoners into categories was not linked to the conduct of the Prison Administration staff. The informal categorization of prisoners in the hierarchy was an integral part of a subculture of prisoners, which was largely inherited from the Soviet Union prison system. It should be noted that it existed as well as in other countries, including European Union countries. The Government categorically did not support or promote the hierarchy of prisoners but took it into account as a risk to minimize inter-prisoner violence.

The Government had set up “placement commissions” in all prisons which placed prisoners in cells based on medical, security and crime prevention criteria.

Prison staff communicated with inmates in English and Russian without difficulty. To ensure communication in languages that were less common, information technology solutions were used, such as tablets equipped with translation software, notably in the Daugavgriva Prison.

Regarding the use of solitary confinement against minors, delegates said that in 2019, there had only been one case of a minor who had been subjected to it, for two consecutive periods of 10 and 8 days. However, this punishment had been imposed with time intervals so the detainee could contact family and relatives.

There were currently 14 minors held in pretrial detention and 19 minors serving prison sentences.

Detainees condemned to life sentences did not spend 23 hours in their cells without access to activities. Convicts had the opportunity to spend time outside their cells, including to watch television, receive care and engage in professional and educational activities.

Medical checks were performed on prisoners in line with the basic health inspection plans. Recommendations and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health had to be complied with. In total, inmates underwent four to five medical checks per year.

The number of women in prison fluctuated, increasing to approximately 9 per cent in 2019 from 7 per cent in 2014. They had access to various forms of vocational training and had access to art studios. Music and language lessons as well as art therapy was offered to them.

On fundamental legal safeguards, police officials who placed persons in temporary detention had to comply with the relevant protocol. They prepared a document which stated the reason for detention. The detained person had to be immediately informed of the motive of detention as well as of their rights, including the right to remain silent.

The Civil Code did not make a distinction based on the victim’s gender in addressing domestic violence. Police officers were trained to deal with various types of families and violence. About 44 per cent of police officers were female, that is 2,244 out of a total of 6,429 officers.

The Internal Security Bureau had been established to investigate criminal behaviour of some officials under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior. The Bureau’s role was to ensure compliance with the rule of law and impartiality principles in the investigation of alleged offences by State officials. Its positive role had been underlined by international bodies. There had been about 1,000 complaints that had led to 97 criminal investigations related to abusive use of force. Concerned State agents faced potential disciplinary sanctions.

Training on trafficking in human beings was an ongoing process coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, delegates assured.

Delegates remarked that a foreigner who had entered the country irregularly could be detained, except for minors, unless they were subject to the removal or the return procedure. Statistics showed that the number of foreigners detained as per immigrations laws was not high and had been declining. Only 37 foreigners had been detained in 2018.

Asylum-seekers could be detained in line with asylum laws. Detention was subject to the principle of proportionality, taking into account the individual’s situation; when applying restrictive measures, officials should assess each case accordingly. The number of detained asylum seekers was also declining.

Latvia had adopted a plan to increase awareness of mental health care issues and increase access to such care. All psychiatric institutions were visited as part of a monitoring process managed by the Ministry of Health, and their staff was trained on constraint through physical and chemical means.

Follow-Up Questions by Committee Members

DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ-PINZÓN, Co-Rapporteur for Latvia, thanked the delegation for its responses. The Committee now understood better what “non-citizens” were. The Co-Rapporteur encouraged the State party to consider further measures to facilitate naturalization cases. Policy was always perfectible.

He requested additional information on cases of persons convicted of torture. Was the crime of attempted torture punished under the law?

ANA RACU, Co-Rapporteur for Latvia, requested additional information on the monitoring function of the Office of the Ombudsman. How many visits had been carried out by this body in the last four year? Were the recommendations it had issued subsequently made public?

The Committee would appreciate information on plans, if any, to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

The Co-Rapporteur noted that some features of the Latvian system posed a challenge to efforts to address inter-prisoner violence, notably the prevalence of large dormitories.

Follow-Up Replies by the Delegation

Delegates said that attempting to torture someone was a criminal act as per the criminal law. Attempting to commit any criminal act was a criminal act.

Regarding the prison situation, information would be provided in writing about the number of visits conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman. The Prison Administration took the Ombudsman’s recommendations seriously. The recommendations of the Ombudsman were made public in the Latvian language.

Very often, the attitude of staff was an important issue. A project was underway to provide training to staff and select staff members accordingly.

The Government was looking at ways to further improve placement to prevent inter-prisoner violence, considering the hierarchy issue.

More information about injuries and deaths in prison would be provided in writing.

Upon being admitted to a prison, every prisoner was examined, and information was passed on to the relevant governmental bodies.

Policer officers, prison guards and judicial officers received training on the Convention. Components on the Convention were included in both basic training and lifelong training. To assess the effectiveness of the training, the Government used questionnaires.

The Government had committed to launching the procedure to adhere to the Optional Protocol.

Acceding to the Istanbul Convention required a vote by Parliament. Latvia had signed the Convention in 2016, but a vote had yet to take place in Parliament on this Convention.

Concluding Remarks

ANDRIS PELŠS, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, thanked the Committee for its thought-provoking questions and comments. Outlining Latvia’s achievements, he said the Government would consider the recommendations of the Committee carefully.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, recalled that the Committee would request that the State party submit a report on the implementation of three urgent recommendations. He thanked the delegation and encouraged the State party to disseminate the Committee’s recommendations.


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