Latvian Prosecutor General wants to criminalize hate speech against the LGBT community and seniors

Submitted by ILGA-Europe

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Latvian Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers has said that there should be a discussion in Latvia about the criminalization of hateful comments against such social groups as the LGBT people, pensioners and disabled people.

The current Criminal Law of Latvia includes liability for promotion of national, ethnical and racial hate.

There is also no legal regulation for hateful comments in connection with historic dates such as March 16 and May 9 – comments about the public events and their participants.

“Here we should think about including hate speech in the Latvian Criminal Law, because that would allow for a broader definition of hate speech. I am not trying to say that it has to be done immediately, but I think that it is worth thinking about it. I can provide with an example, which does not have a legal solution at the moment. A person declares that those who on March 16 and May 9 go to the Monument of Freedom or the Monument of Victory should be shot dead. It is a clear example of hate speech. Is it promotion of national, ethnic or racial hate? There are people of different ethnicities gathering by these monuments. We are helpless because the law does not provide regulation for such situations” [paraphrased from Mr. Kalnmeiers].

The new legal regulation would include such groups as homosexual people, disabled people, the elderly, or other social groups that are social minorities.

“It would also be considered hate speech when somebody would say that pensioners greatly harm the social budget, and therefore they should be exterminated. We should also consider how widely we should apply such norms – are we going to consider such speech a crime or not? Currently we still lack experience. We could get go overboard with this, therefore we should carefully analyze the experience of other countries” – [paraphrased from Mr. Kalnmeiers].

In Europe there are currently very few countries where there would be a special law that would protect, for example, the homosexual people. “In general, most countries apply universal rights norms without specifically singling out concrete groups. Universal norms are applied for their protection – norms for hooliganism, bodily injury and others. Currently we have only three factors: national, ethnic and racial hate. It is a narrow division, but it does not protect, for example, sexual minorities” – [paraphrased from Mr. Kalnmeiers].

If the Criminal Law featured a new regulation, then there should also be an explanation of that hate speech includes not only verbal but also written speech. “Therefore, those would also be Internet comments, interviews, publications and public appearances,” said Mr. Kalnmeiers.

He thinks that the responsible Saeima (Latvian parliament) commission and experts should discuss such regulation. “This issue as an idea should be discussed among legal specialists and members of the parliament,” said Prosecutor General.

Article 78 of the [Latvian] Criminal Law currently states that for an action that is deliberately meant to provoke hate (which is based on national, ethnic or racial basis or discord), one might be sentenced to up to three years of imprisonment, obligatory community service or a fine.

For the same kind of action, if it is related to violence, fraud or threats, or if it has been committed by a group of persons or a state official, or if it has been committed by using an automated data processing system – the law foresees imprisonment to up to ten years.

38 criminal procedures from January 1, 2009 until June 30, 2012 have been initiated for such crimes based on the aforementioned Criminal Law article. Of these criminal procedures, 35 were initiated for articles or comments on the Internet, and only three such cases have been about other actions.

In this time period, criminal procedures have mostly been initiated for turning against Latvians or the Latvian State, against Russians or Russian-speakers or for turning against Jews.

Mr. Kalnmeiers has earlier admitted that currently, while investigating cases of this category, neither the prosecutor nor the investigators have been specialists who can determine if a comment contained hate or not.

Oftentimes university professors and human rights experts are invited to provide their opinion about the contents of a comment. When such documents [expert opinion] have been received, the investigating institution decides whether to consider criminal liability.

Originally published by and BNS on October 29, 2012:, adapted in English by

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