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Latvia: UN experts concerned about severe curtailment of minority language education

08 February 2023

GENEVA (8 February 2023) – Recent legislative changes in Latvia to limit education in the country’s minority languages are contrary to human rights standards and could constitute discrimination, UN experts* said today.

In 2022, Latvia formulated and adopted a legislation amending the country’s education system that requires all pre-school and school institutions – including bilingual institutions and those operating in minority languages to transition to instruction exclusively in Latvian.

The law aims at transitioning the language of instruction in schools and preschool institutions to be only in Latvian by September 2025 – starting with preschools and school grades 1, 4 and 7 as of September 2023.

“These amendments, which severely limit education in minority languages, are in contradiction with international human rights standards, including the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of language and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” the experts said.

Despite widespread calls for the bill to be withdrawn from consideration until related complaints pending before the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee could be dealt with, the draft legislation was submitted and ultimately adopted by the Latvian Parliament without major changes in September 2022.

“The process leading up to the adoption of the bill in Parliament did not provide for the effective and meaningful participation of affected minorities, contrary to international human rights standards,” the experts said.

“Latvian authorities must clarify the harsh restrictions on minority language education amounting to its virtual elimination, and the consultation process with the minority communities concerned,” they said.

“The Government of Latvia has an obligation under international law and regional instruments to protect and uphold the language rights of the country’s minority communities, without discrimination” the experts said.

The UN experts have been in contact with the Latvian government regarding the issue and received their response (and annex ).


*The experts: Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues; Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Alexandra Xanthaki, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Latvia

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