Available statistical data on Roma’s inclusion and achievement within the Latvian education system raises serious concerns. Among the 5,985 Romani people who were fifteen years old or older at the time of the last census in 2000, 24.3 per cent have not completed the fourth grade. For comparison, only 2.1 per cent of the Latvian general population has not completed primary education.
Within the first nine months of 2005, there have been no court cases related to racism, xenophobia and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, race, religion or language in the area of employment. However, this year court delivered first rulings in two cases of discrimination on the grounds of 1) sexual orientation and 2) multiple grounds – sex and property status based on the anti-discriminatory clauses of the Labour Law. In both cases court ruled that anti-discrimination clauses were violated. The number of complaints of discrimination in employment received by special bodies remains very low: only the Latvian National Human Rights Office has received two complaints on alleged discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity.
Latvia has over 100 places of detention: 9 mental hospitals, 31 social care home, 15 prisons, 28 State police short-term detention cells, detention rooms at border posts, an illegal migrant detention facility at Olaine, and other facilities holding persons deprived of liberty by state authority. During the project „Monitoring Human Rights and Prevention of Torture in Closed Institutions: Prisons, Police Cells and Mental Health Care Institutions in Baltic Countries” 102 monitoring visits were conducted, including 15 visits to mental hospitals, 23 visits to social care homes for mentally disabled, 21 visit to state and municipal police custody facilities, 22 visits to prisons, 21 visit to illegal migrant detention facilities (and reception centre for asylum seekers and refugees).
In Latvia, similarly to many other new EU member states, institutional care at psychiatric hospitals and social care homes at present is the most widespread form of care for users of mental health services. In January 2005 Latvia, together with other countries of the European Region of World Health Organisation (WHO) signed the Mental Health Declaration and Mental Health Plan of Action for Europe 2005 – 2010, which demands that the relevant authorities in each member state introduce a mental health policy and legislation harmonized with international standards and develop public care for persons with serious mental disorders to replace care in large institutions. However, to date deinstitutionalisation and development of community based services is progressing slowly.
The policy paper provides an overview of closed institutions in Latvia and key trends in their reform since the country regained independence in 1991, highlights the role of international organisations (relevant UN, Council of Europe bodies, European Commission) in assessing Latvia’s compliance with international human rights standards in closed facilities and their conclusions and recommendations concerning the work of domestic inspection bodies.