Human rights education

BHRS researcher moderates discussion on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

On 12 December 2023, within the framework of the International Human Rights Day, the Ombudsman organised a discussion for legal professionals "The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in the Latvian legal space". The professionals discussed the role of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union as a human rights protection instrument and its implementation in the Latvian legal system.

The discussion was moderated by Lolita Buka, senior researcher at the Baltic Human Rights Society. The panellists of the discussion were Artūrs Kučs (Asoc. prof., Dr.iur., Constitutional Court Judge), Anita Zikmane (Head of the Judicature and Scientific Analysis Division of the Senate of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia), Marts Ivaskis (Lawyer, European Affairs Department, Ministry of Justice), Kristīne Pakārkle (Legal Advisor, Civil and Political Rights Division, Ombudsman Office) and Inga Peimane (Legal Advisor, Social, Economic and Cultural Rights Division, Ombudsman Office).

In autumn 2023, the Baltic Human Rights Society, at the invitation of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, conducted a study on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Latvia, concluding that this document probably deserved more attention from both the legislator and law enforcers. The Ombudsman, too, in their research on the role of the Charter in Latvia in various branches of the Latvian state - the judiciary, state and local government administration, the non-governmental sector - has concluded that it is a rather under-appreciated instrument for the protection of human rights. Therefore, the main topic of discussion was the question on how the Charter can be better applied in the protection of the rights of Latvian citizens.

Artūrs Kučs and Anita Zikmane spoke about the application of the Charter in the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, respectively, concluding that although the number of decisions containing references to the Charter is not large, the Charter is actively applied in these courts. Marts Ivaskis spoke about the tasks and plans of the Ministry of Justice in implementing the function of the Charter Contact Point, noting that a number of activities are planned for 2024, aimed both at law enforcers and the general public. Kristīne Pakārkle informed about the experience of the Ombudsman's Office in applying the Charter, which shows that awareness of the Charter and the rights contained therein is increasing. Finally, Inga Peimane presented some of the results of the Ombudsman's research on the Charter, according to which many law enforcers use references to the Charter but do not analyse its substance.

Another aspect that emerged from the presentations of all the speakers, the discussion among themselves and the Q&A session with the audience was the need to educate law enforcers at all levels on the application of the Charter and the substantive rights contained therein. The discussion was therefore concluded with all present agreeing that it should definitely be continued in other activities aimed at educating and raising awareness of the workings of the Charter.