In Latvia, freedom of assembly is regulated by the law “On Meetings, Processions, and Pickets” enacted on January 30, 1997. Prior notification regarding the holding of peaceful assemblies is required (by that law).
Procedures for organizing meetings
- organizers of meetings must have reached 18 years of age, and must be citizens of Latvia;
- citizens who have been previously given administrative fines for infringing procedural requirements of demonstrations and organization thereof cannot organize a demonstration;
- a demonstration cannot begin without its organizer, manager, and their assistants named in the application
- citizens who have been declared incapacitated cannot organize a demonstration;
- the application shall be submitted no earlier than four months and no later than 10 working days before the day of the event. If a demonstration is organized for an event of interest the date of which becomes known less than 10 working days in advance, the application must be submitted as soon as possible, but no later than 24 hours before the event;
- organizers do not bear any expenses for the holding of the event.
Organizers and participants have the right
- to organize demonstrations near the buildings representing the authority of the State and its agencies (no closer than 50 meters);
- to hold meetings in the night-time;
- to conduct preliminary agitation campaigns;
- to hold simultaneous meetings;
- to hold pickets that have been publicly announced in advance.
Restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly
It is prohibited:
- to use USSR, Latvian SSR, or Nazi Germany symbols (flags, emblems, anthems);
- to carry personal protective equipment (helmets, masks, vests, etc.);
- to call for the overthrow of the Latvian constitutional order or to incite hatred against any social group.
The local authorities have the right to ban a demonstration if it infringes upon the rights of others, the democratic system of government, or public security.
- organizers and participants face a $388 fine for infringing procedural regulations on demonstrations;
- this fine is doubled ($777) in case of repeated violations of these regulations within one year;
- сriminal liability for participating in a demonstration is not mentioned;
- government officials shall not be held liable for disturbance of public meetings;
- a $777 fine is imposed for engaging minors under the age of 16 in organization or participation in unauthorized meetings, demonstrations, and pickets.
Commentaries of experts and participants of public events
As explained by participants of demonstrations, journalists, and human rights activists whether it is possible to exercise the right to freedom of assembly in Latvia depends on the purpose of the event. They note difficulties surrounding the organization of anti-fascist meetings and demonstrations in support of the rights of Russian-speaking citizens. According to our respondents, activists supporting the Russian language and the Russian-speaking community are put under pressure by the Latvian authorities. They face searches of their private property and seizure of personal devices; some cannot leave the country or to carry out their professional activities. Human rights activists view the existing state of affairs as political persecution. The respondents inform us that recent changes in the law have allowed claiming compensation for being a victim of illegal actions performed by police officers at a demonstration. A few such cases have already been reported.
Neither the European Court of Human Rights nor the United Nations Human Rights Committee has pronounced on any violations of the right to freedom of assembly in Latvia. However, human rights activists reiterate that the government abides by international norms on a case by case basis