European Commissioner for Human Rights has published a letter addressed to the Minister of the Interior of Latvia, Māris Kučinskis, criticising the continued state of emergency at the Latvian-Belarusian border and the criminalisation of the work of human rights defenders.
In her letter to the Minister of the Interior, Commissioner Dunja Mijatović stresses that the state of emergency at the Latvian-Belarusian border exposes border crossers to serious health and safety risks and thus violates the rights to life and the prohibition of torture as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Commissioner points out that States are obliged to respect their obligations under the Convention and the principle of non-refoulment/non-expulsion (i.e. not expelling persons to countries where they would be in danger of torture or inhuman treatment) when carrying out border surveillance and protection. The Commissioner stresses that people’s right to protection and asylum must be respected even when they cross borders irregularly and in difficult circumstances.
The European Commissioner for Human Rights is also raising concerns about the initiation of criminal proceedings against members of the organisation “I want to help refugees” who travelled to the Latvian-Belarusian border on 12 January to provide assistance to Syrian citizens. The Commissioner draws attention to the fact that the European Court of Human Rights had decided to impose interim measures on these people, stating that they should not be deported from Latvia until 8 February this year and that they should be provided with humanitarian aid. The Commissioner stresses that human rights defenders have an integral role in monitoring and safeguarding human rights in cooperation with the authorities. She points out that the prolonged emergency situation prevents non-governmental organisations from providing full humanitarian and legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants.
Read the Commissioner’s full letter here.