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Frontpage News 2013 Reforming the detention system in Latvia

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Photo: © Benedicte Kurzen/NOOR

Reforming the detention system in Latvia

The prison population rate in Latvia is among Europe’s highest and the use of administrative detention is widespread. Reforms are now on the agenda.

Latvia has one of Europe’s largest prison population rates, and more than 6000 detainees are currently sitting behind bars. The current Administrative violations code dates back to 1985 and reforms are in the making. The use of administrative detention is widespread. This implies the deprivation of liberty from the executive branch – not the judiciary – without criminal charges being brought against the detainee.  

Adopting European standards

The seminar ‘Abolition of Administrative Detention in Latvia: Benefits and New Opportunities’ was recently organized by the Latvian Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Legal Affairs Committee in the Latvian Parliament, the Saeima, and the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service. The seminar was supported by the EEA and Norway Grants through the bilateral national fund. The aim of the seminar was to discuss reforms of administrative detention in Latvia.

The Director General of the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service, Marianne Vollan, addressed the seminar by sharing experiences from Norway. She outlined the negative aspects of administrative detention, and stressed the benefits of applying more modern systems of sanctions. Experts from the Council of Europe had prepared detailed proposals on how to align specific sections of the Administrative Violations Procedure Law to European standards.

Reforms on the horizon

The Latvian Ministry of Justice has initiated significant reforms of the administrative sanctions system. It is planned that a new Administrative Violations Procedure Law will be submitted at the beginning of 2014. The new law proposes to abolish the use of administrative arrest and puts a stronger emphasis on education of the offender rather than the deprivation of freedom.

The Head of the Administrative Law Division of the Department of State Rights of the Ministry of Justice, Anda Smiltēna, highlighted drunk-driving as a particular area where there are alternatives to administrative arrest. Increased fines, help against addictions and criminalisation of drunk driving were singled out as viable alternatives.   

Strengthening cooperation

Through the bilateral fund, the aim is to establish long-lasting cooperation so that institutions can continue to work together and share experience. Almost €365 000 are made available to strengthen bilateral relations between Latvia and the donor states – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Activities that could receive funding include organising conferences, workshops, study tours, studies, consultations, information activities as well as preparatory activities in the programming phase, laying the ground for future cooperation in programmes and projects.

Reforming the Latvian correctional services

More than €13 million is also set aside through the ‘Reform of the Latvian Correctional Services and Police Detention Centres’ programme to improve Latvia’s compliance with European and international standards. The programme is financed by the Norway Grants. The Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service and the Council of Europe participate as donor programme partners.

Read more about the ‘Reform of the Latvian Correctional services and police Detention Centres’ programme here.

Read about all EEA and Norway Grants programmes in Latvia on www.eeagrants.org/latvia.

Read more about the seminar on the website of the programme operator, the Latvian Ministry of Justice.