On April 25 the Supreme Court was visited by the judge of the European Court of Human Rights from Latvia, Professor Ineta Ziemele. She and the senators, judges and other employees of the Supreme Court discussed the cases filed by the inhabitants of Latvia with the European Court of Human Rights and identified problems in the cases of the Latvian courts in the field of human rights.

When analyzing the ECHR cases in which the judgments have been unfavourable for the State of Latvia, as well as those which have been accepted for reviewing, the most essential “stumbling blocks” of the Latvian courts to ensure the minimum standards of human rights may be highlighted. I. Ziemele stressed four problem groups – ensuring of accessibility of courts, observance of the principle of equality of the parties, review of cases in reasonable terms, and motivation of adjudications.

During the analysis of the cases the reason of initiation of which had been insufficient possibilities for the citizens to protect their rights in the courts, the ECHR judge urged to avoid excessive formalism and see that the application of law is equal to human rights also in this field, that due to coincidence of various circumstances the accessibility to the court is not interrupted needlessly. In the nearest future, the first judgment for Latvia is expected regarding the terms of reviewing a case in civil proceedings. The maximum standards admitted by the ECHR is five years for reviewing a case advancing through all the court instances. However, in the analysis on reasonability of the terms the contents and complexity of each separate case is evaluated. In simple cases five and more years are regarded as excessively long term.

Majority of the Latvian cases which are in the ECHR proceedings have been appealed because the attorneys prove poor, even absurd motivation of the court adjudications. I. Ziemele admitted that in many cases the shortcomings in the adjudications of the first instance courts could be eliminated by the appellate and cassation instances if the approach to the cases was not too formal and the aspect of human rights was included in the motivation of the adjudication. The discussion of the ECHR judge and the Supreme Court judges covered also such issues as observance of interests of the owners – physical persons in the process of liquidation of enterprises, on determination of moral damage in civil proceedings, cases on defamation and injuring dignity, enforcement foreign adjudications in Latvia within the scope of the Civil Procedure Law, as well as the current problems of the Latvian courts at the present time – lifting the rent payment limits, what, as I. Ziemele predicted, will move to the ECHR like avalanche, too.

However, the unfavourable ECHR judgments should not be regarded only as a loss by Latvia, but as a possibility to learn and acquire experience. Therefore I. Ziemele gladly uses the opportunity to meet with the judges of Latvia and discuss the problems of the ECHR and the Latvian courts. In June, four judges of the Supreme Court – the Chairman of the Department of Criminal Cases Pavels Gruzins, the Chairman of the Department of Administrative Cases Valerijans Jonikans, the Chairman of the Chamber of Criminal Cases Ivars Bickovics and the senator of the Department of Civil Cases Marite Zagere will go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to gain experience.

ECHR is a regional institution for protection of human rights which reviews complaints on possible violations of the Convention of protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and its protocols, as well as offers advisory opinions on the interpretation of the Convention. Every member state nominates one representative to the Court. Ineta Ziemele is a judge from Latvia in the European Court of Human Rights since September 6, 2005.


Information prepared by Division of Communications of the Supreme Court

Author: Rasma Zvejniece, Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: 7020396, 28652211