New Latvian legislation excludes minority languages from education

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Last year, the Latvian Parliament adopted legislation requiring all pre-schools and schools to transition to Latvian as the exclusive language of their instruction. The bill had provoked controversy as soon as it was first made public, but despite protests, it was passed, and is expected to take effect gradually from September 2023.

A group of UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, and the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, expressed concern over the implications of the legislation. They say it is “contrary to human rights standards and could constitute discrimination” in that it will “severely limit education in minority languages”. Furthermore, the experts found that the minority groups primarily affected by the law have not been afforded a sufficient opportunity to effectively participate in the process of its adoption. The experts urge Latvia to “clarify” the restriction on minority language education with respect to their obligations under international human rights law.

The UN Experts’ letter to the Latvian government and the response they received can be found on the website of the OHCHR.