Human rights and their implementation: European and Baltic Expierence
July 30 - August 8, 2001
On July 30 - August 8, 2001 the Human Rights Institute of the University of Latvia, Faculty of Law organised the second Summer School: Human Rights and Their Implementation: European and Baltic Experience. Seventeen lawyers representing the governmental (Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, prosecutor's office, ombudsman) and non-governmental institutions (NGOs and legal clinics), as well as academia (lecturers and students) from Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia participated at the summer school to learn the basics of the human rights law, to get acquainted with Latvia's experience in the field of human rights and to share a number of existing human rights issues in their home countries.
During the period of one and half weeks participants were introduced with the basic aspects of international and European human rights law, including the general introduction to the United Nations human rights system, and with particular emphasis on the European human rights system, including jurisprudence and the latest developments in the European Court of Human Rights, the work of the Committee of Experts under the European Social Charter, Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, as well as human rights within the European Union and the Organisation for the Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Lectures and seminars were conducted by young Latvian experts (LL.M Martins Mits, M.I.L. Kristine Kruma, including the Council of Europe expert Dr.iur. Ineta Ziemele) and the professor Gudmundur Alfredsson from the University of Lund (Sweden), as well as members of the OSCE mission to Latvia were invited to introduce with their work. Such composition allowed the Latvian experts, who have acquired their education in Western countries, share their experience gained through working in the field of human rights and it was coupled by the international experience of visiting professors. The course was orientated towards practical work, thus in addition to the lectures students spent much time on case studies prepared by the lecturers.
During the course the participants visited the following governmental and non-governmental institutions of the Republic of Latvia: the Parliament, the Constitutional Court, National Human Rights Office, the Latvian centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies and the Riga Graduate School of Law. During the visit to the National Human Rights Office its Director Olafs Bruvers gave detailed information on the main tasks and responsibilities of the Office, informed about the complaints filled to the Office by persons living in Latvia and the results achieved. In the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies the participants were introduced to the work of the one of leading human rights NGOs in Latvia and discussed recent developments in the state concerning the relationships between governmental and non-governmental institutions with the lawyer Sandra Garsvane. Judge of the Constitutional Court Romans Apsitis and his Assistant Velga Slaidina welcomed the participants at the premises of the Constitutional Court where they told the history of the Court's foundation, and the recent changes in its work in connection with the introduction of constitutional complaints mechanism in Latvia. In the Parliament participants had a meeting with Ms Leonora Tukane, Head of the Consular and Service Department, where the main point of discussions was to find out what role human rights play in the work of the legislature and what difficulties Latvia is facing in relation to ratification of a number of international human rights conventions.
On the basis of the Latvian example and of those from the participating countries, the participants received practical knowledge on the contents and implementation of international and national human rights norms in practice. In their home countries all participants are working in the institutions dealing with human rights issues. Common history and the use of the Russian language as a working language of the course made the exchange of ideas easier and more efficient - it was acknowledged by the participants themselves. Besides, the course served perfectly well for the establishment contacts between the Latvian Human Rights Institute and the representatives of the different countries as well as among the participants themselves. The Latvian Human Rights Institute already received a proposal for co-operation from the Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly after the course.
Evaluation sheets filled in by the participants at the end of the course show that the participants found the course interesting and useful. Out of 10 possible points, the curriculum in total received 9.5 points; Methodology - 8.4 points; keeping an interest in the course - 9.1 points and usefulness of the course 8.9 points. The lecturers as well as the visits also received high marks. The most relevant suggestions made were the following: more practical work, including moot -courts and other inter - active methods; invite practitioners to give lectures, increase the number of participants; provide them with a compilation of the Judgements delivered by the European Court of Human Rights; increase the number of participants and participating countries.
This year were received more that a hundred applications to the course. It is more than twice as much as in the previous year. The course was widely reported in the Official Gazzette, including the ceremony of issuing certificates to the participants by the Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Latvia. This assures the organisers that the course has established itself, it is effective and serves well for introducing the participants with the human rights situation in Latvia and for establishing contacts among the representatives of the former Soviet Republics. Therefore, the Institute is full of commitment to continue organising this Summer School annually.