MINELRES: Communication to the UN HRC: minority names spelling in Latvia
Wed Jul 11 11:44:09 2007
Original sender: Aleksejs Dimitrovs <email@example.com>
The communication to the UN Human Rights Committee concerning the
minority names spelling in Latvia
On 1 June 2007 the Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC), member
organisation of the International Federation for Human Rights
(FIDH), submitted the communication to the UN Human Rights Committee
concerning the minority names spelling in Latvia. A complainant,
Leonid Raihman, supported by the LHRC, states in the communication
that Articles 17, 17 in conjunction with Article 2, 26, and 27 of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
have been violated.
Leonid Raihman (aka Leoni/ds Raihmans - with long 'i') is a member of
the Latvia?s Jewish ethnic minority and Russian-speaking linguistic
minority. He is also a member of the LHRC.
Mr Raihman was born Leonid Raihman in 1959. Both name and surname
were registered with public authorities at the Soviet times. Before
January 1998 he had a passport of the citizen of the former USSR
with the name and surname written as ?Leonid Raihman? in Russian and in
Latvian. Then he received a passport of ?non-citizen of Latvia? with his
name and surname changed to a non-Russian, non-Jewish form of ?Leonids
(long 'i') Raihmans?. In January 2001, after becoming a citizen of
Latvia through naturalization, he received a passport with the same name
? ?Leonids (long 'i') Raihmans?.
In February 2004 Leonid Raihman submitted an application to the
State Language Centre asking to issue a decision for his name could
be written without adding the ending ?s?, as Latvian grammar rules
require for masculine names; he also asked to allow his first name
to be written with ?i? instead of ? long i?. On the ground of such
decision he could have the right to receive a new passport with the
name and the surname written as ?Leonid Raihman?. His application
was rejected, and later administrative courts upheld the decision.
Leonid Raihman is prevented from using his original name and surname
in many areas of daily life to such an extent that the consequences
of the imposition by authorities of a new name on an adult such as
the complainant are far-reaching and serious. His name cannot appear
in official documents and deeds. To a large degree, Leonid Raihman
(as well as many other persons belonging to national minorities in
Latvia) is prevented from using his own name and surname in his
relations with authorities and in private life. He made numerous
attempts to use his original name abroad (in banks, hotels, etc.),
however with no success.
Leonid Raihman alleges that the right to retain one?s given and
family name, including its graphical representation in writing, and
have that name officially recognised as a part of one?s identity is
an integral part of the right not to be subjected to arbitrary or
unlawful interference with one?s privacy as guaranteed by Article 17
of ICCPR . A less favourable treatment in comparison with others
in a similar situation, i.e. in comparison with other Latvian
residents due to his language and, indirectly, ethnic origin amounts
to discrimination within the meaning of Articles 2 and 26 of ICCPR.
A personal name, including the way it is spelled is an essential
element in the culture of any ethnic, religious or linguistic
community and the incipient determinant of an individual?s ethnic,
religious or linguistic identity; the right to use one?s own
language is the essential right under Article 27 of ICCPR.
The LHRC would like to express its gratitude to Dr Fernand de
Varennes (Associate Professor at the Murdoch University) and also to
Andrea Coomber (Senior Lawyer at ?Interights? ? the International
Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights) for their valuable
comments on the draft communication.
 Views with regard to communication No.453/1991 (Coeriel and
Aurik v. the Netherlands, adopted on 31 October
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