MINELRES: Communication to the UN HRC: minority names spelling in Latvia

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Jul 11 11:44:09 2007

Original sender: Aleksejs Dimitrovs <dimik@navigator.lv>

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 [1]. 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. 

[1] Views with regard to communication No.453/1991 (Coeriel and 
Aurik v. the Netherlands, adopted on 31 October

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