11.09.2018 ‘She is too active!’ Latvian court does not allow Tatyana Zhdanok run for the parliament elections
This article on the developments of the case of T. Zhadnok was published on one of the Latvian news websites.
Tatjana Zhdanok is a former MEP, who represented Latvia in the European Parliament during 14 years, but at this moment she is deprived of the right to participate in national elections.
‘She is too active!’ Latvian court does not allow Tatyana Zhdanok run for the parliament elections
Tatyana Zhdanok (Tatjana Ždanoka) defends the interests of her electorate too actively and threatens Latvia by something, what is a secret, considers the Administrative District Court.
RIGA, Sep 4 - Sputnik, Andrey Solopenko. The Administrative District Court considered Tatyana Zhdanok's appeal and upheld the decision of the Central Election Commission (CEC) to delete her from the list of candidates for acts allegedly threatening Latvia's independence.
The Constitutional Court (CC) of Latvia upheld the ban on Tatyana Zhdanok to run for municipal and parliamentary elections, as she was in the Communist Party of Latvia after January 13, 1991. At the same time, the Constitutional Court noted that this prohibition can be applied if the person still poses a threat to the core values of a democratic rule-of-law state. The court left the final decision for the CEC.
To do this, the CEC requested additional information from the Security Police (SP) and the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (BPC) and, having inspected it, decided to exclude Zhdanok from the candidate lists. However, according to the law, the decision of the CEC can be appealed in the Administrative District Court, which Tatyana did not fail to take advantage of.
Evaluation of political activity
In her speech before the court Zhdanok noted that the CEC had not taken into account the verdict of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on her case, where it was directly stated that ‘her current actions are not an essential condition, taking into account the fact that the contested measure refers only to her political attitudes during the struggle of Latvia for democracy through independence in 1991.’
Thus, according to Zhdanok, the CEC had to assess whether the fact that she was a member of the Communist Party in 1991 still represented a threat to Latvia; nevertheless, this decision of the ECHR was completely ignored by the Central Electoral Commission and the intelligence services that provided information. Zhdanok stressed that the intelligent services had assessed her current political activity, in particular.
Intelligence services did not like that Zhdanok spoke about violations of rights, as well as ethnic and linguistic discrimination of Latvian national minorities. But, as Tatyana pointed out, ‘this is not only my opinion. Many authoritative experts of international organizations, such as Fernand de Varennes, rapporteur on minority affairs of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as experts of OSCE and Council of Europe, believe the same.’
Violation of freedom of speech?
Another accusation from the intelligent services is that she supposedly supports the pro-Russian policy of compatriots.
‘37% of Latvian citizens mostly communicate in Russian in their families and by definition are Russian compatriots. If the opinion of one of them, including mine, coincides with Russian views, this does not mean that I implement Russian policy’, Zhdanok stressed.
In addition, according to her, the policy of supporting compatriots is implemented by many countries with divided nations; however, for some reason no one reproaches Hungary, Poland or Latvia which also has a large diaspora abroad. She stated that all the arguments mentioned by the intelligent services and the CEC are clearly political in their character, and her non-admission to the elections is related to the views guaranteed by the freedom of speech.
‘Within the framework of freedom of speech, I have the right to criticize laws and peacefully seek their abolition. For 27 years of my political activity, I have not had any accusations for any specific actions that violate a particular law. It is puzzling that the conclusions of the BPC or the SP do not contain any specific examples of my words or actions that violate the laws of Latvia,’ Ms. Zhdanoka summarized.
Intensity of actions
The lawyer for the CEC, Gundega Karklina, presented the following: ‘the CEC found that the restrictions specified in the fifth article, section six of the Saeima election law were applicable to Tatyana Zhdanok, as it was stated that she was a member of the Communist Party after January 13, 1991.’ In this regard, the CEC, based on the recent decision of the Constitutional Court, had to ascertain whether Zhdanok was still a threat to the democratic structure of Latvia or not.
At the same time, the CEC has neither the experience nor the means to assess whether a specific person presents any threat to Latvia, for which the views of the competent authorities were sought. And, as stated by Karklina, ‘the CEC had no reason to doubt the correctness or validity of the conclusions of these institutions.’
In addition, according to Karklina, the threat to Latvia's security from Zhdanok needs to be assessed in a broader context.
‘Yes, each separate act of the plaintiff itself might not threaten Latvia; however, taking into account the form of participation, as well as intensity of the actions, the CEC has concluded that the plaintiff still threatens the country's security and its democratic structure,’ the lawyer said.
Replying to such an original conclusion, Tatyana states that, in that case, it turns out that she is forbidden to run for the Saeima elections because she defends the interests and rights of her electorate too actively.
‘This is what I have always fought and will fight for, and accusations of doing it too actively I can only perceive as a compliment. I am very upset that someone has found a security threat in this,’ Zhdanok noted.
At the court session, there was also a representative of the SP Karlis Grants who intended to prove the validity of conclusions that Zhdanok threatens the country’s security. He provided relevant documents but neither Tatyana nor her representative were allowed to see them, referring to their confidentiality, as they were obtained as a result of operational work.
It is interesting that this was the basis for the court’s decision which was not in favor of Zhdanok.
‘The District Court was convinced of the validity of this conclusion, having inspected the materials provided by the SP at a private meeting,’ the verdict of the court says. However, no facts are provided, since this information contains state secret. So, it is unknown what exactly the threat is.
Commenting on this decision, representing lawyer of Zhdanok Alexander Kuzmin pointed out:
‘We actually had no opportunity to challenge these arguments, since they were classified, and from the human rights perspective this is an additional argument for a complaint to the ECHR where we will raise the issue not only in its substance, indicating that Zhdanok does not carry any threat to Latvia, but also for procedural violations, because the right to a fair trial in our case did not work.’
Original link here:
Tatyana Zhdanok (Tatjana Ždanoka) a former professor of mathematics in Latvian University in 70-80's. In the same time period she joined a Latvian Communist party, was an ordinary member of a party, not taking any positions.
In the late 80's she began to act in politics, was elected as a member of Riga City Council and later in 1990 became a member of the Supreme Council of Soviet Latvia. Tatyana Zhdanok joined the opposition unionist group in the parliament. She personally campaigned for the against the destruction of the higher education in Russian language on the territory of Latvia.
In 1991 Latvian Communist party fell in opposition. In January 1991 the leaders of Communist party made some radical appeals against Latvian authorities; the situation led to violent conflicts between the supporters of independence and their opponents. Nevertheless, after these actions the Communist Party remained a legal political organisation.
Tatyana was elected in the Audit committee of the Latvian Communist party and as a member participated in two meetings of the Committee during the summer of 1991. According the laws of that time her activity within party was absolutely legal.
After the restoration of Latvian independence Tatyana Zhdanok became the chair of the oppositional group of the national parliament, and had her MP mandate till the end of the legislature in 1993.
In 1997 T. Zhdanok was elected as a member of Riga City Council. When she had started actively campaign against the corruption in the municipality, the ruling politicians submitted a draft law to the national parliament aimed to deprive Tatyana of the political rights. This law was adopted in 1999 and it set a prohibition to participation in elections for those former Communist party members, who remained active in the party after January 1991. According to the position of Latvian courts Tatyana was deprived of her mandate in the Riga municipal Council and lost the right to be elected to both the national parliament or any municipality of Latvia only because she had participated in the two meetings of the Audit committee in 1991.
Tatyana Zhdanok challenged this ban in Latvian courts and then in the European Court of Human Rights. She won the court case in 2004. But Latvia filed an appeal on this decision to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that ‘Latvia's emergence from totalitarian rule brought about by the occupation of Latvia had not been sufficiently taken into account’ On March 16, 2006, the court decided that Zhdanok's rights had not been violated. At the same time the court rejected to examine the political activity of Tatyana Zhdanok after the restoration of the independence. The Court also called the Latvian legislature to ‘work actively on abolishing such a restrictions’.
During the following years Latvian Government didn’t even try to discuss the abolition of the restriction. The new court decision depriving T. Zhdanok the right to candidate on the ongoing national parliament elections, which will take place on the 6-th of October, will also be challenged in the ECHR. The decision of Latvian court is grounded solely on the secret reports of the state intelligence services, which are not published. Even Tatyana herself was not acquainted with the content of the reports.