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Latvia: Rights Respected, But Security Forces Use Excessive Force

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says Latvia's government generally respected the human rights of its citizens and the large resident non-citizen community, although it said problems remained in certain areas.

The department said in its annual report on human rights practices around the world released today that members of security forces in Latvia, including the police and other Interior Ministry personnel, continue to use excessive force in 1998.

It said police and prison officers beat and mistreated detainees and inmates, and said there were reported incidents of soldiers beating civilians. The report cited one incident in the town of Aluksne in which a civilian died of his injuries.

The U.S. report said however that in most instances, the government took disciplinary measures against those responsible. It noted that those involved in the beatings and their officers were demoted or reprimanded.

The report also said that the judiciary in Latvia is independent but not well trained, efficient, or free from corruption. But it said the October elections for the 100-seat Parliament (Saeima) and the national referendum for amending the Citizenship Law to meet European standards were free and fair.