Latvia faces EU censure over attacks on gay activists

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Latvian Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars has been accused of violating European Union principles by a leading member of the European Green Party.

Speaking after a visit to the Latvian capital Riga at the weekend, Green spokeswoman Ulrike Lunacek has called on the EU to consider suspending Latvian voting rights on the European Council in response to attacks on gay activists last month.

“The Latvian Minister of the Interior had not made it clear to police that they are to protect lesbians and gays from aggressive “no pride” activists who threw excrement and eggs at peaceful people leaving a religious service given by a gay Latvian priest” she said.

Gay and lesbian protesters were refused permission to march in Riga on the 22nd July by city officials, who cited security advice from the interior ministry. The US ambassador to Latvia had earlier met with interior minister to urge him to allow the march to go ahead, but he refused.

A group of around 50 activists instead held a service of tolerance at a local Anglican church. Hundreds of neo-Nazi skinheads, ultra-nationalists and members of the Orthodox church besieged the church, pelting the activists with excrement.

It was reported that local police stood and watched as events unfolded and declined to intervene.

A party of Greens from across Europe travelled to Riga to express solidarity with the gay community and to criticise the actions of the police and interior minister.

Addressing a crowd of lesbian and gay activists, Spanish MEP Raul Romeva recalled the importance of the EU treaties in protection of minorities.

The Greens backed calls from Latvian LGBT organisation Mozaikas for the resignation of the Minister of the Interior.

Ms Lunacek called on the community not to let fear win them over: “I am sure next year we will have a proud Pride celebration in Riga. My optimism is based on the fact that the Latvian President and the Latvian Foreign Minister have spoken out in support of the Parade.”

The interior ministry today announced that an investigation had found no link between the mob who attacked the church and ‘legitimate’ right-wing groups in Latvia.

There are doubts about the reliability of the investigation, as interior minister Jaundzeikars had been opposed to the march from the start.

Last month the European Union passed a resolution to combat homophobia on the continent which would see sentences handed down for homophobic, anti Semitic, and Islamophobic offences.