Presentation of the official delegation of Latvia at the Vilnius Forum
Ingrida Labucka, Minister of Justice
3-5 October 2000
Latvia sent an official delegation led by Ingrida Labucka to the Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust-Era Looted Assets who gave the presentation set out below.
All countries present at the Forum agreed the Final Declaration.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I start my presentation, I would like to use the opportunity and express my thanks to the organizers of this Forum in the Republic of Lithuania.
Respecting the historically developed close links with the Jewish community in Latvia, the Government pays special attention to research and evaluation of the historical truth concerning the tragic events taken place during the World War II:
1. One of the first documents signed by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia right after the Declaration on Independence in 1990 was the Declaration "On Condemnation and Inadmissibility of Genocide and Anti-Semitism in Latvia". Latvia has condemned crimes of Holocaust committed on its territory and expressed deep regret that Latvian individuals had participated in that.
2. On March 19, 1991, the Supreme Council passed the Law "On Free Development of Latvian National and Ethnic Groups and Their Rights for Cultural Autonomy", which in conformity with international standards guarantees equal human rights to all citizens of Latvia irrespective of their nationality.
3. Becoming a Member of the United Nations, on December 17, 1991, Latvia voted against the UN 1975 Resolution, which equates Zionism with Racism.
Latvian History Commission
In 1998 on the imitative of the President of the Republic of Latvia the Latvian History Commission was established. The Commission was made up of local and international experts and it is charged with the task of arranging the research on war crimes during occupations by Nazi Germany and the USSR. The final aim is to elaborate the final report "Crimes Against Humanity during two Occupations 1940-1956."
Among its projects the following activities can be named:
1) International Conference "Latvia during the World War II" organised in 1999.
2) On April 1-2, 2000 a seminar on the Holocaust for 60 History teachers was held in Latvian town Ligatne.
3) On October 16-17, 2000, an International scientific conference on Holocaust in the Baltic Countries will be held.
Education on Holocaust
At the "The Stockholm International Forum on Holocaust" held on 26-28 January, 2000 Latvia conveyed its readiness to co-operate within the concrete projects with the Special Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
One of the activities of the Task Force is the co-operation project together with the Government of Sweden on the translation into Latvian the Swedish textbook "Tell Ye Your Children".
Latvia attaches prior importance to the information of society and the education of the younger generation in particular on the most important historical events:
1) The subject "Holocaust" is included into the compulsory history programme at schools, and the subject is included into the elementary and high school graduation history exams.
2) In April 2000, there was a presentation of the Latvian version of the book "Sunflower".
3) The Centre for Judaic Studies at the University of Latvia was established for the academic work, education and scientific research in the field of Judaic studies in Latvia.
4) In April 2000, the State President unveiled the memorial plaque in honour of Žanis Lipke - Latvian who saved from Holocoust 55 Jews during the World War II. On the 4th of July - the commemoration day of the Jewish nation victims of genocide, the State President awarded the State's highest decoration- the Three Star Order to four persons, who saved the Jews.
Property Restitution in Latvia
Latvia is convinced, that the restoration of the property rights to the legal owners should be one of the prior tasks of the democratic society. Latvia considers the question of the restitution of the property of inhabitants of Jewish nationality confiscated during the World War II as one of the utmost importance.
The laws that regulate the process of the property restitution passed in Latvia are among the most liberal in the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe and ensure the restitution of property to all the legal owners or their heirs-at-law regardless of their current place of residence or citizenship.
Investigation of War Crimes and Genocide in Latvia
Latvia has expressed condemnation towards the crimes of Holocaust by signing the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide (1948) and the Convention on the Non applicability of Statutory Limitation to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity(1968).
Latvia has already expressed its standpoint, that as there is no statute of limitation for war crimes and crimes against humanity, all the persons that have committed these crimes shall be called to liability as stated by the law.
The aim of Latvia is to conduct an objective investigation of crimes committed under totalitarian regime regardless of the political conviction of the perpetrators.
As one of the most important developments, that can be mentioned among the notable activities that have taken place in Latvia, are the two international meetings of Prosecutors "On Investigation of Nazi War Crimes Committed During the World War II" organized by the Office of Prosecutor General of the Republic of Latvia in February and September, 2000.
As the result, on September 27, 2000, the Office of Prosecutor General officially filed charges against the suspected war criminal Konrads Kalejs, a man who has been accused with genocide and war crimes for his role as a camp guard at the notorious Salaspils labour camp during the Nazi occupation in 1941-1942.
Once again I would like to emphasize that over the last decade Latvia has constantly conveyed its willingness and readiness to evaluate the history of our country without prejudice.
Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust-Era Looted Assets Website, accessed 27 November 2002. The website no longer exists (23 July 2007).