Latvija in brief - 2006-03-15

  • 2006-03-15
The Riga Regional Court slapped a 13,500 lat (19,200 euro) fine on former Health Minister Aris Auders, who was charged with patient fraud. The court found Auders guilty of abusing his patients' trust and cheating money out of them. All in all, the former health minister had received 41,808 lats through fraud in treating 77 people. Auders, who was once known as "golden hands" for his surgical talents, had also embezzled money out of insurance companies and local governments. The court decided to collect nearly 9,500 lats from Auders in favor of patients and insurance companies. Auders was able to pull off the fraud because of deficiencies in the health care system, the court ruled, adding that it would send the Ministry of Health recommendations to improve its system.

The U.S. Department of State, in its statement on human rights in 2005, highlighted discrimination against gays, racial attacks, human trafficking and poor conditions in jails. The statement says that state institutions, though, show respect for citizen rights and the large community of non-citizens. The statement also mentions last summer's gay parade in Riga, when the Riga City Council granted a permit, then revoked it, and the ban was finally annulled. "Even though the permit was renewed, the Latvian prime minister criticized the parade, saying that the country had been based on the Christian values and such parade was unacceptable," the statement says.

Guntars Jirgensons, a member of the Riga City Council, was elected as acting chairman of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party after previous leader Juris Bojars announced his resignation at the party congress. Addressing delegates after his election, Jirgensons outlined positive and negative aspects of the Social Democratic party. He said party members should be more active in various spheres and work to attract more members. Jirgensons voiced regret that the Social Democrats had lost strategic posts in governmental and municipal institutions, and that the party had no representation in Parliament. Speaking of his position, he said, "I am perfectly aware that this will last only until the fall."

Two Latvian delegates to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly accused the council of applying double standards and yielding to Russian influence. Andris Berzins, the head of the Latvian delegation, told the press that the CEPA monitoring committee had failed to observe the equality principle when deciding to stop the post-monitoring procedure in respect to Latvia and Slovakia. He said that double standards were present in the committee's decision to demand additional explanations from Latvia, which has met all the requirements. No additional explanations, he pointed out, were required from Slovakia, which still had problems with human rights.