Council of Europe head faults election of anti-gay activist to human rights committee

  • 2006-11-21
  • By TBT staff
The secretary general of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, said he was concerned over Janis Smits, the new chairman of the Latvian parliamentary human rights committee.

Davis said in his statement on Tuesday that "a leading anti-gay activist" had been elected as the head of a human rights committee.

"The parliamentarians who made this decision should realize that what is at stake is the international reputation of Latvia," Davis said. "The best way to clear the air would be for the Latvian parliament to ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees that no one shall be discriminated against on any ground by any public authority.

This general prohibition of discrimination extends to gays and lesbians as much as to religious, ethnic or any other minority groups."

Smits, a representative of the ruling LPP/LC bloc consisting of Latvia's First Party and Latvia's Way party, was elected as the chairman of the parliament committee for human rights and public affairs despite objections by several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts.

After his election on Nov. 20 Smits said he was determined to follow the Latvian Constitution in his work. "I will try to ensure that rights of all people are observed in Latvia, not just the rights of separate groups," said the representative of the Christian-oriented Latvia's First Party, referring to protests by gays and lesbians to his appointment as the human rights committee chairman.

He said that, according to the Constitution, the state had to protect family, and this was the principle that he intended to follow.
When asked whether gays and lesbians had human rights, Smits said that any individual had rights but they also had obligations.