Possible rights violation in Zatlers' UN decision

  • 2008-10-22
  • By Monika Hanley

Vaira Paegle: Rejected as UN Ambassador due to political affiliations?

RIGA - The Latvian Ombudsman has stated that a possible rights violation may have occurred in President Zatlers' decision to reject Vaira Paegle as a candidate for U.N. ambassador.
Though the president's representatives deny these claims, the Ombudsman's office maintains that she was rejected due to her membership in a political party. 

According to the conclusion by the office of the Ombudsman, "the reasons for decisions on whether the ambassadors should be appointed from within the existing diplomatic circles or from beyond it, as well as decisions on whether the lawmaker during the effective period of his elected mandate can be appointed an ambassador are in the competence of the president."
"However, membership in a political party itself could not serve as a reason to prohibit an individual from becoming an ambassador," the office stated.

Yet representatives of the Latvian president do not see the conclusion of the Ombudsman as revealing any breach of rights in Zatlers' rejecting the candidacy of Vaira Paegle for the position of Latvian ambassador to the United Nations.
Maija Celmina, President Zatlers' public relations advisor, told reporters that "the Ombudsman had not found breaches of legal norms and underscored that the president's decision is linked to the implementation of state policy and it is impossible to assess it completely based on the legal approach alone, which is the competence of the Ombudsman."

Celmina went on to say that the Ombudsman had admitted that Zatlers has the power to assess those appointed to diplomatic positions according to the constitution.
"The Ombudsman said that appointing ambassadors is the function of the president provided for by the constitution," she said.
Upon having her candidacy rejected, Paegle asked the Ombudsman to look into the situation to determine if Zatlers' decision to reject her candidacy was based on her political association. Paegle had thought that it may have been unconstitutional.

The People's Party faction, of which Paegle is a member, said that although the Ombudsman stated that the decision of the president cannot be assessed based on the legal approach alone, Paegle believes that the Ombudsman's conclusion is close to the maximum effort possible in this situation.
Paegle went on to say that she is appreciative of the conclusion by the Ombudsman, and hopes that the public discussion caused by the rejection of a lawmaker for the position of ambassador will serve as a lesson for the further practice and procedure of appointing officials.

According to the office of the Ombudsman, in a democratic state, the political convictions of an individual or their membership in a political organization are not to be assessed negatively.
Rather the opposite, debate over an individual's convictions stimulates civic participation and can manifest into participation in the political organization. This only happens if the law does not provide such restrictions on criteria for appointing an individual to diplomatic or public service positions.
The Ombudsman concluded that a practice involving individuals being appointed to positions based on political affiliation should not be condoned by democratic countries.
The office said that political conviction or affiliation could not serve as an obstacle in receiving access to positions in public service jobs, except in cases provided by the law.