On 14 March the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a briefing for foreign ambassadors accredited in Latvia
On 14 March the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a briefing for foreign ambassadors accredited in Latvia. During the event, the audience was explained the history of the commemorative events of the 16 March and the Latvian Legion and the legal framework for the organisation of public events. The position of the Government of Latvia was once again restated. The ambassadors were met by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs and the Head of the Bilateral Relations Directorate, Acting Political Director Jānis Mažeiks.
At the Foreign Ministry, the ambassadors were introduced to the history of the formation of the legion; the position of the European Court of Human Rights binding for Latvia was clarified, which demands that Latvia ensures the freedom of assembly for representatives of different, sometimes opposing views.
The formation of the Latvian legion was a Nazi crime, as the Hague Convention of 1907 prohibits occupying powers to draft the inhabitants of the occupied territories for military service. The conscripts were labelled “volunteers” to circumvent the Convention. Those who attempted to avoid conscription into the Legion risked imprisonment and later – death penalty. The Latvian Legion was a combat unit and one third of its soldiers were killed in action. None of the Legion’s troops has been found guilty of war crimes as a member of the Legion.
Those residents of Latvia who took part in the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis, who were responsible for those crimes, were prosecuted after the war and received the punishment they deserved. The events of 16 March do not display any Nazi symbols the use of which is forbidden at public gatherings in Latvia, just like the symbols of the former USSR.
Latvia strongly condemns all totalitarian ideologies and the war crimes and crimes committed against humanity during World War II. Latvia categorically denounces the Holocaust as one of the most atrocious crimes of the Nazi regime and commemorates its victims.
The position of the Latvian Government concerning the 16th of March is also consistent: it is not an official day of commemoration, and the Government representatives will not attend the events. At the same time, Latvia as a democratic country ensures all fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the freedom of assembly. The official day for paying tribute to the fallen soldiers is the 11th of November.