Government okays signing Istanbul Convention

On Tuesday the government greenlighted Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs (Unity) to sign the Istanbul Convention against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, which was previously criticized by the Justice Ministry, reported LSM's Latvian-language service Tuesday. 

Latvia will add a declaration to the documents, allowing to introduce the convention in a way that it fits the Latvian Constitution.

Several NGOs, represented at the government meeting by Iluta Lāce, head of the Marta Resource Center for Women, urged the ministers to support signing the convention, and called into question Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnačs' suitability for office.

While ten other NGOs, some of which have ties to Christian organizations, presented a letter supporting the stance of the Justice Ministry and called for not signing the convention.

Latvia's President Raimonds Vējonis told LNT's "900 seconds" Tuesday that Latvia should sign the Istanbul Convention and that the Justice Ministry has "tangled up" regarding the situation.

Vējonis said that "politics have been mixed up with the judicial" and said that "in a way, it discredits our legal system".

Vējonis said that the Justice Ministry has to work as an independent institution and that it's unacceptable to involve politics in its work.

He said that there should be consequences to Rasnačs' actions, however casting doubt on the possibility of Rasnačs' resignation, saying that it could spell the fall of the ruling coalition.

PM Māris Kučinskis (Greens) on Friday expressed support for the convention. On Monday he said that the debacle surrounding the Istanbul Convention is not sufficient to demand the minister's resignation. 

Last week the Justice Ministry published advice by a lawyer employed by the ministry to offer expert opinion on whether Latvia should sign the international agreement designed to help protect women from domestic violence.

The legal opinion recommends that Latvia does not sign the Istanbul Convention against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence because to do so would conflict with statements made in the preamble to the Latvian constitution.

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