Pardoning convicts is one of the rights of the President of Latvia set forth in Section 45 of the Satversme (Latvian Constitution).
The right to seek clemency rests with person, who:
• is serving or has served his or her sentence in the Republic of Latvia;
• has been convicted by a foreign court and transferred to the Republic of Latvia to serve the sentence without any requirement that clemency is not applicable;
• has been convicted by a court in the Republic of Latvia and transferred to another country to serve the sentence if the relevant foreign institution has agreed to accept a decision on clemency taken in the Republic of Latvia.
A clemency petition addressed to the President may be filed by the convicted person’s attorney, lawful representative, parents, children, or spouse.
A clemency petition may be filed, when a relevant court ruling has taken legal effect.
When a person is convicted of a serious crime, a clemency petition can be filed after one-half of the relevant prison term is actually served. When a person is convicted of a particularly serious crime, a clemency petition may be filed after two-thirds of the prison term are served.
When a person is sentenced to life imprisonment, a clemency petition may be filed after at least 20 years of the prison term are served.
The classification of criminal offenses is enshrined in Section 7 of the Criminal Law.
Types of Clemency
The President of Latvia can replace the uncompleted phase of imprisonment with a different and softer form of punishment, exempt from serving the basic or additional punishment fully or partially or expunge the punitive record of the person concerned.
Decision-making and Notification
When reviewing a request for clemency, the President of Latvia decides whether the clemency petition is to be approved or rejected.
The Clemency Service shall send the presidential decision to the institution responsible for the enforcement of the ruling and to the court that had made the ruling in a criminal case within five days. The decision shall be notified to the convicted person or other applicant of the clemency petition.
If a clemency petition is rejected, a repeated clemency petition may be filed no sooner than six months after the President of Latvia has rejected any previous clemency petition. When a person is convicted of a serious or particularly serious crime, a repeated clemency petition may be filed no sooner than one year after the previous petition has been rejected unless exceptional circumstances (serious illness, the person being the only lawful guardian or trustee of another person or other circumstances) occur.
Historical Facts on Restoration of Clemency
The constitutional statement of the fifth Saeima (Latvian Parliament) of the Republic of Latvia of 6 July 1993 also restored Section 45 of the Satversme, which stipulates the right of the President of Latvia to grant clemency to criminals against whom a judgement of the court has come into legal effect. However, the Satversme did not regulate the procedure for such clemency, thus President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis approved the Regulations on the procedure for reviewing clemency petitions drafted by the Chancery of the President of Latvia on 17 December 1993.
The Clemency Service was established at the Chancery of the President of Latvia in order to ensure the right to grant clemency enshrined in the Satversme.
The 6th Saeima regulated in the second sentence of Section 45 of the Satversme by means of the Law of 4 December 1997 that the extent of and procedures for the utilisation of this right of the President of Latvia shall be set out in a special law. The Saeima adopted the Law on Clemency on 16 June 1998, which the President of Latvia proclaimed on 7 July 1998. After the Law on Clemency has taken effect, the President of Latvia carries out his or her right to grant clemency to the extent and procedure specified by the Law on Clemency.
Abolishing the Death Penalty
In September 1995, President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis established the Clemency Council composed of ten people with advisory right, which was invited to participate in the work by reviewing the clemency petitions filed by the persons sentenced to death.
Guntis Ulmanis reviewed the clemency petitions of eight persons sentenced to death, out of whom he pardoned five convicts by replacing a death sentence with life imprisonment. In Latvia, the last death sentences of two convicted persons were executed in January 1996, as the President of Latvia had rejected their clemency petitions.
The Saeima adopted the Law on Protocol 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950 on 16 April 1999. Article 2 of Protocol 6 stipulates that a State may take provision in its law for the death penalty in respect of acts committed in time of war or of imminent threat of war; such penalty shall be applied only in the instances laid down in the law and in accordance with its provisions.
On 13 October 2011, the Saeima passed the Law on Protocol 13 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950 concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances.
The Saeima adopted the law on Amendments to the Criminal Law on 1 December 2011 by deleting the death penalty from that Law entirely. The Law came into force on 1 January 2012. The Law of 1 December 2011 excluded the first paragraph of Section 2 of the Law on Clemency, that is, replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment.
According to the earlier version of Section 37 of the Criminal Law, the death penalty could be imposed only for murder under particularly aggravating circumstances given that the crime was committed during time of war.