On Thursday, 3 March, the Saeima in the first reading adopted amendments to the Criminal Law, which substantially revise and adjust current provisions of the Law regarding the responsibility for crimes against the state. MPs agreed on the urgency of these amendments and decided to consider them in the second and final reading on 7 April.
The amendments were drafted and submitted by the Legal Affairs Committee and the National Security Committee of the Saeima.
Solvita Āboltiņa, Chairperson of the National Security Committee, previously explained that the security situation worldwide and especially in Europe has considerably changed lately, and Latvia has to be able to respond to new types of threats. However, the provisions of the Criminal Law on the responsibility for crimes against independence, territorial integrity, constitutional order and the rule of law have remained unchanged since the Law came into force in 1999, which means that the current regulatory framework can no longer ensure complete protection of Latvia’s national security interests.
Representatives of national security agencies have also pointed out that the current regulatory framework has several loopholes and the amendments need to be adopted as soon as possible. According to the authors, the proposed amendments will allow for effective and timely criminal prosecution of individuals posing threats of hybrid warfare to fundamental national interests.
According to the summary of the proposed amendments, instead of direct military operations, nowadays new approaches are utilised to affect developments in other countries with the goal to overtake control. These methods are regarded as hybrid warfare and information warfare and may include both violent and non-violent, as well as open or concealed offence against the fundamental interests of a country.
A new provision is proposed to be included in the Law on criminal liability for assisting a foreign country in acting against Latvia’s security interests. Evika Siliņa, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, previously explained to MPs that this provision will allow to address the current issue of youth military camps. The authors of the amendments argue that these camps are used as a tool for spreading ideology in the interests of foreign countries, thus harming Latvia’s national security interests.
Likewise, considerable changes are proposed to be adopted in the provisions against espionage. The authors of the proposed amendments point out that currently Latvia is one of the weakest links among the NATO and EU member states in terms of legal provisions aimed at countering espionage.
The proposed wording of the Law also criminalises a variety of nonviolent activities against Latvia’s constitutional interests. Current provisions counter only explicit, direct and violent activities.
A new type of criminal activity – conduct against the sovereignty of the Republic of Latvia – is proposed to be introduced in the Law. Furthermore, the amendments criminalise any type of activities against the fundamental interests of the state of Latvia, arguing that offenders must be held criminally liable based on the objective of such activities (e.g. to undermine Latvia’s territorial integrity) rather than the methods used to achieve the objective. The authors of the amendments point out that current provisions rely on violent conduct as a primary factor for liability, but government may be overthrown without direct use of violence as well.
The amendments to the Criminal Law are drafted in collaboration between the Constitution Protection Bureau; Defence Intelligence and Security Service; Security Police; Ministry of Justice; Prosecutor General’s Office; Supreme Court; Riga District Court; Ministry of the Interior; State Police; Chair of Criminal Law, Faculty of Law, University of Latvia; Latvian Council of Sworn Attorneys; and the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS.
Saeima Press Service