Criminal offence

Hate speech is a criminal offence which can be lawfully prevented or punished by the state. The Latvian Criminal Law allows for the sanctioning of hate speech through fines, community service or the deprivation of liberty.

For a crime to be considered hate speech, it must fit the description of hate speech outlined in Article 78 or Article 150 of the Latvian Criminal Law. In addition, the public glorification, denial, acquittal or gross trivialization of genocide, war crimes and crimes against peace and humanity are considered to be punishable hate speech.

It is not just the authors who can be found guilty in criminal cases involving hate speech. You may also be found liable for the mere dissemination of hate speech if you endorse the message. For example, when offering a platform by publishing or broadcasting the message.

Read more about the right to a fair trial in criminal proceedings.

Elements of hate speech in hate crimes

Elements of hate speech may sometimes be noticed before, during or after the commitment of a hate crime, and the State has an obligation to include such elements in its investigation.

In Latvia, the Criminal Law establishes that any crime committed with a biased motive towards an individual or a group due to the victim’s race, nationality, ethnicity or religion may be considered to have aggravating circumstances. During the trial, the court can take the aggravating circumstances into account, namely, the bias motive, when adopting its decision. In general, aggravating circumstances can be applied to all crimes established by the Criminal Law. This means that, in some cases, hate speech can help establish that a crime should be considered to be a hate crime or that aggravating circumstances existed.

example If witnesses say that they heard the perpetrator shouting homophobic slurs before attacking a gay couple, this should be considered during the investigation and further action.

Read more about hate crimes and the differences between hate crimes and hate speech.


Last updated 25/01/2021