ECtHR - Petropavlovskis v. Latvia

The appellant is a former USSR national, living in Latvia. The case is concerned with whether Latvia’s refusal of citizenship to a person who had criticised the Government, constituted a punitive measure in violation of that individual’s rights to freedom of expression under Article 10 and freedom of assembly and association under Article 11. The Court found no violation of articles 10 and 11 as the denial of citizenship did not affect the appellant’s relevant rights. Contrary, it highlighted that there is no “right to a nationality” under the Convention, and no provision of Latvian law indicates the appellant’s right to Latvian citizenship.

Case name (in original language)
Petropavlovskis v. Latvia [2015] Application no. 44230/06
Case status
Case number
European Court of Human Rights, Petropavlovskis v. Latvia [2015] Application no. 44230/06
Date of decision
Court / UN Treaty Body
European Court of Human Rights
Language(s) the decision is available in
Applicant's country of birth
Soviet Union {former}
Applicant's country of residence
Relevant Legislative Provisions

European Convention on Human Rights Article 10, 11, 13

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 15

Latvian Citizenship Law (Pilsonības likums) Article 18


The appellant was a ‘permanently resident non-citizen’ of the Republic of Latvia, a legal status granted to citizens of the former Soviet Union who had lost their Soviet citizenship following the dissolution of the USSR. Subsequently, he had not obtained any other nationality. The appellant was actively involved in demonstrations against the Latvian educational reform, and in this context participated in meetings, demonstrations, and made several public statements demanding the rights of the Russian-speaking population to receive education in their mother tongue. In 2004 his application for Latvian citizenship was refused by the Cabinet of Ministers and his subsequent appeals were unsuccessful. In his application to the European Court of Human Rights, he complained that this refusal was a punitive measure for his criticism against the Government.

Decision & Reasoning

The Court found articles 10 and 11 to be inapplicable, as the decision concerning naturalisation could not be considered punishment in relation to the appellant’s opinions. The Court ruled that it had not weakened his freedom of expression and participation in the public debate. 

Furthermore, the Court found the appellant’s references to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights inadmissible. The Convention does not include a “right to a nationality” similar to that in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, there was no indication in domestic law to imply that the applicant had an unconditional right to Latvian citizenship or that the authorities’ decision could be seen as arbitrary.

In terms of the applicant’s second argument about the State’s obligation to reduce statelessness, the Court found that the applicant failed to show how being stateless under domestic law would have impeded his right to exercise his freedom of expression and assembly. 

According to the Convention, the Court reiterated that arbitrary or discriminatory decisions in the field of nationality may raise issues in human rights law generally, and under the Convention specifically. However, neither the Convention specifically, nor international law in general, provides for the right to acquire a specific nationality. The Court observed that there is no provision in the Latvian Citizenship Law to indicate that the applicant could unconditionally claim a right to Latvian citizenship or that the negative decision of the Cabinet of Ministers could be seen as an arbitrary denial of such citizenship. 


The Court judged in favour of the Government and held that there had been no violation of Article 10, 11, and 13 of the Convention. 

Caselaw cited

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Expelled Dominicans and Haitians v. Dominican Republic [2014], IACrtHR C No. 282, §§ 253-64

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Kurić and Others v. Slovenia [GC] [2014], 26828/06

Slivenko v. Latvia [GC] [2003], 48321/99

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Kolosovskiy v. Latvia [2004], 50183/99

Fehér and Dolník v. Slovakia [2013], 14927/12 and 30415/12

Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC] [2001], 41340/98