July 17, 2018
The Supreme Court of Latvia rendered a judgment in favor of Belyaev & Belyaev client in the case against Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA). The judgment is notable for giving interpretation to Section 8.1 of the Citizenship law of Latvia, which entitles descendants of Latvian exiles to Latvian citizenship.
The Section 8.1 of the Citizenship law provides that a descendant of a Latvian exile, who fled Latvia in the period 1940-1990 due to German or USSR occupation, or was deported, and for that reason did not return to Latvia by 1990, may apply for Latvian citizenship.
The dispute concerned the question whether one may qualify for Latvian citizenship if his/her ancestor fled Latvia to another country of the USSR due to German occupation and did not return by 1990, taking into account that the German occupation ended in 1945. Put differently, does it matter to which country the exile fled and what should have been his/her reason for non-return to Latvia (after the fall of German occupation in 1945) to qualify for Latvian citizenship? During the case there have been different opinions given by OCMA and lower courts as to what shall be regarded as justified reason for the non-return, and many other related issues were discussed as well.
After two appeals the case reached the Supreme Court, which satisfied our cassation complaint and shared our views on the interpretation of the Citizenship law. First of all, it held that descendants of those, who fled Latvia due to German occupation and settled in another country of the USSR (Russia, for instance) may, too, qualify for Latvian citizenship. And, that Section 8.1 of the Citizenship law shall be interpreted in such a manner that it includes also the cases, where reason for the non-return was the consequence of the fleeing of the occupation regime, i.e. closer ties with the country to which one fled.