Update to Response to Information Request LVA27967.E of 9 October 1997 on the influence and size of the "Zemessardze" (national guard), and the state response to its actions [LVA28243.E]

In telephone interviews on 10 and 31 October 1977, the executive director of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies in Riga provided the following information which represents the viewpoint of the Centre. The Zemessardze was formed in the early 1990s under the auspices of the military forces and its original function was to supplement the Latvian armed forces. The Zemessardaze is currently under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior, and its members act as territorial defence guards and are a supplement to the police force. There are from 10,000 to 15,000 volunteers who constitute the Zemessardze; they wear uniforms when on duty and occasionally carry firearms.

For several years after its formation, the Zemessardze was an inadequately trained and undisciplined organization; some of its members had a reputation for being "trigger happy" and were responsible for the deaths of several innocent civilians. Zemessardze members have been subjected to more stringent control and discipline over the last several years. The executive director has not heard of any reports within the last two years, either in the Russian media or by other nongovernmental organizations, indicating that Zemessardze volunteers have committed acts of intimidation or violence against members of ethnic minorities. However, the director does have a friend who was beaten up one and a half years ago in a Riga park by Zemessardze officials on duty because he refused to comply with their command to stop. The director would not discount the possibility that there continue to be other isolated and unreported incidents of abuse of power by Zemessardze members.

The director added that the influence of the Zemessardze in the major urban areas is marginal, although it does have more of a presence and influence in rural areas which are predominately inhabited by ethnic Latvians.

For information on the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, please consult Response to Information Request LVA26939.E of 16 June 1997.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, Riga. 31 October 1997.

Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, Riga. 10 October 1997. Telephone interview with the executive director.