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Cablegate: Us Supreme Court Justice Meets with Latvian Leaders

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRA #0525 1941712
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131712Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4183
INFO RUEHCH/AMEMBASSY CHISINAU PRIORITY 0137
RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN PRIORITY 4091
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0116
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS PRIORITY 3885
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS RIGA 000525

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KJUS PREL LG
SUBJECT: US SUPREME COURT JUSTICE MEETS WITH LATVIAN LEADERS


1. (U) Summary: At Ambassador Bailey's invitation, US Supreme Court
Justice Samuel Alito visited Riga to participate as the keynote
speaker at Embassy Riga's conference on Judicial Ethics,
Transparency and Reform. During his stay, Alito met with President
Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis. The
discussions centered around the rule of law and the state of the
Judiciary and how Latvia and the United States can further their
cooperation in these areas. End Summary.

2. (U) In his July 2 meeting with President Vike-Freiberga, Alito
heard praise for US efforts to assist Latvia's justice system over
the years. But, reflecting on what had been achieved and what
remained to be done as she neared the end of her eight years in
office, the President identified many areas where she believed
cooperation would continue to be of value. She highlighted the need
for continuing education for judges and the challenges of a
relatively young judiciary with lifetime appointments, and no
performance review mechanism, as challenges for Latvia. Drawing on
her own experiences as a psychologist, she felt that Latvian judges
did not consider the nature of the accused and the crime in passing
sentence. Prison time for drug dealing and child exploitation
offenses are very short or waived entirely, she felt, while minors
were not given conditions of imprisonment that would promote their
rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society. Justice
Alito noted that we faced many of these same issues in the US and in
judicial systems around the world. Conferences like this help by
sharing new solutions to common problems, noting in particular the
US experience with enhanced sentencing guidelines. Both agreed that
strong sentences are essential in fighting corruption, with Alito
reminding that it has only been in the last 20 years or so in the US
that we have consistently applied that principle. The President
also noted infrastructure concerns in the Latvian judicial system.
More courtrooms would reduce pre-trial delays, she asserted, and new
and better prisons were needed for more humane treatment of the
incarcerated.

3. (U) In his July 3 meeting with PM Kalvitis, Alito was told that
it was essential to build public trust in the judiciary in Latvia,
especially following the Soviet period where courts were viewed as
an instrument of repression. Alito agreed that his is essential in a
democracy, and an area in which also the US could do better. But
the Justice said he took heart from the entries in the
Embassy-sponsored essay contest for the judicial conference, which
showed young people in Latvia with a real sense of the role of the
judiciary in a democracy. The PM also noted the need for a
judiciary able to handle the most complicated cases involving
corruption and financial crimes and asked for US help. Alito,
drawing on his experience as a prosecutor, said it was also very
important that the laws governing such crimes and investigations be
modern and flexible to allow the prosecutor to follow the trail
wherever it leads. As he had with the President, Alito also
stressed the need for tough sentences to increase the perceived cost
of corruption. The PM agreed, noting that many of Latvia's laws on
economic crimes dated from the mid-90's and could stand to be
updated.

4. (U) Justice Alito did not have the opportunity to clear this
cable prior to departure.


BAILEY

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