Latvian State President Egils Levits – a former judge – has decided to pardon one person who had made an application to his office for presidential clemency, and rejected 14 other applicants, a release from the presidential chancellery said March 10.
The pardoned person was not named but “shall be completely released from serving the basic sentence of a criminal offense against public security and public order,” according to the announcement.
Under the terms of the constitution , the president does have the power to grant pardons to convicted persons. The President of Latvia can replace the uncompleted phase of imprisonment with a different and softer form of punishment, exempt the offender from serving the primary or additional penalty wholly or partially, or expunge the punitive record of the person concerned.
So far, Levits has proven fairly ready to use the power. Figures supplied by the chancellery show that of 72 applications for clemency, he has granted 4, meaning one in every 18 applications has been granted.
Previous presidents have been both more willing and less willing to grant clemency. Levits’ predecessor, Raimonds Vējonis received 697 applications during his single term in office, granting 22 of them so that one in 31 applications was successful.
Andris Bērziņš showed more largesse with around 1 in 20 applications successful, while Valdis Zatlers was more generous still with 1 in 10 applications getting a positive response from the president.
Vaira Viķe-Freiberga was even more open to applications with more than 1 in 5 getting a thumbs up, but Latvia’s first president since the restoration of independence, Guntis Ulmanis, was more restrained, granting one appliation out of every 15 received.
However, it should be stressed that the historical and social conditions of each presidency vary considerably, as do the number and nature of applications received by each president.