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TITLE:  ESTONIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            ESTONIA


Estonia, a parliamentary democracy, regained its independence 
in 1991 after more than 50 years of forced annexation by the 
Soviet Union.  The Constitution, adopted by referendum in 1992, 
established a 101-member unicameral legislature (State 
Assembly), a Prime Minister as Head of Government, and a 
President as Head of State.  Free and fair elections were held 
in 1992 for the State Assembly and the President.  After more 
than 2 years of negotiations, on August 31 the armed forces of 
the Russian Federation withdrew from Estonia, although a number 
of demobilized Russian officers remain in Estonia.

Official conversion of the Soviet militia into the Estonian 
police preceded the reestablishment of the country's 
independence by about 6 months.  However, conversion of the 
police into a Western-type force committed to procedures and 
safeguards appropriate to a democratic society is proceeding 
slowly.  The police, ethnically mixed and subordinate to the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs, continue to commit human rights 
abuses.  The security service, called security police, is also 
subordinate to the same Ministry.

Estonia has a balanced economy, emphasizing light industrial 
products and food production.  It has substantially transformed 
the centrally planned economy it inherited into an open market 
system.  Small- and medium-scale privatization is moving toward 
completion, and large-scale privatization progressed 
significantly in 1994.  Gross domestic product grew by about 5 
percent, and approximately two-thirds of Estonian exports 
(textiles, food products, metals) are now directed to Western 
markets.  Unemployment remained low (unofficially about 8 
percent), but significantly higher rates exist in the 
predominantly ethnic Russian northeast and in rural areas.

The major human rights abuse continues to be police 
mistreatment, including physical and psychological abuse, of 
detainees and prisoners.  The substantial noncitizen 
population, primarily ethnic Russians, is about 28 percent of 
the total population.  Treatment of noncitizens  continued to 
be a major issue domestically and bilaterally with Russia.  The 
Government extended the deadline for submission of residence 
permit applications for noncitizens established by the 1993 Law 
on Aliens by 1 year because of implementation difficulties.  In 
addition, officials began issuing temporary travel documents to 
eligible noncitizens to enable their departure from and return 
to Estonia.  Both the Conference on Security and Cooperation in 
Europe (CSCE) mission to Estonia, established in 1993, and the 
CSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities declared that 
they could find no pattern of human rights abuses in Estonia.  
However, both did regard the language requirement, as 
administered, a hardship for noncitizens.  Ethnic Russians 
remained concerned about the application of Estonian-language 
proficiency requirements in seeking employment and 
naturalization.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of such killing in 1994.

Although the numbers declined, there continued to be reports 
that prisoners killed other prisoners.  The State Prosecutor's 
office reported that prisoners in 1992 had killed 32 other 
persons in custody; in 1993, 11; and, during the first 9 months 
of 1994, 2.  The State Prosecutor's office investigated all 
such cases and prosecuted when there was sufficient evidence.  
It obtained 5 convictions in the 1992 cases, with 2 cases still 
in court and one finding of self-defense; it also obtained 2 
convictions in the 1993 cases and 1 in the 1994 cases.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of abductions or disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, but police continued to 
subject detainees and prisoners to harsh treatment, including 
physical and psychological abuse and detention under 
overcrowded and extremely unhealthful conditions.  Credible 
reports of the excessive use of force and police brutality 
during the arrest and questioning of suspects also continued.  
In one case, six police officers were convicted of beating 
detainees, and given sentences ranging from 30 months to a 
fine.  Another case is still pending.

The conditions of severe overcrowding and idleness, 
particularly at the Tallinn pretrial detention prison built in 
1765, did not change.  However, work began on remodeling two 
buildings which should significantly reduce overcrowding at the 
Tallinn prison.  At the invitation of the Ministry of Justice, 
experts from the Council of Europe (COE) studied Estonian 
prison conditions and made numerous general and specific 
recommendations, some of which were implemented.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution and laws forbid arbitrary arrest, detention, 
and exile.  There were no known instances of Estonian 
authorities engaging in such activities.  Under the 
Constitution, a judicial warrant is required for an arrest.  
Detainees must be informed promptly of the grounds for arrest 
and given immediate access to legal counsel.  If a person 
cannot afford a lawyer, the State will provide one.  A person 
may be held for 48 hours without formally being charged; 
further detention requires a court order.  A person may be held 
in pretrial detention for 2 months; a court order may prolong 
detention up to a total of 12 months.  Police rarely violate 
these limits.  Pretrial detainees account for about 20 percent 
of the total prison population.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution establishes an independent judicial branch 
operating through a three-tier court system:  rural and city 
courts, district courts, and a supreme State Court.  The 
district courts and the State Court are also courts of 
"constitutional supervision."  At the rural and city level, 
court decisions are made by majority vote with a judge and two 
lay assessors sitting in judgment.  Judges and lay assessors 
must be Estonian citizens.  The President nominates and the 
State Assembly confirms the Chief Justice of the State Court.  
The Chief Justice nominates State Court judges who are subject 
to confirmation by the State Assembly.  He also nominates the 
rural, city, and district judges, whom the President then 
appoints.  All judges hold office until they reach the 
mandatory retirement age of 65.

The Constitution provides that court proceedings shall be open 
to the public.  Courts may hold closed sessions, but only in 
cases in which state or business secrets need to be protected 
or in cases concerning minors.  It further provides that 
defendants may present witnesses and evidence as well as 
confront and cross-examine prosecution witnesses.  Defendants 
have access to prosecution evidence and enjoy a presumption of 
innocence.

Estonia continued to overhaul its criminal and civil procedural 
codes.  An interim Criminal Code which went into effect in 1992 
basically revised the Soviet criminal code, eliminating, for 
example, political and economic crimes.  New codes were being 
drafted at year's end.

There were no political prisoners being held.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Estonian law requires a search warrant for search and seizure 
of property.  Prosecutors, rather than judges, issue such 
warrants during the investigative stage upon a showing of 
probable cause.  Once a case has gone to trial, however, judges 
then issue search and seizure warrants.

The Constitution guarantees secrecy of the mail, telegrams, 
telephones, and other means of communication.  Police must 
obtain a court order to intercept a person's communications.  
Illegally obtained evidence is not admissible in court.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and press are 
generally respected, and the media are beginning to do more 
investigative reporting.  Foreign newspapers and magazines are 
readily available.  Although the Government still provides most 
newsprint and printing and distribution facilities, the role of 
private companies is growing rapidly.  There are five major 
national Estonian-language and three Russian-language dailies.

State broadcast media, including one nationwide television 
channel, continue to receive large subsidies, but there are 
several independent television and radio stations.  The 
Government has stopped retransmission of television channels 
from Russia owing to nonpayment of fees, but several 
Russian-language programs, mostly Estonian produced, are 
broadcast over state and private television channels.  
State-funded Russian-language radio broadcasts continued, 
substantially subsidized by funds from the state budget; the 
State has assured that these subsidies will continue.

There is complete academic freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right to assemble freely but 
prohibits noncitizens from joining political parties, although 
they may form social groups.  Permits for all public gatherings 
must be obtained 3 weeks prior to the date of the gathering.  
The authorities have wide discretion to prohibit such 
gatherings on public safety grounds but seldom exercise it.  
There were no reports of government interference with mass 
gatherings or political rallies.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of conscience and of religious proselytism is provided 
for by law and honored in practice.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The law permits free movement within the country, and it is 
honored in practice.  It also guarantees the right of foreign 
travel, emigration, and repatriation for Estonian citizens.

In July 1993, Parliament enacted the Law on Aliens which 
defines an alien as a person who is not a citizen of Estonia, 
i.e., a citizen of another country or a stateless person.  The 
majority of noncitizens are ethnic Russians (see Section 5).  
The Law on Aliens originally provided a 1-year period in which 
noncitizens who came to reside in Estonia prior to July 1, 
1990, and who had permanent registration in the former Estonian 
Soviet Socialist Republic, could apply for temporary residence 
permits valid for 3 years.  They could also apply for permanent 
residence at the same time.  The Law on Aliens envisages that 
those with temporary residence could activate their 
applications for permanent residence toward the end of the 
3-year temporary residence period.  Following delays and 
confusion in implementation as well as criticism by 
international human rights observers, the Law on Aliens' 
application deadline was extended by another year, until July 
12, 1995.  Despite the extension, some international observers 
have criticized the Law on Aliens as being too rigid and as 
having created too high a barrier for establishing residency.

No outright restrictions are placed on the right of noncitizens 
to foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation.  The Government 
did begin issuing temporary travel documents to noncitizens in 
June.  At first these temporary travel documents, valid for 
only one departure and reentry, were good for 6 months.  The 
Government later extended their validity to 2 years in order to 
accommodate entry visa requirements of other countries.  The 
Government began issuing alien's passports in the fall.  
Regulations permit issuance to the following categories of 
resident aliens not in possession of any other valid travel 
document:  (1) a person who has been designated as stateless; 
(2) a foreign citizen who lacks the opportunity to obtain a 
travel document of his/her country of origin or of another 
state; (3) a person who is seeking Estonian citizenship and has 
passed the language examination if required; (4) an alien who 
is permanently departing Estonia.

The Government does not accord refugee status or asylum.  The 
representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
(UNHCR) in the Nordic and Baltic states urged Estonia to 
develop and adopt legislation distinguishing between refugees, 
applicants for asylum, and illegal immigrants, and distributed 
Estonian-language copies of the UNHCR handbook on determining 
refugee status.  Estonia had not acted on the recommendations 
by year's end.  Amnesty International reported that the 
Government detained 100 asylum seekers, mostly Iraqi Kurds.  
The organization also repeated allegations that some of the 
asylum seekers had been denied medical treatment following a 
hunger strike.  A hijacker who diverted a plane from Russia to 
Estonia in November applied for asylum.  Russia requested his 
extradition.  The Government had not decided how to proceed by 
year's end.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have the right to change their government.  In 1992 
they elected their first post-Soviet Parliament in accordance 
with the Constitution adopted by referendum 3 months earlier.  
The 101-member Parliament (Riigikogu or State Assembly), 
elected by secret ballot in multiparty elections, confirmed the 
Prime Minister who put together a coalition government based on 
a slim parliamentary majority.  When the Parliament passed a 
vote of no confidence on September 26, the Prime Minister and 
his government resigned, and a new Government was formed with a 
new Prime Minister.  The next regular parliamentary elections 
are scheduled for March 1995.  The Law on Local Elections 
adopted in May 1993 permits resident noncitizens to vote but 
not to run for office.

The citizenship law enacted in 1992 readopted the 1938 
citizenship law.  According to the law, anyone born after 1940 
to an Estonian citizen parent is an Estonian citizen by birth.  
The parent does not have to be an ethnic Estonian.  The law  
includes requirements for naturalization, such as a 2-year 
residency requirement, to be followed by a 1-year waiting 
period, as well as knowledge of the Estonian language.  The 
implementation law provided that the 2-year residency 
requirement could be met by residency starting on March 30, 
1990.  Thus, any noncitizen who resided in Estonia since that 
date was eligible to apply for Estonian citizenship as of March 
30, 1992, and for naturalization on March 30, 1993.  The law 
allows the Government to waive requirements for applicants who 
are ethnic Estonians or who have performed valuable service to 
Estonia.

As of September, some 40,000 people had applied for and 
received citizenship.  Some observers attributed the 
application for naturalization of such a small proportion of 
resident noncitizens to:  (1) indecision over whether to apply 
for Estonian citizenship or citizenship of another country 
(principally Russia)--the latter choice was encouraged by both 
Estonian and Russian nationalists; (2) bureaucratic delays; and 
(3) the Estonian-language proficiency requirement.  Those who 
desire language instruction confront serious problems stemming 
from an insufficient number of qualified teachers, lack of 
funds, poor educational infrastructure, and an examination 
process which some allege is arbitrary.

Article 16 of the Citizenship Law Implementation Act bars the 
naturalization of:  "(1) foreign military personnel on active 
service;  (2) persons who have been in the employment of the 
security and intelligence organizations of the Union of Soviet 
Socialist Republics; (3) persons who have been convicted of 
serious criminal offenses against people or who have a criminal 
record of repeated convictions for felonies; and (4) persons 
lacking a legal steady income."  The Law on Aliens, which went 
into effect in July 1993, denies residency permits to similar 
categories of people.  However, it provides for judicial review 
of those excluded for residency permits, while those excluded 
from naturalization under the Citizenship Law have no right of 
appeal.  No expulsions of noncitizens, whether legally or 
illegally resident, were reported.

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in 
government or politics; 12 of the 101 members of Parliament are 
women, and 3 of the 14 government ministers who took office in 
the fall of 1992 were women, of whom only 1 remained in office 
by year's end.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government does not restrict the formation or functioning 
of human rights organizations or interfere in the visits of 
international and nongovernmental human rights groups.  In 
response to criticism about the treatment of ethnic minorities, 
the President established a Human Rights Institute in 1992 to 
monitor human rights in Estonia, investigate reports of human 
rights violations, and provide information to the international 
community.  In addition, because of tensions surrounding the 
adoption of the elections law and the Law on Aliens in 1993, 
the President established a roundtable composed of 
representatives of the Union of Estonian Nationalities, 
political parties, and the ethnic Russian population's 
Representative Assembly.  In addition, with financial 
assistance from the Danish Government, a nongovernmental legal 
information center opened in Tallinn in October to provide free 
legal assistance to citizens and noncitizens seeking advice on 
human rights-related issues.

In the context of repeated Russian allegations of human rights 
violations among the noncitizen population and the widespread 
belief among international observers that the CSCE mission 
could play a more active role, Estonia agreed to extensions in 
the mission's mandate in Estonia.  The CSCE mission acted to 
address political and social tensions and did not find a 
pattern of human rights violations or abuses in Estonia.  The 
Government repeatedly expressed concern about what it deemed 
biased reporting by the mission.  By the end of the year, 
relations between the Government and the mission appeared to be 
on track again.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, 
religion, skin color, extraction, political or other beliefs, 
as well as economic or social status or for any other reason.  
Ethnic Russians total nearly 30 percent, and non-Estonians as a 
whole 37 percent, of the population of 1.5 million.

     Women

Women possess the same legal rights as men and are legally 
entitled to equal pay for equal work.  Nevertheless, in 
September the State Statistical Office published the results of 
a study conducted in November 1993 which revealed that, on the 
average, female midgrade specialists in Estonia earned only 60 
percent as much as their male counterparts.  There continue to 
be female- and male-dominated professions.  Most women carry 
major household responsibilities in addition to comprising 
slightly more than one-half of the work force.  Although 
women's groups have undertaken no organized effort to make this 
an issue of public policy, in March several groups established 
an Information Center for Women's and Family Associations in 
order to collect and disseminate information about their 
activities.

Public discussion of the role and situation of women in the 
society increased noticeably during the year, but little or no 
attention was paid to the subject of violence against women.  
Women's groups have not been notably active or effective in 
asserting women's rights.  The common perception among Estonian 
women's groups and law enforcement officials is that Estonia is 
not plagued by family violence.  The police note that they are 
rarely called to the scene of domestic violence.  Police 
officials say that, in most cases when they are called, the 
abused spouse declines to press charges.  There are no laws 
specifically against spousal abuse.

     Children

Estonia has demonstrated a strong commitment to the rights and 
welfare of children and in 1992 adopted a strong domestic child 
protection law, patterned on the U.N. Convention on the Rights 
of the Child.  There is no observed pattern of societal child 
abuse.  However, the nongovernmental Estonian Union for Child 
Welfare is conducting a research project on children and 
violence in the home and school.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In 1993 the President established a roundtable to promote 
constructive dialog among Estonia's ethnic groups and the 
political parties representing them.  There is a tradition of 
protection for cultural autonomy, dating to a 1925 law.  
Parliament passed a new cultural autonomy law for minority 
groups in 1993.

During the years of Estonia's forced annexation by the Soviet 
Union, large numbers of non-Estonians, predominantly ethnic 
Russians, were encouraged to migrate to Estonia to work as 
laborers and administrators.  These workers and their 
descendants now comprise approximately one-third of the total 
population, whereas about 8 percent of the population of the 
pre-1940 republic was ethnic Russian.

Non-Estonians, especially Russians, continued to allege job, 
salary, and housing discrimination because of Estonian- 
language requirements.  They are fearful that new 
discriminatory laws may be adopted.  Estonian law makes no 
distinction on the basis of lack of citizenship or other such 
grounds regarding business or property ownership (other than 
land).  All residents of Estonia may participate equally in the 
privatization of state-owned housing.  Estonian-language 
requirements for those employed in government offices and in 
the service sector went into effect in 1993.

The language office liberally grants extensions to persons who 
can explain their failure to meet their requisite competence 
level in 4 years.  Estonian-language training is available, but 
some claim it is too costly.  A separate law covering the 
language requirement for citizenship was passed in 1993.  
Russian representatives charge that the language requirement is 
too difficult; however, at least one Western NGO representative 
has noted that examiners pass applicants with even minimal 
knowledge of Estonian.  The examination fee for either language 
test--for employment or citizenship--is 15 percent of the 
monthly minimum wage, although it is waived for the unemployed.

In districts where the language of more than one-half of the 
population is a language other than Estonian, the inhabitants 
are entitled to receive official information in that language, 
and the local government may conduct business in that 
language.  (See also Sections 2.d. and 3 for a discussion of 
laws on citizenship and aliens.)

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution contains provisions to protect disabled 
persons against discrimination.  While there is no legal 
discrimination against the disabled, little has been done on a 
societal or governmental level to enable disabled people to 
participate normally in public life.  There is no public access 
law, and very little has been done on a voluntary basis.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right to form and join freely 
a union or employee association.  The Central Organization of 
Estonian Trade Unions (EAKL) came into being as a wholly 
voluntary and purely Estonian organization in 1990 to replace 
the Estonian branch of the official Soviet labor confederation, 
the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions (AUCCTU).  
Workers were given a choice as to whether or not they wanted to 
join the EAKL.  While in 1990 the AUCCTU claimed to represent 
800,000 members in Estonia, in 1992 the EAKL claimed to 
represent about 500,000 members, organized in 30 unions.  By 
1994 EAKL's membership had dropped to about 200,000 organized 
into 25 unions.  The EAKL explains the drop in membership by 
the breakup of large government-owned enterprises and 
privatization.   EAKL officials estimate that some 40 percent 
of approximately 600,000-strong work force are organized.

The right to strike is legal, and unions are independent of the 
Government and political parties.  There were no strikes in 
1994.  There are constitutional and statutory prohibitions 
against retribution against strikers.  Unions may join 
federations freely and affiliate internationally.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

While Estonian workers now have the legally acquired right to 
bargain collectively, collective bargaining is still in its 
infancy.  The Government remains by far the biggest employer.  
According to EAKL leaders, few collective bargaining agreements 
have been concluded between the management and workers of a 
specific enterprise.  The EAKL has, however, concluded 
framework agreements with producer associations, which provide 
the basis for specific labor agreements.  The EAKL was also 
involved with developing Estonia's new Labor Code covering 
employment contracts, vacation, and occupational safety.  The 
Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination and gives 
employees the right to go to court to enforce their rights.  In 
1993 Parliament passed a collective bargaining law, a 
collective dispute resolution law, and a shop steward law.  
EAKL officials reported that a court reinstated a union 
official who alleged dismissal because of union activity.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  The 
Labor Inspections Office effectively enforces this prohibition.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

According to labor law, the statutory minimum age for 
employment is 16 years.  Minors aged 13 through 15 may work 
with written permission of a parent or guardian and the local 
labor inspector, if working is not dangerous to the minor's 
health, considered immoral, or interferes with studies, and 
provided that the type of work is included on a list the 
Government has prepared.  State authorities effectively enforce 
minimum age laws through inspections.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government, after consultations with the EAKL and the 
Central Producers Union, sets the minimum wage and reviews it 
monthly.  In September the minimum wage was raised to $36 per 
month--450 Estonian crowns.  The minimum wage is not sufficient 
to provide a worker and family a decent standard of living.  
About 3 percent of the work force receive the minimum wage.  
The average wage is about four times the minimum wage.

The standard workweek was reduced from 41 to 40 hours in 1993.  
There is a mandatory 24-hour rest period in the workweek.

According to EAKL sources, legal occupational health and safety 
standards are satisfactory, but they are extremely difficult to 
implement in practice.  The National Labor Inspection Board is 
charged with enforcement but has not been very effective.  In 
addition, the central labor unions have occupational health and 
safety experts who, upon request from workers through their 
local representatives, assist workers in bringing employers 
into compliance with the legal standards.  Workers have the 
right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations 
without jeopardy to continued employment.

(###)

[end of document]

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