Human Rights in Estonia 2016-2017: recommendations for the state

Estonian Human Rights Centre presented the new report “Human Rights in Estonia 2016-2017” in December. For the first time, the publishing of the report was funded by donations only – over a 100 individuals showed their support.

The report reflects a certain stagnation in human rights issues in Estonia – the situation is quite stable and only smaller improvements have been made during the past two years. Although the whole report still awaits translating, we will bring you the most important recommendations made by experts in the report.

  • Adopt amendments to laws regarding restraining psychiatric patients to guarantee the patients will be treated with dignity.
  • Encourage police and work inspection to look into human trafficking in workplaces, including recruiters who are involved in fraud.
  • Both the media and government officials should refrain from attacking the indepence of the judiciary, the importance of independent courts is to be stressed.
  • Review without any further delay the regulations concerning the preservation of and access to data, on the basis that ICT service provides must not be obligated to gather or save data on undefined amounts of people, when there is no objectively justifiable reason to believe the person has a connection to criminal activity or poses a threat to national security.
  • Eliminate any chances of mass profiling, to be very cautions of any initiatives and regulation proposals that would give access to public data records without specific grounds to do so, the highest level of security and very strict conditions for obtaining permission to access such databases.
  • In the last couple of years, public discourse on polarising topics such as the cohabitation law and refugee policies, has clearly shown that there is a need for clearer regulations on hate speech. We recommend reviewing the appropriate laws and adopting any necessary amendments in the near future.
  • Establish clear rules for funding and civic initiative in new municipalities, which would follow the funding directive for non-governmental organisations that was put together but the Ministry of the Interior.
  • Adopt amendments to anti-discrimination laws to abolish differences between the different grounds for discrimination.
  • Change the according laws so that the prohibition from elections applies only to inmates for whom it was an additional part of their sentence.
  • Consider the reasons for prohibiting political ads in public spaces and their success during the election period.
  • Stop playing „the Russian card“ during elections and the nationality-based political campaigns that have been going on for decades and only serve to polarise voters and undermine integration in Estonia.
  • Pay attention to the increasing use of these very same tactics regarding immigrants, including refugees.
  • Pass and adopt the implementing acts for the cohabitation law that would finally allow for the law to be applied in full.
  • Only place refugees in the detention centre as a last resort, i.e. if no other alternative is applicable
  • Provide quality legal counselling for refugees.
  • Guarantee children, incl. children with disabilities, access to consistent health care services, as well as access to support specialists in schools.       
  • Propose concrete actions to lighten the burden of long-term caretakers and to develop a support network for at-home familial caretakers.


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It is important to protect everyone’s human rights, because it helps to keep stability and peace in the society. There are many challenges for protection of human rights in Estonia: intolerance has really come out of the closet. Bad things happen when good people are too passive, but together we can make a change.

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