The Human Rights Centre supports Miia, a young athlete, in court who confidentially reported the sexual harassment she had experienced to the school’s headmaster. Her coach, therefore, lodged a defamation complaint with a claim for damages. Sexual harassment is a severe human rights violation. One needs to be able to confidentially talk about what happened without being scared that they might be expelled, bullied, re-victimised, falsely accused, etc. Meris Velling, an attorney-at-law from the law firm Liverte is helping to stand up for Miia’s rights in court.
A coach from Miia’s school sued her for allegedly damaging his reputation. This happened after the athlete told the headmaster about the harassment. Miia told them how the coach put his hand on her knee during a car ride, and even though Miia asked him to stop, he started to move his hand upwards. The coach denies the accusations, and in the lawsuit, it says that Miia needs to disprove the wrongful factual allegations and reimburse the reputational damage.
The Estonian Human Rights Centre has worked for more than ten years to make informing someone about an instance of discrimination and harassment a natural part of the organisational culture. We have encouraged employers to create these systems and the victims to share their stories. This lawsuit may create a situation where people will no longer feel comfortable talking about the harassment they might’ve experienced. This case will show us if you can treat a confidential conversation about experienced harassment as defamation in Estonia.
We think that Miia has been put into a vulnerable situation. It is also wrong and unfair to make the victim, who shared her experience with the appropriate person, responsible for “defamation” because she cannot prove that the harassment happened. Unfortunately, the defamation cases are solved in civil court, which means Miia has to be in the courtroom at the same time as the coach and testify in front of him.
Stand with us for the safety of every young person!
The centre’s strategical cases make it to court thanks to our amazing donors. The goal of the strategic prosecutions is to influence the quality and implementation of laws with individual carefully picked cases and, through that, help a lot of people in need with just one lawsuit. Donate so that the victims of sexual harassment do not have to be afraid to share their stories! By protecting Miia’s rights, we stand for the safety of all young people. A small donation has a huge effect!
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