Report: Human Rights Situation in Estonia Shows Improvement

Today, the Estonian Human Rights Centre published a report on developments in human rights during 2022–2023. According to experts, the human rights situation in Estonia has somewhat improved over the last two years, though there remain areas of concern.

Egert Rünne, the director of the Estonian Human Rights Centre, noted that the situation began to improve following the 2023 parliamentary elections. “The long-awaited implementation acts for the cohabitation law were adopted, and marriage equality was established. There are also several promising initiatives: a law addressing hate speech and hate crimes has passed its first reading, and the government plans to harmonize protection for all discrimination-related characteristics, as well as to end the distribution of ‘roof funds’ (discretionary government grants),” said Rünne.

The new report highlights that several critical human rights issues still await resolution, such as the growing inequality between urban centers and rural areas, the blanket voting ban for prisoners, and the retention of communication data not in line with EU law. However, there are reasons for satisfaction – thanks to the joint efforts of the government and NGOs, the integration, education, and asylum systems continued to function successfully in Estonia despite a large influx of refugees. Particularly encouraging is the improvement in the situation of discrimination prohibition and LGBT+ individuals.

Kelly Grossthal, the head of strategic litigation at the Centre, stated, “The Estonian Human Rights Centre has been advocating for the rights of same-sex partners since 2009. The introduction of marriage equality, allowing all couples to marry, is a significant step towards a more equal and safer society.”

The report “Human Rights in Estonia 2024” comprises 15 chapters written by independent experts from various organizations. It analyzes the human rights situation from different perspectives, focusing on national minorities, refugees, asylum seekers, persons with disabilities, and issues of freedom of assembly, justice, gender equality, family and privacy, and freedom of speech. The introduction to the report was written by President Kersti Kaljulaid.

The Estonian Human Rights Centre has been publishing the human rights report since 2007. This year’s edition, the eleventh in the series, is available both in print and online in Estonian, English, and Russian. The activities of the Estonian Human Rights Centre are supported in 2022-2023 by the Norwegian Grants Active Citizens Fund, which is administered by the Open Estonia Foundation in cooperation with the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations. The report’s compilation and publication were supported also by donors of the Estonian Human Rights Centre and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Estonia.


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