An important issue in the protection of children’s rights in Estonia is the absence of legislation to suit modern needs. Even though work on the new Child Protection Act began in 2005, it had yet to be formed into a legal act by the end of 2009. The requirement of laying down implementing provisions stemming from paragraph 68 of the existing Act has not been fulfilled yet either.[1]

In 2008 and 2009 the majority attention was paid to custodial institutions for minors. Viljandi juvenile penitentiary was closed on May 1st, 2008 and the inmates were transferred to Viru and Tartu prisons. The Chancellor of Justice spotted deficiencies in the prison’s work during his inspection visit in December: the juveniles were not given enough opportunities to communicate with their inspector-contact person and some of the children who were subject to compulsory school attendance were not attending school.

Upon their unannounced check-up visit in May 2008 to the Puiatu Specialised School that operates under the governance of the Ministry of Education and Research, the advisers to the Chancellor of Justice found that use of the seclusion room, was in violation of the requirements stated by law for the treatment of minors and that subjecting children to such conditions constitutes inhumane and demeaning treatment. The Chancellor of Justice also reproached the school for frequent use of violence, incompetence of the management and the fact that students with mental disorders are not guaranteed special conditions. In addition to the aforementioned issues the Chancellor of Justice also found that the students are not guaranteed the basic right of protection of health and the students in composite classes are not guaranteed the right to education. The Ministry of Education and Research closed Puiatu Specialised School on August 31st, 2009.

An important step forward in protection of children’s rights was the opening of the national 24-hour children’s consultation helpline 116 111 in the beginning of 2009. The helpline is there for the notification of children who need help and also to provide counselling. The Estonian Union for Child Welfare initiated a discussion in 2009 as to the need of creating children’s ombudsman.

Two investigations can be pointed out as steps made by the state towards dealing with juvenile crime.  One investigation was carried out in 2008 on the effectiveness of the punishment of juveniles that analysed the nature and sources of background information, which is used for pre-trial reports and for basing judgments on, the practice of applying so-called alternative punishing measures and experts’ opinion on whether the available measure of punishment are sufficient and the effectiveness of punishment aimed at juveniles. There is also an analysis available on violent crimes committed in 2008, which were carried out by minors. The analysis states that the practices in proceedings cases of juvenile violence may be inconsistent and advises the Ministry of Education and Research to ensure equal treatment of cases across Estonia and to establish a code of practice for schools for dealing with cases of violence.

 


[1] Eesti Vabariigi lastekaitse seadus [Estonian Child Protection Act] (RT [State Gazette] I 1992, 28, 370; RT I 2009, 62, 405).

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