Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Estonia
|Publisher||Child Soldiers International|
|Cite as||Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Estonia, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4988065fc.html [accessed 25 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Republic of Estonia
Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.
Population: 1.3 million (0.3 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 5,510
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: signed 24 September 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 182
Seventeen year olds were probably serving in the armed forces. The law stated that the minimum voluntary recruitment age was 18, but government officials indicated that in practice 17 year olds could enlist. Under-18s were serving in the Defence League which is classed, in law, as part of the armed forces.
In 2002 and 2003 Estonia came under the scrutiny of several international human rights treaty bodies as well as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) and the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights. These bodies raised a number of issues of concern, particularly ill-treatment and excessive use of force by the police, poor conditions in prisons and detention centres, and violence against women and children.1 On 29 March 2004 Estonia became a member of NATO.2 Estonian forces participated in the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), and US-led operations in Iraq.3
National recruitment legislation and practice
Volunteers could join the armed forces at the age of 17, according to some officials.4 Another official said that the authorities were working with international organizations on the issue of child soldiers and that the voluntary recruitment age of 17 no longer applied.5 However, no statistics were available to show whether 17 year olds were still serving in the forces. The Defence Forces Service Act of 2000 clearly prohibits recruits from volunteering for service unless "he or she has attained at least 18 years of age".6 In practice, the law appeared to have been ignored in recent years.
The constitution states that "Estonian citizens have a duty to participate in national defence on the bases of and pursuant to procedure provided by law"(Article 124).7 Out of about 5,500 active service personnel, some 1,300 are conscripts.8
In 2002 Estonia told the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that men registered for conscription at 18 and were conscripted from the age of 19.9 However, the Defence Forces Service Act requires that, in the year they are 17, boys must register with a national defence department before 1 December, and the Ministry of Defence website said that conscripted service started at the age of 18. Most conscripts serve for eight months, or 11 months for specialized training.10 Alternative service, for those who refuse to serve in the Defence Forces for religious or moral reasons, lasts between 16 and 24 months. In times of war or national emergency 16 to 18 year olds are included in the requirement that "every male Estonian citizen between 16 and 60 years of age is liable to service in the Defence Forces".11
The Defence League (Kaitseliit) is a paramilitary organization, defined in the Defence League Act of 1999 as "a voluntary military national defence organization which is a part of the Defence Forces". It has more than 8,000 members, and a similar number in women's and youth wings, who engage in military exercises and supplement the police, border guard and rescue services.12 The Young Eagles wing admits boys aged between eight and 18, who take part in fitness and military training, including weapons handling and shooting drills.13 In wartime, "units of territorial forces called defence districts will be formed of the members of the Defence League", and mobilized to assist the armed forces.14
Military training and military schools
There are no military educational establishments for under-18s, but a voluntary course entitled "Education in State Defence" may be taken in secondary school.15
1 Amnesty International Reports 2003 and 2004, http://web.amnesty.org/library/engindex.
2 NATO update, ~Seven ch 2004, http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2004/03-march/e0329a.htm.
3 Information from Mind.gov.ee.
4 Child Soldiers Coalifence Attaché to the United Kingdom (UK), 5 March 2004, and Estonian mission to NATO, 8 March 2004.
5 Child Soldiers Coali Defence, 8 March 2004.
6 Defence Forces Service Act (Article 79), at Estonian Legal Language Centre, http://www.legaltext.ee.
7 Constitution, at President of Estonia website, http://www.president.ee.
8 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance 2003-2004, Oxford University Press, October 2003.
9 Initial report of Estonia to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add 45, July 2002, http://www.ohchr.org.
10 Defence Forces Service Act, op. cit. (Articles 45 and 51); Ministry of Defence, Basic Facts on the Defence Forces, November 2003, at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.vm.ee/eng/nato/aken_prindi/1003.html.
11 Defence Forces Service Act, op. cit. (Articles 3 and 74); Estonian mission to NATO, op. cit.
12 Estonian Defence Forces, http://www.mil.ee (Defence League).
13 Correspondence with Estonian Defence Attaché to the USA, 4 March 2004; Estonian Defence Attaché to the UK, op. cit.
14 National Defence System, http://www.estonica.org (State, National defence system).
15 Estonian Defence Attaché to the USA, op. cit.