United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Estonia, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3934.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
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ESTONIA Estonia is a parliamentary democracy. With its statehood widely recognized as continuous for more than 70 years, Estonia regained its independence in 1991 after 50 years of Soviet occupation. The Constitution, adopted by referendum in 1992, established a 101-member unicameral legislature (State Assembly), a Prime Minister as Head of Government, and a President, elected by Parliament, as Head of State. Free and fair parliamentary elections were held in March. The official conversion of the Soviet militia into the Estonian police preceded the reestablishment of the country's independence by about 6 months. However, conversion of the police into a force committed to procedures and safeguards appropriate to a democratic society is proceeding slowly. The security service, called security police, is subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The police, ethnically mixed and also subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, continued to commit human rights abuses, as did corrections personnel subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. Forces of the Russian Federation were withdrawn in 1994, pursuant to agreements reached between the two countries. Problems remain, however, over the status of hundreds of Russian soldiers demobilized in Estonia. Estonia has an open-market economy. Reflecting the extent of its post-1992 reforms, Estonia signed a Europe Agreement with the European Union in June which granted associate member status without a transition period. Services are growing in importance compared to historically more prominent light industry and food production. Privatization of small and medium firms is virtually complete, and large-scale privatization is underway. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed somewhat to about 4 percent annually. Per capita GDP is approximately $1,600 per year. Two-thirds of Estonian exports--mainly textiles, food products, and timber products--now flow to Western markets. Unemployment remained low overall (unofficially about 8 percent) but was significantly higher in rural areas and in the predominantly ethnic Russian northeast. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens and the large resident noncitizen community, but problems remained in some areas. The major human rights abuses continued to be mistreatment of prisoners and detainees and the use of excessive force by the police. Prison conditions are poor. Problems remain in clarifying the status of the 11 percent of noncitizens who have not to date registered for permanent residency and in the slow pace of processing the applications for permanent residency of 15,000 retired Russian military pensioners. The Government extended from July 1995 to April 1996 the deadline for submission of residence permit applications for Soviet-era noncitizens and continued to issue temporary travel documents and aliens' passports to eligible noncitizens for departure from and return to Estonia.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Such practices are prohibited by law. However, there continued to be credible reports of police using excessive force and verbal abuse during the arrest and questioning of suspects. Punishment cells ("kartsers") continued to be utilized, in contravention of international standards. Severe overcrowding was notable at the Tallinn pretrial detention prison built in 1765. Two cases of hazing occurred in the military; the perpetrators were disciplined. During the year, the Government continued steps to address the poor prison conditions. In February the authorities fired the deputy director of the Tallinn Central Prison after prison guards attacked a group of persons who had approached the restricted prison area and sentenced another prison official to 2 years' probation and a fine for mistreating prisoners. In November the Government opened a new pretrial detention facility which, with more than 400 beds, should significantly reduce overcrowding among pretrial detainees. Previously, in September the authorities opened a new recreation and training center in the Harku Women's Prison. In 1995 one prisoner killed another, in contrast to 1992 when there were 32 such killings. The Government has also drafted a multiyear plan to refurbish and restructure all the country's prisons and to close the Tallinn Central Prison. At the invitation of the Minister of Justice, representatives of the Council of Europe (COE) studied prison conditions and made recommendations on the steps required to bring them into accord with COE standards. Some of the COE recommendations had been implemented by year's end, but fulfillment of others is hampered by lack of resources and high turnover among prison staff.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution and laws forbid arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government generally observes this prohibition. Under the Constitution, warrants issued by a court are required to make arrests. Detainees must be informed promptly of the grounds for the arrest and given immediate access to legal counsel. If a person cannot afford counsel, the State will provide one. A person may be held for 48 hours without formally being charged; further detention requires a court order. A person may be held in pretrial detention for 2 months; this may be extended up to a total of 12 months by a court order. Police rarely violate these limits. By midyear, 1,425 of the 4,007 persons held in prisons were awaiting trial.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution establishes an independent judicial branch operating through a three-tier court system: rural and city courts, district courts, and the State Court (which functions as a supreme court). The district and state courts are also courts for "constitutional supervision." At the rural and city level, court decisions are made by a majority vote with a judge and two lay members sitting in judgment. All judges and lay judges must be citizens. The President nominates and the State Assembly confirms the Chief Justice of the State Court. The Chief Justice nominates State Court judges who are subject to confirmation by the Parliament. He also nominates the district, city, and rural court judges who are then appointed by the President. All judges are appointed for life. The Constitution provides that court proceedings shall be public. Closed sessions may be held only for specific reasons, such as protection of state or business secrets and in cases concerning minors. The Constitution further provides that defendants may present witnesses and evidence as well as confront and cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Defendants have access to prosecution evidence and enjoy a presumption of innocence. Estonia continued to overhaul its criminal and civil procedural codes. An interim Criminal Code, which went into effect in 1992, revised the Soviet-era criminal code by eliminating, for example, political and economic crimes. The Code of Criminal Procedure was adopted in 1994. New codes in a variety of fields were being drafted at year's end. There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law requires a search warrant for search and seizure of property. During the investigative stage, warrants are issued by the prosecutor upon a showing of probable cause. Once a case has gone to court, warrants are issued by the court. The Constitution provides for secrecy of the mail, telegrams, telephones, and other means of communication. Police must obtain a court order to intercept a person's communications. Illegally obtained evidence is not admissible in court. In October a political scandal erupted when then Minister of Internal Affairs Savisaar was implicated in the illicit recording of his conversations with other politicians. Parliament appointed a special committee to investigate the matter, including the contacts of police with private security firms. Savisaar was dismissed, the cabinet resigned, and a new governing coalition was formed. Security police and parliamentary investigations were continuing at year's end. There have been no reports of forced political membership, coercive population control, or forced resettlement. In a widely reported case during the summer, the police, without a warrant, destroyed a field of alleged opium poppies. An internal police disciplinary investigation of the incident continued at year's end. At the same time a criminal case was filed against the owner of the field for growing opium poppies; the owner asserted that he was growing oil poppies. The case had not come to trial as of late in the year.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Government generally respects constitutional provisions providing for freedom of speech and press. Print journalism continues to underscore its independence through more probing investigative reporting. Foreign newspapers and magazines are widely available. Although the Government still provides most newsprint and printing and distribution facilities, the role of private companies is rapidly expanding. There are three major national Estonian-language and two Russian-language dailies. State broadcast media, including one nationwide television channel, receive large subsidies, and the State has assured that these subsidies will continue. There are several major independent television and radio stations. The Government has stopped retransmission of television channels from Russia owing to nonpayment of fees, but several Russian-language programs, mostly Estonian produced, are broadcast over state and private television channels. Russian state television and Ostankino programs are widely available via cable. There is complete academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for the right to assemble freely, but noncitizens are prohibited from joining political parties, although they may form social groups. Permits for all public gatherings must be obtained 3 weeks prior to the date of the gathering. The authorities have wide discretion to prohibit such gatherings on public safety grounds but seldom exercise it. There were no reports of Government interference in mass gatherings or political rallies.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The 1993 Law on Churches and Religious Organizations requires any group which wishes to be considered a religious organization to have at least 12 members and to register with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Board of Religion. Leaders of religious organizations must be citizens with at least 5 years' residence in Estonia. The majority of Estonians are nominally Lutheran, but following deep-seated tradition there is wide tolerance of other denominations and religions. People of varying ethnic backgrounds profess Orthodoxy, including communities of Russian Old Believers who found refuge in Estonia in the 17th century. The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC), independent since 1919, subordinate to Constantinople since 1923, and exiled under the Soviet occupation, reregistered under its 1935 statute in August 1993. Since then, a group of ethnic Estonian and Russian parishes preferring to remain under the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church structure imposed during the Soviet occupation has insisted that it should have claim to the EAOC name. This group has refused to register under any other name, although its refusal to register violates Estonian law. While church authorities work to resolve this question, the Government has assured parishes aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church that they may continue to worship unimpeded.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law permits free movement within the country, and it is honored in practice. It also provides for the right of foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation for Estonian citizens. There are no exit visas. In July 1993, Parliament enacted the Law on Aliens that defines an alien as a person who is not a citizen of Estonia, i.e., a citizen of another country or a stateless person. The majority of noncitizens are ethnic Russians. The law provided a 1-year period during which noncitizens who came to Estonia prior to July 1, 1990, and were considered permanent residents of the former "Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic," could apply for temporary residence permits. They could also apply for permanent residence at the same time. Following delays and confusion in implementation, as well as criticism by international human rights observers, the application deadline was extended by a year, until July 12. Even though by the July deadline the vast majority of aliens--327,737 of the estimated 370,000--had filed applications, the Government extended the registration period through April 30, 1996. There were also complaints about the slow pace with which the Government was processing residence applications for some 15,000 Russian military pensioners. The process was complicated by the lack of Russian-provided passports in which to affix the permits. No restrictions are placed on the right of noncitizens to foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation, although some noncitizens complain of delays in obtaining travel documents. The Government began issuing temporary travel documents valid for a single departure and reentry into the country to resident aliens in 1994. To accommodate entry visa requirements of other countries, the validity period of this document was extended from 6 months to 2 years. In the fall of 1994, the Government began issuing "alien's passports" to resident aliens not in possession of any other valid travel document. These included: (1) persons who are designated as stateless; (2) foreign citizens who lack the opportunity to obtain travel documents of their country of origin or of another state; (3) persons who file for Estonian citizenship and pass the language examination if required; and, (4) aliens who are permanently departing Estonia. The Government plans to expand the classes of noncitizens eligible for alien's passports; it has already approved their issuance to noncitizens intending to study abroad. The Government does not accord refugee status or asylum. The representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Nordic and Baltic states continues to urge Estonia to develop and adopt legislation distinguishing between refugees, applicants for asylum, and illegal immigrants. The representative distributed Estonian language copies of the UNHCR handbook for determining refugee status. Such legislation had not been drafted by year's end. A hijacker who diverted a plane from Russia to Estonia in 1994 applied for asylum. Russia requested his extradition. The case became moot when the hijacker committed suicide in January.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens have the right to change their government. In March free and fair multiparty elections were held for the second Parliament since reestablishment of independence. Among deputies are six ethnic Russians. The 101-member Parliament (Riigikogu or State Assembly) confirmed Tiit Vahi as Prime Minister. Vahi had his coalition Government confirmed in April. As a result of the illicit eavesdropping scandal in October, Vahi resigned and then put together a new coalition government. The Law on Local Elections adopted in 1993 permits resident noncitizens to vote but not run for office. Local elections are set for the fall of 1996. The citizenship law enacted in February 1992 readopted the 1938 citizenship law. According to the law, anyone born after 1940 to an Estonian citizen parent is an Estonian citizen by birth. The parent does not have to be an ethnic Estonian. The Government estimates that under this provision some 80,000 persons not ethnically Estonian have obtained citizenship. The law included requirements for naturalization, such as a 2-year residency requirement, to be followed by a 1-year waiting period, as well as knowledge of the Estonian language. On January 19, Parliament adopted a new citizenship law, which revised the 1992 law and combined into one statute provisions regarding citizenship that were scattered among several pieces of legislation. The new law became effective on April 1. It extended the residency requirement for naturalization from 2 to 5 years and added a requirement for knowledge of the Constitution and the citizenship law. Persons who had taken up what was considered legal residence in the "Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic" prior to July 1, 1990 (a group which includes the overwhelming majority of the noncitizens currently in Estonia) are exempt from the 5-year legal residence and 1-year waiting period requirements. The law allows the Government to waive language but not civic knowledge requirements for applicants who have obtained Estonian-language education, or who have performed valuable service to Estonia. According to paragraph 21 of the new law, the following classes of persons are ineligible for naturalization: those filing on the basis of false data or documents; those not abiding by the Estonian constitutional system or not fulfilling Estonian laws; those who have acted against the Estonian State and its security; those who have committed crimes and been punished with a sentence of more than 1 year or who have been repeatedly brought to justice for felonies; those who work or have worked in the intelligence or security services of a foreign state; those who have served as career soldiers in the armed forces of a foreign state, including those discharged into the reserves or retired, as well as spouses who came to Estonia in connection with the soldier's assignment or retirement. A provision of the law allows for the granting of citizenship to a foreign military retiree who has been married to a native Estonian citizen for 5 years. Between 1992 and mid-December 1995, some 65,000 people had applied for and received Estonian citizenship. Almost 83,000 cases were pending, with naturalizations averaging about 2,000 a month. Some observers attribute this growing but still relatively low number to indecision over whether to apply for Estonian citizenship or citizenship of another country, such as Russia. In December official Russian sources claimed that 82,000 persons had obtained Russian citizenship but refused to supply the Government with a list. The new citizenship law was criticized as discriminatory by the Russian Government and by some in the local ethnic-Russian communities. On the basis of a report submitted through a Danish nongovernmental organization working in Tallinn, the U.N. Human Rights Committee charged with studying compliance of states that are party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights noted Estonia's genuine commitment "...to guarantee the basic human rights of all individuals under its jurisdiction" but also raised subjects of concern. The Committee criticized the law for establishing "too many criteria," for the "stringency" of the language requirement, and for the lack of a remedy against an administrative decision rejecting a request for naturalization. However, numerous international fact-finding organizations, such as the Finnish Helsinki Committee and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, confirm that the citizenship law conforms to international standards. Bureaucratic delays and the Estonian-language requirement are also cited as disincentives. The Government, with assistance from abroad, has established language training centers. Still, there is a lack of qualified teachers, financial resources, and training materials. Some allege that the examination process, with a 75-to-90 percent passage rate, is arbitrary. The Government has deported a small number of illegal aliens, usually those caught in criminal acts. By late September, some 20 illegal aliens were held as internees, pending deportation or a court order granting them residence. In March the Government expelled Russian citizen and longtime resident of Estonia Pyotr Rozhok for repeated activities since 1989 against the Estonian State. Rozhok was the representative of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Russian Liberal Democratic Party in Estonia. His appeal to nullify the expulsion order had not been adjudicated at year's end. There are no legal impediments to women's participation in Government or politics. Eleven of the 101 Members of Parliament are women, as were 2 of the 14 government ministers who took office in April; the Cabinet formed in October had no women ministers.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government does not restrict the formation or functioning of human rights organizations. In response to allegations of bad treatment of ethnic minorities, the President established a Human Rights Institute which first convened in 1992. The Institute monitors human rights in Estonia and provides information to the international community. It investigates reports of human rights violations, such as allegations of police abuse and inhuman treatment of detainees. In addition, because of tensions surrounding the adoption of the elections law and the aliens law in 1993, the President established a round table composed of representatives of Parliament, the Union of Estonian Nationalities, and the Representative Assembly of the Russian Community. An analogous but independent round table meets in the county of East Virumaa in northeastern Estonia. In addition, with start-up funding from the Danish Government, a nongovernmental legal information center in Tallinn provides free legal assistance to individuals--citizen and noncitizen alike--seeking advice on human rights-related issues. In the context of repeated Russian allegations of violations of the human rights of the noncitizen population, both the OSCE mission in Estonia and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities have declared that they could find no pattern of human rights violations or abuses in Estonia. Although the Government previously had expressed concern about what it termed biased reporting by the OSCE mission, government relations with the mission were cordial.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, language, social status, or for any other reason. The Government reports that no court cases charging discrimination have been filed.
Discussion of the role and situation of women was extensive during the year, especially around the time of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was the subject of increasing discussion and media coverage. According to women's groups and law enforcement officials, family violence is not pervasive. However, studies show that some 40 percent of crime goes unreported, including domestic violence. Often, even when the police are called, the abused spouse declines to press charges. Women possess the same legal rights as men and are legally entitled to equal pay for equal work. Nevertheless, the Minister of Social Affairs pointed out at the Beijing Conference that although Estonian women's average educational level was higher than men's, their average pay was lower, and the trend did not seem to be improving. There continue to be female and male dominated professions. Most women carry major household responsibilities in addition to comprising slightly more than one-half of the work force.
There is no pattern of societal child abuse, but a research project conducted by the nongovernmental Estonian Union for Child Welfare on children and violence at home and school found that a significant proportion of children had experienced at least occasional violence at home, in schools, or in youth gangs. The Government's strong commitment to education is evident by its having given top priority to building and refurbishing schoolhouses. The Government provides free medical care for children and subsidizes school meals. In 1992 the Government adopted a Child Protection Law, patterned on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
People with Disabilities
The Constitution contains provisions to protect disabled persons against discrimination. There is no legal discrimination against the disabled, and both the State and some nongovernmental organizations provide them with financial assistance. However, little has been done to enable disabled people to participate normally in public life. There is no public access law, but some effort to accommodate the disabled is evident in the inclusion of ramps at curbs on new urban sidewalk construction.
The OSCE mission to Estonia, established in 1993, continued to promote stability, dialog, and understanding between the communities in Estonia. In addition, the President's round table, also established in 1993, composed of Members of Parliament, representatives of the Union of Estonian Nationalities, and the Representative Assembly of the Russian Community, continued to work toward finding practical solutions to problems of noncitizens, as did the analogous but independent round table which met in the northeastern part of the country (see Section 4). A Law on Cultural Autonomy for citizens belonging to minority groups was adopted by Parliament and went into effect in 1993. There is a tradition of protection for cultural autonomy going back to a 1925 law. In its November report on Estonia, the U.N. Human Rights Committee alleged that permanent resident noncitizens are excluded from "full participation in minority groups" since the definition of minorities in the Estonian law only encompasses national minorities. The Government noted in turn that the law is an entitlement program to provide subsidies to cultural organizations run by citizens belonging to national minorities; all residents of Estonia are free to participate in the relevant organizations. Ethnic Russians total approximately 29 percent, and nonethnic Estonians as a whole about 37 percent, of the population of 1.5 million. During the years of Estonia's forced annexation by the Soviet Union, large numbers of non-Estonians, predominantly ethnic Russians, were encouraged to migrate to Estonia to work as laborers and administrators. They and their descendants now make up approximately one-third of the total population; about 40 percent of them were born in Estonia. About 8 percent of the population of the pre-1940 Republic was ethnic Russian. Noncitizens, especially ethnic Russians, continued to allege job, salary, and housing discrimination because of Estonian- language requirements. Reflecting these allegations, the U.N. Human Rights Committee asserted that the written oath of conscience for applicants for public service may place "an unreasonable restriction on the right of access to public service without discrimination." In response, the Government noted that the oath must be signed by citizens and noncitizens alike, and that it focuses on denying public service appointments to people who have served the secret services of any foreign government. Concerning business or property ownership, Estonian law makes no distinction on the basis of citizenship other than for land. Land ownership by noncitizens is decided by the Government; in practice, noncitizens may own the land underneath their real property. All legal residents of Estonia may participate equally in the privatization of state-owned housing. Estonian-language requirements for those employed in the civil service went into effect in 1993; the new law on public service as originally passed required state employees to be proficient in Estonian by the end of 1995. In late December, Parliament amended the law on public service to allow noncitizen local and national government employees and employees without adequate Estonian to continue working until February 1, 1997. No noncitizens would be hired after January 1, 1996. This amendment reflected the Government's awareness that in some sectors, the number of employees with inadequate Estonian language skills remains high. There were no reports of people being dismissed for inadequate Estonian-language skills. The language office liberally grants extensions to persons who can explain their failure to meet their requisite competence level in 4 years. Estonian-language training is available but, some claim, too costly. Representatives of ethnic Russian communities continued to ask for free language training; they also asserted that the language requirement for citizenship is too difficult. The examination fee for either language test--for employment or citizenship--is 15 percent of the monthly minimum wage, although it is waived for the unemployed. In districts where the language of more than one-half of the population is a language other than Estonian, the inhabitants are entitled to receive official information in that language, and the local government may conduct business in that language, in accordance with appropriate legislation and a Government decision. Despite these provisions, the Government rejected requests by the city councils of Sillamae and Narva in the mainly ethnic Russian northeast to use Russian for internal business. One council was unofficially told that it could use Russian within a department but had to use Estonian in interdepartmental communications and official documents. The other council was not officially notified of the reasons for rejection.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution provides for the right to form and join a union or employee association. The Central Organization of Estonian Trade Unions (EAKL) came into being as a wholly voluntary and purely Estonian organization in 1990 to replace the Estonian branch of the official Soviet labor confederation, the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions (AUCCTU). Another trade union, the Organization of Employee Unions, split from the EAKL in 1993 and had 55,000 members in 1995. About one-third of the country's labor force belongs to one of the two labor federations. The law provides for the right to strike, and unions are independent of the Government and political parties. There were no strikes in 1995; some worker demonstrations occurred to protest low salaries or poor working conditions. The Constitution and statutes prohibit retribution against strikers. Unions may join federations freely and affiliate internationally.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
While Estonian workers now have the legally acquired right to bargain collectively, collective bargaining is still in its infancy. The Government remains by far the biggest employer. According to EAKL leaders, few collective bargaining agreements have been concluded between management and workers of a specific enterprise. The EAKL has, however, concluded framework agreements with producer associations, which provide the basis for specific labor agreements. The EAKL was also involved with developing Estonia's new Labor Code covering employment contracts, vacation, and occupational safety. The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination, and employees have the right to go to court to enforce their rights. In 1993 a collective bargaining law, a collective dispute resolution law, and a shop steward law were adopted. In 1994 EAKL officials reported that the courts reinstated a union official who alleged dismissal because of union activity. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the Labor Inspections Office effectively enforces this prohibition.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The statutory minimum age for employment is 16 years. Minors 13 through 15 years of age may work with written permission of a parent or guardian and the local labor inspector, if working is not dangerous to the minor's health or considered immoral, does not interfere with studies, and if the type of work is included on a government-prepared list. Government authorities effectively enforce minimum age laws through inspections.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Government, after consultations with the EAKL and the Central Producers Union, sets the minimum wage. In September the Labor Union Federation and the Producers Union agreed to ask the Government to raise the monthly minimum wage from $36 to $62 (450 to 680 Estonian crowns). The minimum wage is not sufficient to provide a worker and family a decent standard of living. About 3 percent of the work force receive the minimum wage. The average monthly wage is $200 (about 2,200 crowns). The standard workweek is 40 hours, and there is a mandatory 24-hour rest period in the workweek. According to EAKL sources, legal occupational health and safety standards are satisfactory, but they are extremely difficult to implement in practice. The National Labor Inspection Board is responsible for enforcement of these standards, but it has not been very effective to date. In addition, the labor unions have occupational health and safety experts who assist workers in bringing employers into compliance with the legal standards. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.